Brenda Cooper has chandelier karma, big time.
The North York resident has a sparkly bit of ceiling candy hanging in practically every room in her home — including the garage. And each and every one of those spidery crystal-encrusted lighting fixtures has a story, more often than not to do with mothers.
It all began when she moved into her townhouse five years ago. Instead of renovating the 30 year old home, Cooper beefed things up by painting the walls and buying new appliances. Adding some bling in the form of sparkling chandeliers was a way of glamming things up and complementing the older style of the townhouse, she says.
She already had one chandelier by then, the granddaddy — no, make that grandmamma — of chandeliers. It was a mammoth crystal fixture with the largest individual pieces of crystal she’s ever seen. It belonged to her grandmother.
“I always wanted it,” she says. “In all my travels I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Aside from its uniqueness, the chandelier has a big emotional resonance:
“Every single time I turn it on, she’s here. She was a very special person.”
Her second and third chandeliers were bought at an estate sale run by two sisters clearing out their mother’s apartment. They wanted $300 each for them. Cooper left her phone number with an offer of $50 for both.
She didn’t think she’d hear from them again after that offer.
Fifteen days later there was a message on Cooper’s phone. The chandeliers were hers for 50 bucks.
The pair now adorn her bedroom over her bed and her foyer. They turned out to be a good German make — Schonbek. Cooper has seen similar ones in vintage shops for $1,700 each.
“After that it became a mission.”
A firm believer that one needn’t shell out big bucks to find pretty things of good quality, Cooper scours estate content sales for old chandeliers. The more crystals on them, the better.
She’s learned some tricks of the trade along the way.
One, she rarely goes to estate sales run by companies as she says they overprice things. She’ll never go to a one-day sale on Saturday, instead opting for two-day weekend sales that she always goes to on the last day, when the deals are better.
Most important, she’ll never actually ask sellers if they have chandeliers, preferring the more nebulous term, ceiling fixtures. People tend to ask for more if you call them chandeliers, she says.
Strategies like that have paid off. Some of her top ceiling fixture finds have been $5 and $7 each.
That said, Cooper isn’t sneaky. There’s an unwritten rule of respect at these sales, she says.
And besides, Cooper seems so open and honest that, well, people just give her stuff. One lady she met on a sidewalk took her home and showed her a chandelier boxed up in her basement that her mother had given her as a wedding present. The lady was going to sell it, but after seeing how much Cooper loved it, she gave it to her because she wanted it to go to a good home.
“This is worth a lot of money,” Cooper says pointing to the Italian brass chandelier hanging in her upstairs hallway.
She’s no expert, she says, but she takes her finds to a place called Consumers Lighting & Lamps on Dufferin Street, and owner Sid Wellman checks the wiring. Apparently when he saw this one he oohed and aahed.
Another chandelier hanging in her garage — it’s not functional, she says, as it would cost a fortune to rewire it — was also given to her. She says if the character Jed Clampett from the TV show, The Beverly Hillbillies can have a chandelier there, why can’t she?
Not to belabor the mother connection, but it becomes uncanny. Cooper’s best friend’s came to her with an unwanted chandelier her mother had given to her, again found in the basement. Cooper knew the chandelier was expensive and said so.
“I told her, ‘This was your mother’s.’ ”
But her friend said to take it, so into Cooper’s workshop — her second level bathroom — it went. After hanging it from the shower rod on an S hook, as she does with all her chandeliers, Cooper removed and washed every piece of crystal and then put it back on, one by one.
It now hangs over her desk in her office. There’s no way her friend is going to change her mind and get it back after all the work she put into it, she says.
Funnily enough, the only non-chandelier Cooper has came from her own mother. It’s an Art Deco birdcage style fixture she found in her mom’s basement that used to hang over the kitchen table when she was growing up.
Now it’s in her spare room suspended over a wooden bed frame painted green — the very first piece of furniture her father bought when he arrived in Canada after surviving the Holocaust.
Are there times when the obsession gets out of control? Not really. Cooper says she never buys for the sake of buying. There are three chandeliers in her basement that have already been checked for wiring and cleaned up. She won’t sell them, she says, as she’s not looking to make money. She’ll just give them away when the time is right.
There’s really no room for more, with every room and hallway in her home effectively chandeliered. And considering all the great stories behind each and every piece, she’s not about to get rid of any of them — especially her gran’s — anytime soon.
“Nothing will replace my grandmother’s chandelier.”
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