With a warehouse full of vintage and antique light fixtures, The Big Chandelier helps homeowners create brilliant living spaces


Top fashion stylists can attest that accessories make an outfit. The right necklace, scarf or other adornment can elevate an attractive ensemble to next-level chic. The same holds true for light fixtures in the home, says Jack Prestia, co-owner of The Big Chandelier, a warehouse-size space on Atlanta’s Westside filled with European lighting from the 1800s to the 1960s.

Vintage and antique pieces that are restored properly stand out in a home, says Prestia, who runs the 10,000-square-foot showroom with his wife and business partner, Ellen. Even high-end fixtures from traditional furniture and home improvement stores look ho-hum in comparison, he quips, adding, “Some people refer to it as the jewelry for the house.”

The couple handpicks the gems themselves, traveling overseas several times a year to uncover chandeliers, sconces and floor lamps from sources in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic, among other countries. The ability to enjoy time in Europe was part of what drew them to purchase The Big Chandelier from its previous owners, also a husband-and-wife team, who founded the retailer in 1989. Desiring a change from the corporate world and with a shared affinity for restoring old homes, the Prestias took over the store in 2002.

“The idea that you had a business with hands-on involvement and turning things that are beaten and broken into something beautiful was highly appealing to me,” says Prestia of their decision to buy the business.

Although many need refurbishing, each fixture they find is carefully disassembled and wrapped for transport in a 20-foot sea container, which is delivered weeks later directly to the storefront in Atlanta.

“We unpack it all and put things together as fast as we can to get them on display, but they are not restored yet,” he notes. For that, The Big Chandelier has a team of three full-time employees who will clean, rewire and refurbish fixtures to a customer’s specifications.

“You have to have some vision,” admits Ellen Prestia, since worn finishes and bent rods can make it hard for people to imagine what a lamp might look like fully restored. “That’s why some designers don’t bring their customers in. But it’s also fun when you can find your diamond in the rough.”

The word “chandelier” in the retailer’s name likewise throws people off, notes Jack Prestia, because it can evoke images of an excessively large fixture more suitable for a palace than a private residence. “Once in a while, we get a gigantic 6-foot chandelier, but that’s not the norm,” he says. The inventory includes countless modest-size ceiling lights, lanterns, sconces and floor lamps to suit any décor. With materials ranging from iron, wood and bronze to crystal and chrome, designs also can be quite edgy. Mid-century modern fixtures are particularly popular with younger homeowners who are rehabbing houses in older neighborhoods.

Most of the store’s vintage and antique lights end up in residential homes, like the images shown in this article, which were designed by interior designer Laura Walker Baird of Verde Home by Laura Walker. But hundreds also adorn restaurants, hotels and country clubs from coast to coast. One restaurateur even gave the couple carte blanche to choose dozens of chandeliers for each of his casual dining establishments across the Southeast. The Big Chandelier carries a UL license, so it’s able to UL certify its chandeliers for commercial clients.

Despite the name The Big Chandelier, the sprawling showroom also features a wide range of other treasures sourced from the couple’s European travels, including antique furniture, rugs and artwork.

“We have a fair number of French chests, commodes, buffets, tables and chairs,” Jack Prestia says. Many of the furnishings can be had for a good value compared to other antiques showrooms, and most paintings are priced below $1,000.

“That’s the mystique of The Big Chandelier. It’s kind of ‘warehousey,’” Ellen Prestia says. “You can find your hidden treasure, then have us restore it. It’s transformed from a dusty old light into something beautiful that’s perfect for your space.”

The overflow of vintage and antique lighting options is what appealed to Prestia when she was a customer. Now she enjoys helping designers and homeowners search through the many distinctive pieces for something that suits their individual style and will make an already attractive interior truly captivating. *

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