Just off Andrássy Boulevard near Budapest's Operetta Theatre on Nagymező utca quietly stands one of the city's undiscovered treasures. Entering the 100-plus-year-old business is like stepping back in time. Antiques fill the room. Ornate lighting fixtures glitter on the walls and ceiling. This is the shop of Tamás Grünberger, the last great chandelier maker in Budapest. Chances are that if you've spent any time in Hungary's capital, you've seen his work. His award-winning cases of light hang in some of the most famous buildings in the city. Recently, I sat down with this master craftsman. Known as the Last Mohican of his trade, Mr. Grünberger spoke proudly of his art.
What are some of the chandeliers you've designed in Budapest?
"There are many. We've designed and built the chandeliers in the New York Coffee House, the Urania Theatre, Gerbeaud, the Elephant House, the Operetta Theatre, the Moulin Rouge, and the Great Synagogue, to name just a few."
How old is the business?
"My grandfather started the business in 1901. Back then we made both lamps and furniture. The original shop was on Klauzál tér. After the war, we moved to this location. I didn't plan to go into the business, but when my father died, the family decided I should continue the legacy."
Where did you learn how to make chandeliers?
"I learned from my father. I had been a piano player. So, I had artistic fingers – good for attaching beads to the lamps. People think you can learn this trade at school, but you can't. You can learn style and design, but not how to fulfill a customer’s expectations, or how to put the client’s personality into a lamp."
How long does it take to make a chandelier?
"From conception to completion, it takes about 3 years. Technology has sped the process up some. We guarantee the pieces for the life of the master."
Do you have a favorite memory?
"Oh, I have so many. Once a miner came into the shop to buy a chandelier. He said he'd worked his whole life underground in the dark. Now he wanted a big, beautiful light."
What are you working on now?
"We recently completed the lighting for the renovation of the Liszt Academy. That was a challenge. They wanted us to recreate of the original that had been stolen during the war. There were no drawings. I only had a photograph to go by."
What is the secret to your great success?
"Love. We're not working for the profit. We love our work. Our family's motto is: Loyalty to family. Loyalty to country. Loyalty to the profession."
What would your father say about your success?
"He'd be happy." Mr. Grünberger smiled. "Then he'd tell me to get back to work."
Address: 1065 Budapest, Nagymező utca 17