The Big Chandelier specializes in European antique and vintage lighting unlike anything else found around town. However, Jack and Ellen Prestia, owners of this westside lighting wonderland, did not start out as electrical designers or antique dealers. They each enjoyed successful professional careers as consultants for technology corporations. Jack and Ellen knew numbers and strategic planning, profit models and accounting, organizational theory and corporate politics. They also knew that they didn’t want to stay in consulting forever.
Ellen grew up in Mississippi and Jack in Virginia, both very conscious of the treasured history around them. Their mutual love of travel lured them to different countries, drawn by the excitement of experiencing new cultures and awed by places built centuries ago. That appreciation for the charm of combining old and new echoed throughout their lives — Ellen sometimes pondering the architecture of ancient cathedrals, or trying eclectic international recipes; Jack regularly found puttering around auctions and flea markets, or tackling home improvement projects on their older home in Druid Hills.
The renovation and restoration of that Druid Hills house first brought Ellen to the door of The Big Chandelier. She immediately told Jack, “You have to come see this, it’s a big, old warehouse full of antique lighting.” The owner, a bit of a rough, older gentleman, had collected some amazing pieces over time, but muttered about retiring. “He said he was on his way to enjoying retirement and would eventually sell the whole thing, though he didn’t know who he’d sell it to, “Jack recalls. “I said ‘Sell it to me!’ and he said he’d think about it.” The Prestias kept at him for almost 5 years as he waffled constantly. Then one day, they got the call saying, “Okay, it’s time. We’re ready to sell.”
As consultants, Jack and Ellen had become proficient in many different business models, so they had the utmost confidence they could figure this out. After a huge transition period, Jack and Ellen realized they needed to completely modernize the business from computers and accounting software to logistics and inventory. Thankfully, many of the craftsman that had been with the company for years, stayed on with The Prestias. They’ve even trained Jack and Ellen on some of the details unique to lighting restoration.
Several times a year, Jack takes buying trips to Europe searching markets for these beautiful treasures — the fixtures themselves, as well as architectural salvage elements they transform into lighting. Many of the antique pieces must be converted to electricity from their days as gas light or candle wax fixtures, and many original creations emerge from curiosities catching Jack’s imaginative eye. Since Jack does all the buying, there’s no “middleman” or distributor, so their prices can NOT be beat.
The Big Chandelier is also a U.L. certified shop, one of few around. They follow the rigorous standards necessary to make sure all pieces sold fit the U.L. certification, meeting codes required for installation in new construction or commercial spaces. Jack clarified that while a private homeowner is free to use antique lighting anywhere in their home, they should be careful, observing that most older fixtures may require adjustments to meet current safety standards. Everything sold in the store has already been completely restored to meet those objectives.
Jack and Ellen consider their primary focus to be restoration, not individual custom design, though they’re able to make modifications to any of the items in inventory. In addition to retail customers, The Big Chandelier seems to be the hidden treasure of the local design industry. They’ve built relationships with interior decorators and designers, as well as architects and custom builders; even set designers from the many production companies in town find the perfect props. (In fact, someone from a certain “District Trilogy” dropped by for eclectic fixtures while we were visiting. Bottom line, this is a shop full of really cool stuff. (I thought about offering my hall chandelier as Tribute, but it’s probably not what they had in mind.) Once a month, The Big Chandelier exhibits at Scott Antique Market, garnering a diverse fan base from treasure hunters scouring stalls. The current west side development boom brings a whole new kind of foot traffic through the huge two-story showroom/warehouse.
Take a stroll underneath the twinkling canopy at The Big Chandelier and find illuminating masterpieces suited for every design aesthetic. www.TheBigChandelier.com