This evening my family and I inhabited the candlelit world of President Lincoln and friends for two and half magical hours courtesy of inspired Hamptons resident Steven Spielberg. The natural day light and darkly shadowed yet glowing rooms of night time were a timely reminder of our own absence of electricity just a few weeks ago. So many of us, who were fortunate to stay in our homes, commented on the heightened intimacy and intense enjoyment to be found in spontaneous candlelit dinners by an open fire with family and friends. The lack of intrusive lighting and electronic devices allowed us to slow down and live more in the moment: to talk to each other, to quiet down.
Lighting is all important in home decorating and design, and needs to be thought through at the beginning of projects. The right lights provide ambience, focus and improve functionality. Good lighting, and good storage, are the key to an enjoyable Hamptons home. The trick is to layer the lights, at different heights and different levels of intensity, avoiding overhead lighting except for the odd chandelier.
Starting in the heart of the home, the kitchen, under cabinet lighting creates an adjustable atmosphere, cozy and warm or bright and sparkling while supporting our culinary efforts. Table lamps also work well to create pools of light where needed and to draw attention to items of beauty. A chandelier over the kitchen table or drop-down lights over an island can support the overall design style and make a bold statement as well as providing task lighting. Dimmable recessed lighting in the ceiling allows you to zone different areas of the kitchen/dining area to help with tasks or to provide atmosphere when the whole area is not being used.
In the dining room place matching table lamps on a buffet or console for balance and to make redundant any overhead lighting. Where a chandelier is in place make sure it can be dimmed to create atmosphere. Low level simple candles and centerpieces for dinner parties work so much better than elaborate displays where guests can’t see each other and converse easily.
Ideally, surround the table with four or five lights spaced at low and medium height around the room. Position items close by that pick up the reflected glow of the lamps—decanters, glass bowls, brass items, silver candlesticks etc. Lighting up display cabinets full of sparkling crystal glasses can also enrich the ambience while dimmable wall sconces provide elegance for any dinner.
The idea with lighting is rarely to saturate a room, corridor or hallway with light but to create pools of light that contrast with darker areas, revealing what you want to see and concealing or disguising the rest. We don’t want to live in the naked glare of a science lab but in the nurturing, soothing world of light and shade.
A world where Abraham Lincoln had some of his best ideas.
Helen Lind is an interior decorator, organizer and home stager working in Long Island and Manhattan. You can contact her at (516) 922-3518 for a proposal or consultation, or visit her www.englishivyinteriors.com.