The Anatomy of an Iron Chandelier

Wrought Iron: The Basics

The iron is where is starts, but how different is the material and process than other metals? Iron differs from materials such as steel and brass in appearance and strength. Iron’s soft, malleable quality make it an excellent choice for rustic, old world style decorative lighting.

Wrought iron differs from cast iron in both process and appearance. Wrought iron, the material of blacksmiths, is a purer version of the metal and therefore is more easily worked through the hand-forging process. Cast iron is an alloy comprised of iron and other elements. It is pourable and therefore works well in molded forms. While both forms of iron offer unique and beautiful qualities, at Laura Lee Designs we specialize in hand-forged wrought iron fixtures. 

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A Guide to Chandelier Terminology

Canopy – The canopy is a part of the chandelier that connects the fixture itself to the hanging chain.

Chain – Chain can be used both as a design element and to attach the chandelier to the ceiling plate. We offer several types of chain depending on the aesthetic of the fixture.

Ceiling Plate – The ceiling plate affixes the light to the ceiling and contains the junction box.

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Flush Mount – This term is used for a fixture that affixes directly to the ceiling with no chain dropping the chandelier in height.

Bobeche – A dish, commonly made or wrought iron or in some cases crystal, that holds the candle sleeve.

Candle Sleeves – Candle sleeves come in different widths and sizes depending on the style of chandelier. While it is popular to use beeswax or resin sleeves that mimic actual candles, some clients elect to use sleeves painted the same color as the rest of the fixture. This helps create a streamlined, contemporary look.

Socket – Sockets generally come in two sizes, candelabra or medium base. The size of the socket will determine the type of bulb able to be used.

Bulb/Lamp – Selecting the right bulb for your chandelier depends to the amount of light you desire, the wattage capacity of your fixture, and the overall aesthetic you are trying to achieve. We use a silicone dipped candelabra-base bulb with many of our fixtures to mimic candle light. Recently, however, a variety of styles and types have become increasing popular. Assess your needs before determining of bulbs such as LEDs, nostalgic style, or frosted glass are right for your chandelier.


UL Rating - Underwriters Laboratory, or UL, is an independent safety certification organization that sets standard requirements for lighting. Dry rated fixtures are appropriate for indoor settings such as living rooms, bathrooms, or bedrooms. Damp rated fixtures are suitable for locations that receive some moisture, such as patios and building exteriors. These fixtures will often make use of metal or glass to encase and protect the wiring. We offer a selection of both dry and damp rated fixtures. 

LED Bulbs: A Quick Overview

LEDs are becoming an increasingly popular choice with homeowners looking to lessen their environmental impact and decrease their utility bill. With recent advancements in their design, they are quickly becoming the go-to bulb for chandeliers, sconces, and other decorative lighting.

A Bit of History

LED technology traces its beginnings back to the turn of the 20th century, when British inventor H. J. Round discovered the phenomenon of electroluminescence, where a material produces light after an electrical current is run through it. For much of the 20th century, LEDs remained expensive and stayed mostly within the spheres of industry and science. It wasn't until 1994 that the bulb became affordable for commercial use.

Clear LED Candelabra Bulb

Clear LED Candelabra Bulb

Bulb Basics

LEDs use an electrical current that is passed through semiconductor material, illuminating small diodes
called LEDs. These bulbs stay cool to the touch by absorbing the heat into a heat sink. This makes LED bulbs the perfect choice if you are looking to use a natural beeswax candle sleeve but require a brighter light. The virtually heatless LED bulb will not melt the wax, even at a 40 watt equivalent brightness.

While watt equivalencies can be helpful in determining the level of brightness you will need, the best way to ensure you are getting the right light for your room is to look at the lumens. Below is a guide that can help in the decision making process.

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LED bulbs are generally compatible with your existing fixtures. When in doubt we suggest calling the manufacturer to be sure. At Laura Lee Designs, all of our fixtures are LED compatible and we encourage customers to take advantage of this smart, energy-saving bulb choice whenever possible.

We often get the question, "are LED bulbs dimmable?" and the answer is yes. However, a special dimmer is required. This can be purchased easily from your local hardware store and installed by your electrician.

Aesthetics of LED

You may recall earlier versions of LED bulbs as clunky and unappealing. We are happy to report that significant advancements have been made in their design. Whether you want to replace candelabra style bulbs for your chandelier or freshen up your fixture with Edison bulbs, there is now an LED option available. Inquire with us while ordering and we will be happy to guide you through the selection process.

Our Jennifer Chandelier with frosted LED candelabra bulbs.

Our Jennifer Chandelier with frosted LED candelabra bulbs.

Cost: The Bottom Line

While the price point for these bulbs is often higher than their incandescent and CFL counterparts, they can last 20 years or more, making them a more cost effective choice in the long run. Because they emit little to no heat, you may find your cooling bill reduced, depending on the amount of lights in your home. For larger fixtures with many lights, these costs can add up quickly. 

LED Nostalgic Style Bulb

LED Nostalgic Style Bulb

Why Lighting is the 'Jewelry' of the Home

Originally published on

Laura Lee Designs Iron Lighting

Step into a beautifully designed luxury home, and your eyes often need a few moments to adjust to the décor’s many layers. A textured wall here. Some intricately carved moldings there. And the perfect blend of eclectic pieces that create a meticulously, distinctively, elegant whole.

And then there’s the “jewelry”—that finishing detail that gives the room its sparkle. For many people, not the least of which is Los Angeles-based lighting designer Laura Lee DiPietro of Laura Lee Designs, Inc., that’s the decorative lighting.

