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Ready for takeoff

August 21, 2003|Adamo DiGregorio and David A. Keeps | Special to The Times

The particular genius of the ceiling fan, which spins one way in the summer to cool a room and reverses in the winter to circulate heat, has never quite been matched by its aesthetic presentation.

Invented in the Victorian era, ceiling fans exhibited a summer house gentility with fussy iron details and trumpet-shaped glass lights. In the 1960s, in a fit of nostalgia, a Victorian reproduction dubbed the Casablanca fan cashed in on the romantic allure of the 1942 Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman film.

And so the ceiling fan remained mired in overly ornate styling until the late '80s, when lighting designer Ron Rezek brought a breath of fresh air to the industry with the Stratos, a sleek, rounded, aluminum ceiling fan "for the architect and homeowner who wanted something contemporary." An Angeleno who had studied industrial design at UCLA under Charles Eames, Rezek (the designer of the orange lifesaving pontoons used on "Baywatch") patented a streamlined rotor-and-blade system that eliminated the wobble associated with most ceiling fans.

As founder of the Modern Fan Co. in the late '90s, Rezek has introduced a dozen models that fit a variety of ceiling heights and interiors from Deco to Danish, Machine Age to Jetsons. Rezek's influence is clear in Ferdi Giardini's Blow Fan, an incredibly lightweight overhead light and fan. It looks like an airplane nose and propeller and is made out of milky plastic, with transparent blades in clear and primary colors.

Traditionalists needn't be turned off by the stylistic innovations. For those whose tastes run to country, cottage, shabby chic and Indonesian, there now are fans with bamboo, leaf and wicker blades shaped like rowboat oars or hand fans. And Hampton Bay's leather-trimmed Delano model has warm tones that complement a Mediterranean home and a coolly masculine profile suitable for an English billiard room.

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