August 10, 2014

Let There Be Light...only much less.

These are far more than just Romantic (yes, do note the large 'R')


 
I've been chomping at the bit to put my foot down on this topic and can hold my tongue no longer.  I have been fortunate enough to be invited to numerous dinner parties, weddings, galas, etc. and no matter how charming and stylish the hostess or posh and swanky the restaurant or hotel, with the most succulent of cuisine and elegance of décor, the one thing they always seem to get wrong is the lighting!!!

Why is this? When I'm RSVPing and checking the fillet over the fish, I'm going to start scribbling on there that I'll also pass on the interrogation lighting thank you very much.  Oftentimes when I sit down to dinner I feel as if a dentist is about to hover over me with his curled pic and baby mirror.

This is Home Depot's idea of a Dining Room and perfect for your Atlanta suburb McMansion.  An ideal setting for telling your guests of recent acquisitions from Saks.
There is a reason the Tony Awards have a separate category for Lighting as it can set a mood and focus your attention in a certain direction.  Let us learn from this exercise and also realize that dimmer lights create a greater sense of intimacy as it heightens the senses.  People always look better by candlelight but you'll soon notice they sound better too as it helps draw out their more interesting aspects and you'll hear them in a more meaningful way as well. 

I would be remiss if I touched on this topic and didn't pay tribute to an occasional blogger who seems to really understand lighting and, from what I gather, always gets it right.  Please, Cynthia from The Perfect Life, do stand and take a bow as not only do you keep a fabulous table, I notice that it's always perfectly lit with a couple of candles. Bravo, my dear and I'm sure your Alice will follow in your always well shod footsteps.

~GSL

51 comments:

  1. She does have perfect lighting doesn't she! I adore Cynthia's photos. I abhor interrogation lighting. I have dimmer switches installed everywhere as soon as I move into a place.

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    1. I am often a guest of the "Queen B" who is like a sister to me and she has a gorgeous dining room with dimmer switches that I always lower to the appropriate level in three installments early in the evening while she is detained elsewhere. As I am often staying the night, after everyone leaves we recall the evening's triumph as I make a further dent in her hubs bourbon inventory and confess my lighting adjustments.
      I have only recently been granted carte blanche over all matters lighting.

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  2. Thanks for introducing me to Cynthia's blog, it's lovely, she has great style.
    Lighting... I've been obsessed with this as I start renovating my house, there's so much work to do I'm tempted to throw in the towel and just move! Of course if I do that I still won't have the house I want so I'm trying to focus on all the details and not be overwhelmed by the big picture.
    I'd love to see how you light up your dining table GSL!

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    1. Now Dani don't get too overwhelmed and make your progress at a slower pace as you'll make better decisions that way. You have a keen eye when your head is clear so don't make any major decisions when frustrated.
      GSL's dining table muti-tasks as desk, sideboard, nightstand, and clean laundry platform.

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  3. Thank you for sharing Cynthia's blog, her style is lovely.
    Lighting here in our heritage bungalow is a big challenge especially in winter. The dark wood wainscotting and beamed ceilings are very difficult to illuminate despite having both fixed lighting and numerous table lamps. Candles are always lit on the dining table and I wonder if our guests can see what they are eating!
    Cobwebs and dust bunnies are not as easily recognized so that is one bonus

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    1. I'm sure your lighting especially with candles works quite well Hostess! It's the harsh lighting appropriate for distinguishing subtle shades on PMS cards that I find inappropriate for entertaining and I find nothing wrong with a few dark recesses in a cozy heritage bungalow.

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  4. ITA on the importance of lighting to set the mood! My home and even workplace are filled with dimmer switches. The choice of lighting has been proven to lower blood pressure and calm the nerves and take our tone down a notch. In our house we never let an evening pass without some sort of candlelight. Collection of candles came in handy,after Hurricane Ike,when we lost power for over two weeks! Looking forward to basking(and maybe dancing) in the moonlight tonight! Now off to check out Cynthia's blog. Happy Sunday,G!

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    1. I knew you'd be in my corner on this Trudye! You'll love Cynthia's style and only wish we got to hear more from her...alas, she's likely still knee-deep in her move just now although I do believe she's keeping that charming home you'll see on her blog. She's talking like her new city digs will be "minimalist"...I suspect any "minimalist" inclinations she has will be gone by the first frost.

      Have fun tonight basking and dancing in that moonlight!

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  5. Another one of those big ol' super moons tonight...you won't be able to miss it,G!

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    1. I'm gonna have to get out tonight T; I do my best work under a full moon.

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  6. Hello GSL, we have crossed paths a few times on Cynthia's blog and I agree that she has the most wonderful taste.

    I also agree about dimmer switches and candles in the dining room. Right now our challenge is our new 'living room' - there is no central ceiling light, it's part of an open-plan main floor, so we are using table lamps on cabinets and bookshelves. Luckily the kitchen at the other end (dining area in the middle) has lots of different lighting options, so that helps.

