Starbursts and Sputniks - The Stylistically Adept Chandelier


A few years ago, we wrote a post about our Glendale family, "How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sputnik." In it, we told a story about how the style of chandeliers alternately called "Sputnik" and "starburst" came to be, and what they had to do with the larger mid-century context, and why they still have such appeal. We also, naturally, focused on our Glendale fixture a little bit—at the time our only starburst-style chandelier—and talked about how it was a decidedly new contribution to the genre.

Since that time, we've seen many beautiful spaces in so many different styles using our Glendale, proving its versatility and showing that style endures as trends come and go.


Well, it's been a minute, and we've made quite a few more starburst-style and Sputnik-inspired fixtures, not just in Hudson Valley Lighting but in fellow brands Troy Lighting, Corbett Lighting, and Mitzi. Today, we wanted to share the love for those of you to whom the starbursts are your destination.


So, what makes a chandelier a Sputnik-style one? It has to do with the branching arms going out in all directions from a central nucleus of some sort. That might be a sphere, a rod, or, in the case of the original, a puck-like shape, to name just a few. The round metal core found in many versions with arms protruding from it may be the source of its unusual name, as there is some resemblance there with the famous Russian satellite, the first to enter earth's orbit, launched in October 1957. (The parallels stop there.)


The first one was invented by Italian designer Gino Sarfatti in 1939, and went into production sometime in the next decade or two. It was an amazing leap forward because most of the previous chandeliers were styled in the image of their candle-bearing predecessors. In other words, the fact that there would be no flames or dripping wax hadn't really figured much into the design. There had been some fixtures made for industrial purposes, suited to warehouses and factories, that were designed from a purely electrical and practical perspective, but they hadn't caught on yet, either as something chic or the kind of fixture you would install in your home. Poul Henningsen and Louis Poulsen's Artichoke would be another great innovation in lighting design, but that was about twenty years off from Sarfatti's ingenious invention, which still, even today, displays a playful sense of aesthetics that's hard to resist. (To be fair, Henningsen had designed a lighting pendant in 1927 called the PH Septima which wasn't dissimilar from the iconic light he went on to design for Poulsen in 1958.)

This idea is adaptable as it is brilliant. By sending light in all directions, 360 degrees around the body, and going up toward the ceiling as well as down to the floor, starburst fixtures are excellent at illuminating while also making a great decorative statement, serving as dramatic centerpieces. 

You don't need to be a retrofuturist to appreciate this style. It's no strain to say Troy's Andromeda is perfectly contemporary, as is Mitzi's Astrid below. Both employ a sophisticated contrast between dark metal and brass or nickel finishes; arms are posititioned only at perpendicular angles from a handsome central rod.


Troy continues to explore dynamic and contemporary takes on this evergreen design conceit. Their new fixture, Raef (pronounced like "safe" but with an "R" at the beginning), uses the basic Sputnik idea but adds sophisticated elements of contrast to the design. Its bent arms support beautiful glass cylinders diffusing light, conveying a celebration of unity in complementary pairings.


Corbett Lighting comes at the Sputnik concept from various angles. Element leans into the organic and the imperfect, resulting in a stunning fixture that feels like it is living. Inertia is a dramatic presence, an energetic manifestation of pure glam.


As we hope is evident by now, Sarfatti's lighting idea is still alive and well, kicking in a wide variety of styles, and suitable to an astonishing range of looks. Especially if you lean toward a carefully curated eclectic style, it's hard to go wrong with one of these showstoppers. If you like what you saw in this post, there's plenty more where that came from. For more starburst and Sputniks, check out our dedicated page

Thanks for reading!


Photo Credits:

Banner Image—Detail shot of Liberty in Aged Brass by Hudson Valley Lighting

1-6: Glendale by Hudson Valley Lighting

1) Design by Oliver Simon Design | Photo by Tracey Ayton Photography
2) Design by Nina Davis Associates
3) Photo by Ronbow Environmental Photography with Lake Tahoe
4) Design by Curtis Elmy for Atmosphere Interior Design | Photo by D & M Images
5) Design by Cecilia Walker | Photo by Sarah Winchester Studios
6) Design by KBN Interiors | Photo by Joe Purvis

7) Light: Liberty by Hudson Valley Lighting | Design: Marla Nazzicone Design | Photo: Leslie Goodwin

8) Sputnik satellite via Beyond Geek

9) Light: Andromeda by Troy Lighting | Design by Rebekah Westover

10) Astrid by Mitzi  | Detail Shot
11) Astrid by Mitzi | Design & Photo by Amy Peters

12) Raef by Troy Lighting | Rendering by Douglas Fenton
(Also included: Cyrus table lamps hy Hudson Valley Lighting, Layla floor lamp by Mitzi, Calligraphy sconces by Corbett)

13-14) Element by Corbett Lighting

15) Inertia by Corbett Lighting | Catalog shot

16) Light: Sparta by Hudson Valley Lighting | Design by Signature Interior Design (Used with permission)