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Illuminating Restorations

Categories: Blog, Collections

By Liberté Reilly

With the beautiful glass pieces in the Garden I can’t help but think of the stunning glass pieces found in the House. We just finished up a major three year renovation project in the house: our Crystal Lighting Restoration. We were able to deep clean, rewire, replace missing and damaged prisms, and convert to LED bulbs on five chandeliers and ten sconces in three different rooms. This project was generously supported by a $30,000 matching grant from the Historic Sites Fund via the National Trust of Historic Preservation, private donors, and our own Conservation Fund, for a grand total of nearly $113,000.


The Ballroom with its not so new blue lights

The Ballroom

There are two stunning French chandeliers along with six wall sconces chosen by Maud Bourn and Ernest Peixotto found in the Ballroom.  They were created by Maison Baguès in Paris around 1924. Made from French crystal prisms in the Louis XIV style, these beauties are sparkling, glamorous, and perfect for the Ballroom.  Interestingly, this exact model of chandelier was hanging in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles when the Bourns visited for the Treaty of Versailles signing in 1919. It has since been re-illuminated with a different model and many more chandeliers.  

Although connected with the homes of royalty, our chandeliers have a unique personal touch – the blue lights at the top. While taking down these chandeliers last summer we found six blue light bulbs unscrewed in the top bowl of each chandelier. Filoli Curator, Julie Bly DeVere, did some digging and found this was both a Bourn and Roth family practice. One letter from Agnes Bourn describes the blue lights as “restive” in the 1920s. The Roth’s called it go “Twilight Dancing” when they danced under their blue glow. One of the Roth twins, Lurline, told us it was very romantic during dances! In the evening, if we turn off the sconces the blue lights create a moonlight glow on Peixotto’s paintings of Muckross.


Trophy Room

The Trophy Room Chandelier

In the center of the Trophy room is a single 5-arm Baccarat crystal chandelier. It  had been hanging upstairs in a state of disrepair for decades. It had clearly been damaged in the past and was missing many of its prisms.  Historic photographs showed the Bourns had chosen it originally for the center of the Trophy Room. During the Roth Era it hung directly over a pool table – possibly how it was later damaged. Thanks to a private donor we were able to fully restore this beautiful piece.  Now it shines as lovely as it was intended.


The Drawing Room

Drawing Room

The twin Louis XIV chandeliers and four matching sconces create a light and jewelry-like look to the Drawing Room. Through the process of the restoration we were able to remove some garish brass bowls from the gold and crystal creation. We were also able to confirm that these fixtures were indeed made by Maison Baguès like the Chandeliers in the Ballroom, but earlier at the time of construction in 1917. This project is just one step in many to return the Drawing Room to a more accurate representation of how the families used and displayed this room.

All that Glitters

Here at Filoli we are always working to make your visitor experience more historically accurate, well informed, and beautiful. Thanks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Matthew Shields of Matthew Shields Fine Lighting Ltd. we were able to bring a piece of Filoli back to its former glory. Come see them for yourself!