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    1. Welcome Patricia and Cynthia does indeed have exquisite taste. I'm a big fan of those soft white light bulbs in the lower wattages 40 or 60 max unless it's an area for reading then those directional reading lights are good.

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  7. Agree completely! Our chandelier is on a dimmer in the dining room and it is always low and moody, coupled with candles, because frankly, I find that I and everyone else looks more glamorous in soft lighting!!! Off to check off this blog!

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    1. Wendy, I'm not surprised. You get it.

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  8. Dear GSL, you're the first man I've heard complaining about lighting. Most men only seem to bitch about it when they see that the spotlight isn't on them! I'm somewhat disappointed that your own dining table seems too cluttered for any re-enactments off 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' ....Claire

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    1. My dear Claire my dining room table can unclutter in a hurry as you'd need only ring once to find out.

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    1. Yes indeed Bertie and whisky helps too.

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    2. Sir, you must have been distracted by that coquettish Claire. The phrase is used not only in the context that you reference. It is also that when distinguishing qualities are obscured, if they cannot be seen then they do not matter. As you observed, when the lights are dimmed a sense of intimacy is created because in part the physical becomes irrelevant. It is the ideas and conversations that are important.

      Similarly, this idea can be extended to the blog sphere where the physical is unknown, and it is the words and ideas that matter.

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    3. Yes Bertie the coquettish Claire will always be a welcome distraction and I am aware of different applicable contexts but what I think many are missing and I never made clear is that I find candlelight gives a truer impression of the individual than bright lights that give a more literal representation with an analogy that you get a truer sense of a painting standing 10 feet away than 2 feet away. The physical doesn't become less relevant, it's just that one gets a different, often more flattering (and I think truer) sense of an individual than the harsh light that obscures by taking you too close.
      Also, candlelight has an effect on our consciousness and sub consciousness that makes us see, hear, and feel truer which enhances our words and ideas. Shakespeare, Newton, di Vinci, Beethoven, and Mozart et al did much of their deepest thinking by candle light. Overlit senses function at a lower level is my main point.

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  10. Oh candlelight is so good, candlelight and champagne. I want more of both in my life! Interesting post and yes, now that I think about it, the best dinner parties I have ever been to in NYC seemed to have someone who really knew what they were doing in the lighting department. I will make sure to compliment the host or hostess on this the next time I notice the difference it makes!

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    1. Make sure that you do Jill and this dire situation can be remedied. I'm always keen to compliment a hostess who has slaved away in the kitchen but I'll always trade away catering by Le Cirque for proper lighting.

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  11. You're absolutely right. There is nothing like the blast of an overhead chandelier, be it modern or traditional to put you off.
    My father kept telling us when we did our remodel five years ago put in lots of lighting so you can turn it down or off. We still didn't get it right and out come the candles. Smooths away the wrinkles like a veritable botoxathon.
    Hopping over to Cynthia's place now...

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    1. Jody, you're quite right, as was your father, but it goes far beyond the quite pleasing aspect of making us all look younger. Through thousands of generations of evolution we conducted all of our nighttime activities by the illumination of the moon or fire whether it be for hunting, gathering, love, and war that's how we did our business and the fact that we're still here means our ancestors did it better than those tacky Cro-Magnons or pesky saber-toothed tigers. This upstart electric lighting hasn't even been around for 150 years so I rather wish to stay with what's tried and true when out on the hunt.

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  12. Darling G,

    We have no overhead lights at all. Our entire apartment is lit by table lamps or standard lamps or, at times, by candles. Our Hungarian builders who renovated the apartment some ten years ago could not understand this. They kept asking if we would like a neon strip light or two or, indeed, several, and simply shrugged as the insane (as they surely thought) foreigners insisted on more sockets into which table lamps could be plugged.

    Bright light us so terribly ageing. Every little blemish and wrinkle shows so it is vital to be able to simply have a glimmer of illumination when and where it is absolutely necessary.

    We do trust that this information will mean that a dinner invitation in Budapest will be RSVPed to post haste!

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    1. On this matter, as with many others I'm sure, I knew I'd be preaching to the Grand Budapest Choir dearest Darlings Jane and Lance. I'm sure your tastefully subdued lighting is setting the standard in The Paris of the East and I'll do my part in the Americas and together we shall re-instill a sense of drama and intimacy to enhance the smart conversation you are helping bring back into vogue.

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  13. Oh so true!! We went to a fancy schmancy dinner last year that was a fundraiser for an Arts collective. Small and intimate for a fundraiser, but totally ruined in the intimacy stakes by the harsh overhead lighting. Everyone felt quite self conscious, and we requested the lighting be turned down, but they apparently couldn't (no idea why).
    I think lighting lots of candles makes any home appear cosy, and covers a multitude of sins.

