Ambience: The Power of Light
Light has great power. It extends the day allowing us to work, play, or create in hours that our distant ancestors could do nothing but sleep. Lighting affects our mood both positive and negative. And well-chosen lighting can have a significant impact on décor.
A balanced mix of lighting and light sources is key to a comfortable room. Gradations of light are ideal. For example, general lighting is just that: general. During the day it comes from windows and skylights. At night, it is thanks to recessed, track or overhead fixtures. It keeps us from stepping on the dog’s tail as we walk through a room.
But we also need focused light to read, write or play the piano, or to call attention to that dramatic wall color or special artwork. For these things we need task and accent lighting.
Great room lighting is visually interesting because it casts patterns of shadow and depth that ease, soothe, illuminate, and intrigue. And one of the best ways to create this blend and interplay of light is to think in layers.
Light sources need to sit at varying levels in the room. Some need to start at the ceiling or bounce light up in that direction. Others warm up the dark shadows at floor level. For example, a flickering fire in the hearth is magical and mesmerizing. That’s because light draws attention.
Chandeliers, table lamps, and floor lamps are delightful ways to bring light to the middle ground of a room. And now these sources come in such a range of looks and décor styles anything is possible.
In the past, chandeliers were almost exclusively used over the table in the dining room. And that’s a great spot for a breathtaking elaborate fixture, or a streamlined modern one. But these days, chandeliers are perfectly suited for entryways, kitchens, living rooms and baths. With that much freedom, it’s a good tip not to fall in love with a fixture’s styling in isolation, but consider how it relates to the design and utility of rest of the room.
If you’re considering a chandelier in the foyer, for example, and the straight edges of the furniture, staircase, door and hallway need softening, pick a chandelier with curves. It will give the look equilibrium and interest.
Another way to give a chandelier some subtlety and femininity is to dress it with light-directing shades and a linen cord cover. These touches work well on chandeliers in bathrooms and bedrooms because the fabric disguises some of the metalwork, without losing it altogether.
Table lamps can be as eclectic as the rooms they’re placed in, and the ones we feature in the Soft Surroundings gallery run the gamut from elegant to architectural, refined to whimsical.
One of our most unique is the Lapin Lapereau Lamp. The base is created of cast resin and finished to resemble a garden statue. It has a weathered patina, as if it has lived ages in a sunny garden in the south of France (which is where we found its inspiration). Topped with a fluted burlap shade, this lamp is rustic and playful. It’s perfect for an enclosed porch, guest bedroom, or to fancy up any gloomy corner.
Our Iron Sphere Table Lamp is another great favorite of our customers. We love the way it melds so many themes: masculine line and architecture with feminine swags and crystals. It supports five 40-watt bulbs, so it will cast plenty of light. Imagine placing two of them on a large farmhouse wood table. The juxtaposition of delicate lines and glass with rough-hewn wood would be gorgeous.
In spots where light is needed to brighten a corner but the surface area of a nearby table is too small for a lamp, try a floor lamp. The Iron Sphere Floor Lamp matches the table lamp described above, but it is just different enough to add contrast. Place one of each at opposite ends of a table in the foyer or at either end of a linen sofa. The asymmetry will be visually interesting but balanced.
We have two lovely lamps that are somewhat similar in shape but brilliantly different in color and texture. Our Capiz Lamp is a shimmering beauty, with a globe-shaped base completely covered with a mosaic of overlapping iridescent capiz shells. It has a warm cylindrical shade and a Lucite pedestal and finial. When the light from the bulb shines down onto the shells, they shimmer like sequins and bounce shiny luminescence around the room.
A spherical base is also the foundation of the Fiesole Artichaut Lamp; it resembles a golden artichoke, the symbol of hope and prosperity. Again, the light is cast down from the slightly flared shade onto the wood-carved, aged gilt leaves. Even the finial winks with a gold finish.
Tall, thin table lamps are fitting for buffets, of course, but they can also be very useful in small, tight corners or on end tables where you want the light to shine from a greater height. In terms of layering the light in a room, lamps with this lean look, like our Candlestick Buffet Lamp or our Dominique Buffet Lamp, shine in the zone in between table and floor lamps. A great layer to add.
Dining by candlelight. Votive candles lined up on a mantel. Pillars on pedestals or under hurricane glass. In groupings, candles can brighten a seating area around a coffee table almost as well as lamps and fixtures. But what candles bring to an environment is more: it is true ambience.
So…what holds you back from lighting candles all over the house? Safety, right? That’s why we are so happy to include a variety of styles and colors of flameless candles on our website. Some look so real, with wax drippings and irregular rims, they’ll fool you.
We love using our metallic gold or silver ones as a simple but elegant centerpiece on the dining table with silvery grey or golden napkins and white dishes. And our Mottled Flameless Candles are just right in the fireplace hearth when it’s too warm for a real fire, but you want some illumination at floor level.
Last but not least, the light that enters a room through the windows and skylights might be the most powerful of all. So dressing windows in treatments that accentuate and reveal the natural light are very important.
One of our best selling sheer panels is the Annalisa. Yards and yards of fine ivory mesh are appliquéd with three-dimensional organza roses—all by hand. When the light streams in, the effect is gorgeous and romantic. Our customers rave about this one and we think you will too.
Please send us your thoughts and ideas about the power of light to transform décor. We’d love to hear what you’re up to!