The Bauer Family Does Wright

We’re excited to have incorporated the Bauer family of fixtures into our Arts & Crafts family. After discovering them in a 1907 Bauer Gas Fixture Works catalogue, we set about reproducing them, intent on preserving their unusual “transitional” nature.

Our Bauer 4-arm chandelier fits "wright" into this restored Frank lloyd Wright house in Chicago.

The turn of the 20th century was a time of change for decorative arts. The Bauer fixture family encompasses the transition from Late Victorian to Arts & Crafts, by way of Art Nouveau. With their whip-shaped arms and slender cone shades, the fixtures have the more fluid and organic feel of Art Nouveau. As a result, they offer a nice stylistic alternative to traditional angular Arts & Crafts fixtures.

When we photographed these lights for our catalogue, we hung them in a 1906 Prairie Style home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright near Chicago. Homeowners Juan and Claire Montenegro lovingly restored this house for nearly 20 years, even winning awards for their sensitive approach to making improvements.

So when they proclaimed our fixtures “fit right in,” we were thrilled. (Side note: the lights were about the only thing that did fit! Wright’s homes often have low ceilings and small door openings. Unfortunately, that meant we had to hoist all the furniture for the photo shoot up the outside of the house and over the veranda railing.)

Original c.1907 catalogue inspiration for our Bauer family of fixtures.

Original c. 1907 catalogue inspiration for our Bauer family of fixtures.

Now, would Frank Lloyd Wright approve of putting our fixtures in the Montenegros’ home, given that he didn’t design them? To be frank (pun intended), we’re not sure. We like to think that he’d appreciate the lights’ organic and slightly rustic quality, and how they quietly harmonize with their surroundings.

Though we’ll never know Wright’s opinion of our lights, our conjectures beg the broader question: Is it okay to take a more interpretive approach to restoration, even in something as revered as a Frank Lloyd Wright structure? Or is it best to honor the integrity of the architecture and stick to exact reproductions?

We won’t pretend to have the answer, but we’d love to hear yours. What do you think? Is it acceptable or anathema to take liberties when renovating a historically significant home?