The Light Stuff
David Toran and his crew—including daughter Lily—clean and repair chandeliers for homes and historic buildings throughout Washington.
When David Toran first spotted the chandeliers at the Mayflower hotel, he says, “they were all filthy.”
He sent a letter to the hotel’s manager offering to clean and repair the fixtures; he received a call two days later. That was 20 years ago. Today he and his associates at David Toran Chandelier Services in DC have restored all but one of the Mayflower’s 76 chandeliers.
In high school in Philadelphia, Toran, 64, worked for his father—a lighting-factory representative—assembling chandeliers and fixtures for stores. But he didn’t go right into the business after graduating.
After various jobs—working in a greenhouse, owning a motorcycle business—and projects including designing and building his own solar house, he visited Washington as a locomotive engineer with Amtrak and then moved here in 1985. One look around and he spied his future: “I saw that there was wealth,” he says. “And where there is wealth there are chandeliers.”
Toran sometimes has more than a dozen chandeliers in his shop for repair; they come from restaurants, embassies, and private homes. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a $12,000 or $1,200 chandelier,” he says. “They all get treated the same way.”
Twice a year, he hand-cleans the Mayflower chandeliers using a mild ammonia-and-water solution. His favorites hang in a row, running from the 17th Street side of the building toward the restaurant. They’re Versailles style with amethyst columns and French-cut prisms. Toran spent six months restoring these.
Lily Kardell, Toran’s daughter, is his lead apprentice. She’s 15.
“When I brought my daughter home from the hospital, the first thing I did was take her into the shop, and I stuck her right under a chandelier,” Toran says. When Lily was five, Toran started her on matching and counting crystals. She can now assemble and install a glass chandelier on her own.
“I have no expectations that my daughter will go into the business,” Toran says, “but I do have hopes that it will support her through college.”
He says the interest in maintaining antique crystal chandeliers is shrinking: “The parent who is my age wants to pass the chandelier on, and the children don’t want it.” But he knows he’ll have no problem passing on his ten chandeliers: “My eldest has already asked for one.”
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