I think of it as the jewelry of architecture,” said DiPietro, whose namesake company has earned a reputation for lighting design that features European flair and character mixed with modern refinement. “The principal role of jewelry is to ornament and catch the eye; modern lighting is no different.”

Previews Inside Out had a chance to talk to DiPietro this week, and she told us how her handmade lighting collections can elevate a home’s presentation, gave us tips for choosing the best fixtures for a space, and informed us about why the right lighting is so crucial when selling a home. 

Jasmine Sconces in a French Provincial style sun room.

Jasmine Sconces in a French Provincial style sun room.

Previews Inside Out First: how did you first get into lighting design?

Laura Lee DiPietro I started my lighting business in 1991, first doing art shows. Then I was introduced to the High Point Market furniture show in North Carolina, which led me to launch my career in the lighting business. I am a graduate of the Art Institute in Chicago and then went on to the Inchbald School of Design in London for interior design.

Previews Inside Out What’s your philosophy on lighting, in general?

Laura Lee DiPietro Like jewelry, the style and design of decorative lighting sends many messages about a project. For instance, a crystal chandelier or iron chandelier with crystal adornment is traditional, formal, and elegant. A deer antler chandelier is themed, semi-formal, and whimsical, and a glass and iron Italian chandelier and sconces are modern, formal, and hip. When it comes to making an architectural statement, lighting is to architecture as jewelry is to dress—it stands out and begs to be looked at first. But, like jewelry, there are design concepts that work best. 

Previews Inside Out What’s the secret to finding the right lighting for a space?

Laura Lee DiPietro A good rule of thumb for the correct location of decorative lighting is often driven by aesthetic expectations. It helps to use a traditional lighting plan as a starting point. Assume there will be a chandelier in the entry and over the dining room table, pendant lights over the breakfast table and kitchen island, sconces in hallways, and lamps in bedrooms. While it is acceptable to design a dining room without a chandelier, it gives the space a different feeling. The eye will be forced to seek other visual interest, such as an architectural detail, artwork, stemware, or table decorations. 

Previews Inside Out What’s the one mistake that you often see affluent homeowners make when it comes to lighting?

Laura Lee DiPietro Common mistakes that homeowners make involving decorative lighting include placing fixtures in inappropriate locations—often conflicting with other design elements in the room—or simply using too many or too few sources. Always remember that the key to good design is restraint! 

Previews Inside Out When you’re designing a space, do you typically start with lighting and design around that, or is every project different?

Laura Lee DiPietro When starting a project, I always take the architecture into consideration. Light is the most important factor in the appreciation and understanding of architecture; the relationship between light and architecture being grounded in the principles of physics, it is about energy and matter. The quality of lighting in a space defines its character and creates impressions.

I believe lighting has an essential effect on the aesthetics of any room, affecting our perceptions of ourselves, our surroundings, and works of art in the space. It can also affect our moods and senses of well being. The right amount of lighting can make an ordinary space seem almost magical. 

Single Tier Adonis Chandelier.

Single Tier Adonis Chandelier.

Previews Inside Out What techniques do you use when selecting lighting for a particular room?

Laura Lee DiPietro Choosing lighting for a room requires a balance of form and function. Lighting, as we know, is a great way to highlight features in a room; whether it is a painting, an antique, or a unique feature in your space, using lighting in the right way can add a finished and dramatic look to any room.

In a living room, lighting should be warm and able to be dimmed; there should be no brilliant points and instead the distribution of light should reveal textures, color, and balance the dark and clear areas. This atmosphere creates a comfortable impression that helps us to relax and enjoy the moment.  

Siena Lantern

Siena Lantern

Previews Inside Out What’s your advice for buying an antique chandelier or lighting fixture?

Laura Lee DiPietro Know the dealer, meaning: do your research. For example, if you are buying an Italian Murano chandelier, you want to make sure it is authentic. It’s important to have it appraised and authenticated by an expert.

Previews Inside Out In your opinion, how important is lighting when it comes to selling a home?

Laura Lee DiPietro Lighting is a key element when selling a home and should not be overlooked. The right light not only enhances the rooms’ features but can also make a room feel larger, more modern, elegant, and, ultimately, more inviting to potential buyers.


Caring for Your Wrought Iron Fixtures

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Wrought iron is a favorite material for exterior lighting, interior lighting and decorative elements. When cared for properly, this durable material can last a lifetime with minimal maintenance. Below are some simple tips on upkeep for your iron fixtures. By following these guidelines, you will enjoy your fixtures for generations.

Gently clean the fixture. Wipe the fixture down with some gentle, gentle cleaner and water using a cloth. After the fixture is clean of debris, make sure you dry it complete to avoid rusting. Removing any dust or debris will allow you to inspect and potential wear and tear. It is important to make sure your light is off and the bulb is removed before beginning the process. 

Inspect the fixture for rust or wear and tear. Indoor fixtures can generally be restored to good as new with a simple cleaning but outdoor fixtures often need a little more TLC. Take a close look at your fixture. If you see areas were the finish has been compromised, you may need to do a quick touch up.

Touch up the fixture.  Begin by removing any stubborn debris loose finish gently with a brush. After the area you want to touch up is smooth and dirt free, give it a light coat of finish. We can provide touch up finish to any of our fixtures. Just give us a call or send an email and we will be happy to accommodate you. 

A word about coastal climates. Iron's worst enemy is moisture. If you plan on installing your fixture in areas with an excessive amount of moisture or in coastal areas, we suggest opting for a marine coat when purchasing your fixture. This coat, applied underneath the finish, will offer added protection to your fixture for years to come. 

Did you know? Our fixtures undergo an 8 step finishing process, hand applied by expert craftsmen. This not only ensures a richness and depth, but also protection to the iron itself.