Hardly viewed as stylish, much less artistic, ceiling fans envisioned by homeowners are most often those stereotypical white-or-wood gadgets — four blades or five — that add a practical touch of comfort on warm summer days and circulate warm air during winter.
A remote control, perhaps some after-market light shades, would be considered extras, right? Wrong.
Surprisingly, manufacturers of designer ceiling fans offer so many options a decision might be easier to make regarding wall color or furniture. Envision bamboo leaves or mahogany squared blades, stained glass light fixtures and belt-and-pulley fan systems.
"For most people, when you say ceiling fan, we all picture that classic Victorian-style reproduction, pancake-style switch housing and tulip light kit," says Dave Ellis, general manager of The Modern Fan Company in Ashland.
While most of us, indeed, picture those $30 discount fans, the fan industry is taking a more artistic approach, selling out in big cities as fast as most retailers can re-stock, says Ellis.
Purchasing a higher-end fan comes with more than a choice of color and blade number.
Of 17 styles sold worldwide by The Modern Fan Company, Ellis says various combinations of blades and light kits make for hundreds, if not thousands, of possibilities.
On a basic level, design fans are available in local retail stores to mirror construction styles, such as Tuscan or Craftsman. Going a step further, blade styles add designer flair with special materials from metals like copper and bronze to bamboo and Lucite. Other options include no-blade fans, folded blades or multiple "mini fans" attached to long limbs.
The Matthews Fan Company's "Brisa 2000" is one of the industry's more unique rotational fans. The website touts, "Like satellites orbiting a planet, the Brisa's select mahogany blades and lunar counterweight gently orbit about its spherical gear housing."
A large single blade fan, Fanimation's Enigma has so much futuristic appeal it was used in Will Smith's movie, "I, Robot."
The company's "Bourbon Street" fan is a rendition of charming belt-driven fans produced in the 1800s, sporting a series of fans, with hardwood or ornate metal blades, on a belt-and-pulley system.
Regency Ceiling Fan's "Illusion," looks like an oil-rubbed bronze chandelier of sorts. When flipped on, the fan blades rotate and appear to open and close like a jellyfish.
Energy wise, most fans on the market carry the familiar Energy Star label, though most use far less energy than optional light kits.
"Using a fluorescent light source improves efficiency far more than anything to do with the motor of a fan," Ellis notes.
Speaking of lights, fan models, simple and designer, come with the option of "up lights," to add ambiance to beautiful ceilings, or "down lights" for enhanced room lighting.
Another innovation, a handful of models appear as a light-only setup, from which fan blades descend at the push of a button.
As for function, most homeowners' pet peeves about fans, says Peggy Lindstrom, owner of Casa Bellissimo in Medford, is sound.
"There's nothing more annoying than trying to sleep with a noisy fan humming overhead," she says.
A point of reference, Lindstrom says, the bigger the motor, the quieter the fan. Likewise, the larger the pitch of the blade, the more air the fan will produce. Standard fan blades run in sizes up to 52 inches while some designer models go larger at 70-inch.
Designer fans are far from their discount-store counterparts, and can cost between $300 and $500. They are also more efficient and typically function better, with more air movement.
"In most cases, homeowners who have these beautiful homes want something that accentuates their architecture. They want to see vines going up to the ceiling, nice hardwood, texture...," says Lindstrom. A bargain compared to what other art pieces might cost.