Made in Sarasota

By staff April 1, 2006

Hang one of Nancy Sabattini's one-of-a-kind vintage chandeliers from your ceiling, and guests won't be able to stop craning their necks upward for a glance.

Sabattini finds classic 1930s-era Spanish and Italian chandeliers at antique shops and estate sales and gives them modern new twists with crystal and Plexiglas. She also designs her own chandeliers from scratch with vintage fabrics.

No two DE-LITES, as she calls her line, project the same personality. In the dining room of her Sarasota home is an ebullient waterfall of dangling strips of lime green Plexiglas that allows glimpses of the demure 1930s Spanish metal and crystal lady within. Another piece gives an impression of abstract braininess, with asymmetrical pieces of lavender glass twirling from copper wires. Yet another appears disciplined and pretty, with ruby and diamond-colored stones hanging in precise droplets from a brass frame.

"I see things complete," says Sabattini. "Before I work on it, I know what it's going to look like. It's not learned; it's a gift."

Sabattini's chandeliers in many ways reflect her own values: eclecticism, good workmanship, respect for history and preservation, and survival. Her family moved here in the 1950s from Illinois. She and her twin sister graduated from Riverview High School and used to spend their weekends at the Circus Hall of Fame, where their father was president. They grew up accustomed to seeing elephants parade through their neighborhood, trapeze artists practice in back yards, and sideshow performers saunter the sidewalks. "It was a very magical life we lived here, a tropical dream," she says.

Over the years, Sabattini has had a cleaning service, taught dance and fitness and done choreography for local artists and theater. She's taught at Manatee Community College and local resource centers, and even used music and dance to teach English language to University of South Florida foreign exchange students.

Another career path she has enjoyed is interior design, not only for clients, but for the 1950s and '60s Sarasota houses she restored for herself and filled with recycled and reused vintage furniture and materials. She credits her mother for her artistic touch. Not only was her mother creative (once redoing a kitchen entirely in lavender), their home was frequently featured in house tours.

Indeed, the 1960s ranch house in a quiet Ringling Boulevard neighborhood in which she lives with her boyfriend, Mark Baughman, is a treasure trove of Americana. There's an original black patent-leather chair from a Longboat Key estate sale, an early '70s turquoise blue couch, '50s black and white lamps and tropical bird paintings from her parents' home, and even an old secretary table that cranks up and down, used as a side table in the living room. The kitchen holds a Frigidaire kitchen range, original to the house. Beloved collections are displayed everywhere: guitars, vintage beaded purses, ceramic plates, good-luck fish mobiles she made herself. A suitcase under a bed in the guest bedroom is filled with purses she made of vintage fabrics.

In the living room are pieces more sobering than her chandeliers: two of her paintings from a series of seven about battling breast cancer; she's been free of the disease for five years. Having gone through that dark period, Sabattini insists that, at the very least, her chandeliers should bring happiness to their beholders.

"Whatever happens and wherever it goes, I want it to make people smile," she says. "We need joy and smiles and a little craziness in this world."

Sabattini's chandeliers are on sale at Wonderland, 1507 Main St., Sarasota. She also will take commissions for custom pieces. She can be reached at, (941) 365-7177 or [email protected] Lamps start at $200.


Filed under
Show Comments