strat investigates

Why Does Every Renovated Brownstone in Brooklyn Have This Chandelier?

Serge Mouille’s three-arm ceiling lamp. Photo: Courtesy of Design Within Reach

If the parlor floor’s been fixed up recently, odds are there’s a Serge Mouille hanging above the mantle.

Evidence

Two Northwest Brooklyn brownstones, several blocks apart, same chandelier.

From left: Photo: Alexis Swerdloff/New York MagazinePhoto: New York Magazine
From left: Photo: Alexis Swerdloff/New York MagazinePhoto: New York Magazine

Where Did It Come From?

Serge Mouille. Photo: Les Luminaires de Serge Mouille

Serge Mouille, a Parisian industrial designer and metalsmith, began making lamps in 1953 at the behest of Hermès designer Jacques Adnet. Adnet wanted someone to make lights that were the opposite of the ornate, overly complicated Italian designs that had flooded the market in the ’40s and early ’50s. Mouille complied and, three years later, showed his first model at a group show with Jean Prouvé, Isamu Noguchi, and Charlotte Perriand at a gallery in Paris. It was a standing lamp with three arms, each with a breast-shaped aluminum shade. In the next couple of years, Mouille designed lighting for the lounge of the cruise liner France, for Christian Dior’s salon in Paris, and for the actor Henry Fonda, who camped on the steps of his workshop until Mouille agreed to create a lamp especially for him. Mouille later began designing wall sconces and chandeliers.

Why It’s So Appealing

“It’s not overdesign; it’s not underdesign. Other similar — but more explicitly modern — pieces feel a bit more trendy. Mouilles are elegant, and they’re timeless.” —Vicente Wolf, designer who has been using mouille for nearly 30 years

“It’s sculptural, has movement, but is still quite minimalist.” —Ralph Pucci, designer

“Mouille’s chandeliers are deeply sensual; they’re intimately handcrafted and are capped with a recognizable nipple (the housing for the electrical necessities). Both things have given them an enduring sex appeal.” —Katherine Hammond, interior designer

Its Path to Ubiquity

1985

Photo: DAVID X PRUTTING/Patrick McMullan

Anthony DeLorenzo, a New York dealer in 20th-century decorative arts, displays works in Soho by two then-obscure French designers, each of whom he discovered on scouting trips to Paris: Jean Prouvé and Mouille. A pair of Mouille’s sconces goes for about $700. Eight years later, DeLorenzo opens 1950, a shop devoted to ’50s French furniture design, on Lafayette Street; Mouille lamps are front and center. DeLorenzo is later credited with bringing French Art Deco to the forefront in the States.

1996

Photo: Robert Bean/David Weeks Studio

David Weeks founds the Brooklyn-based David Weeks Studio; his style is clearly influenced by Mouille. Ralph Pucci believes Weeks actually brought attention back to Mouille, just as “the Rolling Stones brought attention to the sound of Chuck Berry.”

2002

Noho’s Gueridon begins selling Serge Mouille Re-editions, created using Mouille’s original molds, proportions, techniques, and materials; it is the first store in the States to do so. (Design Within Reach would soon follow suit.) Later that year, original Mouille lamps are called collector’s items by the Times, which reports that decorators are snatching them up from Paris lighting shop Lumière et Fonction for more than $13,000.

2005

French dealers present Mouilles at the first Design Miami (known then as Design.05); decorators take note and begin using them in projects on the Upper East Side and Brooklyn.

2008

A mainstream moment.

Photo: New York Magazine

Jenna Lyons’s Brooklyn brownstone is photographed for Domino; an image of her bedroom (which has a Mouille) becomes one of the most-pinned interiors ever; later, she installs Mouilles in a handful of J.Crew stores.

2012

Photo: New York Magazine

Raf Simons is photographed at his home for Vogue underneath a massive three-armed Mouille standing lamp.

2015

The knockoffs start in earnest: a near-identical “Mid-Century Three-Arm Ceiling Lamp” look-alike goes for $1,449 at Chelsea’s France & Son.

2018

Photo: New York Magazine

Some 12 renovations written about in Architectural Digest and Remodelista in 2018 and 2019 include a Mouille fixture — from Michael Kors’s to Alexander Wang’s.

1 / 8

What’s Next?

Photo: Atelier de Troupe/wessumner.com

“The Tempo chandelier by Atelier de Troupe is, like the Mouille, a chameleon — it looks as appropriate in a Park Avenue apartment as it does in a modern minimalist loft.” —Monica Khemsurov, Sight Unseen

Photo: Apparatus/INGALLSPHOTO

“Like the original Mouilles, lighting studio Apparatuss fixtures blend in well in grand Italianates or Greek Revivals. I’ve been seeing a lot of them in brownstone bathrooms.” —Katherine Hammond

Artemide chandeliers are bound to be a future classic. They combine blown-glass fixtures with LED technology and, like the Mouille, have a sculptural quality that makes them very flexible.” —Vicente Wolf

And If You’d Rather Not Spend $7,000…

We consulted a bevy of designers on their favorite under-$1,000, easily-purchasable-online chandeliers, which you can find here.

*This article appears in the April 29 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Chandelier in Every Renovated Brownstone in Brooklyn