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    1. Oh Heidi that's terrible! I would have had a quick word with fancy schmancy events manager and suggested either he have his wait staff stand atop chairs and remove every other bulb or I'll have a cabbie fetch me my pistols and ammo belt.

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    2. when I get home from work at night the only room that is lit with overhead lighting is the kitchen. It's lamp light in every other room. So cosy and doesn't highlight the dust or the wrinkles. Win/win.

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    3. FF, you know how to win.

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  14. Oh GSL, how right you are! Lighting is a very unappreciated and overlooked aspect of interior design. I believe builders and unaware homeowners assume more is better, when fact there is much to be considered with lighting a room. It makes all the difference.
    And lights on full sends the same message as lights off- partys over

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    1. Now my dear Bebe, I often see lights off as a promising development.

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  15. Bright lights and an aging GF are not the best of combinations and we will just leave that comment at that. We have and use several chandeliers throughout Totem Hall. Gosh, now that I think of it, we have nine or more scattered about. Each and everyone have a dimmer switch, a used dimmer switch I might add.

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    1. How very enchantingly Southern Gothic Totem Hall is starting to seem. I have sugarplum visions of moonshine stills, portraits in attics, lusty Southern Belles temptingly lolling about, and the courtly Gentle Farmer crisply turned out in seersucker riding into town to gather provisions of kerosene, fatback, piston pumps, millstone, and some 10 penny candy and French perfume for the Mrs. GF......now don't tell me that's not even close.

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    2. My Dear GSL
      Faulkner, Wolfe, Williams, Mitchell, O’Connor, Welty, and, well, there is a pattern here, anyway, these writers would hard-pressed to capture the essence of life at Totem Hall as well as you did. Thank you, my friend…

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  16. Bravo to spotlighting an important topic that is often overlooked. We love to dine by candlelight whenever we entertain in our dining room at dinner, and have also installed dimmers. Flattering lighting is key to one's enjoyment of such occasions. However, it can also be taken to the extreme. Only this past Saturday evening, while dining in one of San Francisco's supper clubs, I found myself unable to read the menu as the lighting was almost non-existent, much as you'd expect to find in a cinema during a movie screening, and this is not an exaggeration.

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    1. CD, it sounds like you may have stumbled into one of those SF clubs where unbridled kink is the main entrée.

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  17. when we renovated this cottage every single room was put on dimmers. while it is pretty inside, my favorite view is returning from our evening walk and seeing the dim chandeliers lit through the wavy glass windows. it's a moment of perfection that i don't think many even notice. somehow i think you would though. :)

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    1. Janet, dim chandeliers seen from outside do cast a magnificent glow.

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  18. Ha! I'm a stickler for top-notch lighting, as all photographers/cameramen/directors who've worked with me know. Sympathetic evening lighting is an art form few command, though the French and Italians métrise with aplomb.

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    1. Curator, this is one area I would defer to you without equivocation. I'd like to fill Soldier Field for a Master Class by your top French/Italian lighting people.

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    2. Wow, you sound like you'd make a great dominatrix. Do you direct BDSM movies? If you don't already, you might want to explore this area and then come back and tell us all about it. Claire

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    3. Obviously, I meant that comment for Curator (why,even your name screams 'dominatrix'!) Apologies if you're just a little yummy mummy trying to sound tough, clever and superior amongst us old artsy-fartsy types. Claire

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    4. Oh Claire, I'm sure Curator cracks the whip at those beta boys and girls who are nonetheless quite talented in their chosen fields and she can do yummy mummy, tough, and clever but she never goes Mother Superior...at least around here.

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  19. Claire, I've always been good with a whip, and spurs...but at the moment I'm whipping up some naughty suggestions with needle and thread. There'll be very rude bits, cashmere and all manner of luxury perversion over at si.je very soon.

    Dom? Moi?

    GSL. Sans peur, et sans reproche.

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    1. Curator, I'll bet you can do perversion at any price point. Oui ?

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  20. My apologies for arriving unfashionably late to your party, GSL. I am a huge fan of Cynthia, candles and dimmer switches. Our chandeliers are all on dimmers and never dialed to full wattage unless cleaning (horrors) or conducting surgery.
    xo~J

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  21. GSL, Thank you for the appreciation! As you know, there is not much in life I love as much as the simple, civilized pleasures of breaking bread, and enjoying cocktails with friends and family. The candlelight just makes everything that much better, doesn't it? I couldn't agree more that certain aspects of peoples personalities do become more relaxed, and pleasant when in soft lighting. Hoping things settle down in my life soon, so that I can start entertaining, and blogging all autumn long. xoxo Cynthia

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    1. We'll look forward to seeing how you pull that loft together Cynthia. Can't wait to get a peek here and there at how this exciting new chapter in your life unfolds.

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