Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Choosing Lighting Fixtures for Our Midcentury Home

Sputnik has landed!

I ordered this baby back in February, when, hot on the heels of the home purchase closing and with renovation plans still just a gleam in my ipad, it was, unbelievably, time to start deciding on fixtures and getting them in.

This is the reality of every renovation project that never fails to take me by surprise. Back out two months from your demo date, and you've got to start purchasing or you'll blow your renovation timeline.

When it comes to tile or bathroom fixtures, I'm generally okay with making early choices. I know what I want; I break out the credit card and commit. But lighting is my particular weakness (along with camera skills, as you may have noticed). It takes work to imagine where your furniture will sit and mental exercise to walk through your day to day to address things like task lighting.

Between making the offer and closing on the purchase, I spent weeks -- well, actually months -- poring over home design websites, and a good deal of time on lighting sites, which by the way, in my professional opinion could all use some taxonomy help. (Everything can't be tagged midcentury!)

Now, four months later, here she is:

Sputnik, Zoetico.com

Our Sputnik is a knock off... er, reproduction, of the midcentury classic designed by Gino Sarfatti in 1954. I sourced it from Zoetico. And despite the long wait, I give them a top notch rating. The prices are great, the product is stunning, and customer service response was immediate all the way through - even when the box arrived with no lightbulbs. They were very quick to respond to my email and ship the half chrome bulbs for free and even threw in a couple extra for good measure.

25 half chrome bulbs light up the entryway

Whatever your stance on knockoffs, I have this much to say: The DWR model Sputnik is quite spendy. And even upcycled originals that you might see offered on Krrb and Craigslist are pricey too, despite that the wiring may be suspect, parts may be missing, and brass tarnished. I did see a few in antique stores in Greenport that looked in good condition, but all were brass. I tend to prefer a chrome finish for my light fixtures. And I'm finding chrome looks especially good with the Farrow and Ball "Blackened" paint color we chose for the walls in our midcentury home - which has a silvery cast.

Whether you agree about chrome or not, I'm sure you'd agree almost anything is an improvement over all the light fixtures that were in this home when we bought it.

Entryway BEFORE:


Bathroom BEFORE:

Two "high hats" over the tub - and no light at all over the sink or in the shower

Newbury Flush Mount, SchoolhouseElectric.com; Halo Dome Shower Trim, HomeDepot.com

Sutton Double Sconce, RestorationHardware.com

Livingroom BEFORE:

80's style ceiling fan

The Haiku with bamboo airfoils, BigAssFans.com

Diningroom BEFORE:

Another 80s model


Brenda Pendant, LightingDirect.com

Master bedroom BEFORE:

Another 80s era ceiling fan


The Haiku with white airfoils, BigAssFans.com

Second bedroom BEFORE:

And yet another 80s style ceiling fan


MinkaAire Concept I, LightingDirect.com

Hallway BEFORE:

I'm not really sure what you call this - and I've done a lot of lighting research


Sabin Flush Mount, Rejuvenation.com

If you are wondering about The Haiku fans from The Big Ass Fan Company that replaced the ubiquitous 80s era no-frills ceiling fans in the living room, dining room and bedrooms, I did quite a bit of research to source the highest performing ceiling fans available. This company started out making giant fans for industrial warehouses before designing for the home market. Where regular old ceiling fans have blades, Big Ass Fans have airfoils with winglets that are aerodynamically designed to maximize air velocities and stabilize air movement. And I really appreciated the Craft-Your-Own order form that let me choose bamboo for the living room and white in the bedroom. The performance of these fans is so important to me, because I detest window air conditioners. And my deal with Ross is, if we can get through the summer without using ours, I can donate them to Build It Green and clear our windowsills of those light-blocking behomeths.

Added bonus? The look on visitors' faces when I say it's a Big Ass Fan!

Questions on sourcing? Thoughts about knock offs? Comment and I WILL reply.


  1. Hi Sally, your apartment gets lovelier with every post!

    I'm looking for an electrician in Jackson Heights to install two ceiling fans, so if you worked with someone you're happy with I'd definitely welcome a recommendation. Thanks.

  2. Hi Kate, thank you so much for your kind compliment! It has truly been a labor of love. My contractor hung my fans. But honestly, unless you need retiring, this is a job any handy man could handle. I've seen some local recommendations on Jackson Heights Life: http://www.jacksonheightslife.com/community/index.php?topic=11702.msg56051#msg56051

  3. Hi Sally, can you tell me what height your ceiling is where the Sputnik is installed and what size you got from Zoetico (small or large)? Also, did it come with the mirrored bulbs or non mirrored? I saw photos of both on their website. We have 8'-0" ceilings in our living room and want the Sputnik, but we are a little afraid it will hang down too low. Lastly-how long did you fixture take to get to you? I'm not familiar with the company and having trouble finding reviews on Zoetico or the fixtures in general! I really appreciate you response! It looks beautiful!

  4. Hi Becky, thank you for the lovely compliment. Our ceilings are 10 ft. I think it will be too long for your ceiling. It measures about 18 inches not counting the rod, which we had to trim with a hack saw to install or ours would have hung too low.

    Zoetico was great to deal with, however, the fixture came in very late. It was on back order when I purchased it and they estimated end of April. It arrived in July.

    The size of the fixture is the small one on the Zoetico site. The bulbs are called half-chrome bubs and replacements are widely available at about $2 a piece.

  5. Oh, I should add, the bulbs are included in the price of the fixture. The box arrived without them, but Zoetico quickly sent them when I alerted them that the bulbs were missing. I would purchase from them again, despite the lateness. Their prices can't be beat. Though I heard Home Depot has a version of Sputnik now. That might be worth checking out.