Strangers In The Light

Design, Lifestyle

Ok, so if you’re familiar with my blog you know I get a kick tossing in a little fun here ‘n there. Today I bring you a little soundtrack to compliment this ‘Strangers In The Light’ blog about the art and benefit of shadow. Click here for your listening pleasure.

Recently I wrote about the magical benefit of mood lighting in my blog What’s That Glow About You? In it I present the idea that soft ethereal lighting is essential for any home as it elevates the appearance of a space and its occupants. With minimal effort and reasonable financial investment, mood lighting is an easy way to manipulate enhance self-esteem and self-image. After all, if you and your guests look and feel good in your cleverly lit place, then you’re cultivating good vibes and positive energy in your environment. And who doesn’t desire that in a home? So if you want to lift the spirits of those who cross your threshold, I believe it’s absolutely paramount your home be neither bright nor blinding when entertaining after Dusk. You might even go so far as to call this strategy the poor man’s botox, but I’m convinced Mood lighting is an essential part of well-being. It’s also good entertainment etiquette. In fact, for some of you it’s time to take heed and repair your reputation as the person who hosts awkwardly overlit parties.



Today I’m going to show you how I used strategically placed mood lighting at my Button Factory loft to amplify the nighttime allure of my space. By day the Button Factory is bathed in light from sunrise to sunset, so the environment is always a changing pattern of light as the sun traverses the sky. In its sun-drenched state the loft is uplifting and inspiring. With its soaring 26-foot lightwell topped with eight skylights, it feels open, airy, and liberating. When dusk falls the loft becomes a cocoon of red brick walls and wood-beamed ceilings. It feels more grounded and earthy like the rustic factory it once was. To enhance the contrast between these two spatial experiences and make them equally special, I used mood lighting to create visual drama. Call it theatrical if you will, but by casting my magic the end result is positively spell-binding. It’s an amazing setting to entertain. The end result? A place where my guests relax more, imbibe more, and happily confide more. What fun!

A lot of designers don’t think about playing with light and shadow. But through the clever placement of intelligent light, you can direct attention to the more interesting aspects of your space while distracting attention from any flaws, like that swath of cracking wrinkles plaster or the cat-shredded corner of your arm sofa. Not only does focusing light away from your face serve a practical purpose, but by highlighting your cherished art, a favourite furnishing or an architectural element like a fireplace mantle, you’re also creating areas that are in shadow. And the shadow is enthralling.



Shadow imbues mystery, invites intrigue, and sets a stage for more playful behaviour. And who doesn’t like that? Here are a few ways to create it.

First, always light the ten to twenty tealights you already have in stock, and by these I mean the ones you always place in your stack of coloured glasses, or your collection of vintage mason jars, or those ubiquitous IKEA tealight holders, or even your kids’ brown paper lunch bags with a scoop of sand from their sandbox (people can’t help but smile when they see paper bag lanterns, but use them outdoors ok?). If you don’t have tealights you should rush to the store immediately and buy some. On your return, commit to bookmarking the Design and Style Enhancement series’ in my blog forever more, grab some glass vessels and porcelain bowls, place some tea lights in them and light them as evening stirs and moments before your guest arrives. They might look like this:



In the future, consider finding vessels or objects which are even larger that might hold candles. This rustic metal reproduction ship’s lantern was on sale for CAN$100 (2002) at Chintz and Company in Victoria. Crazily, I loved it so much that I boxed it up and brought it back as my second piece of luggage on Air Canada! Beyond the functional beauty and sculptural construction, I adore the dynamic pattern cast by the candlelight.

Design rifting off the ship’s lantern, this Mooi pendant lamp hanging in my atrium lightwell is a perfect compliment. Floating sixteen feet in the air, when I open the skylights with my remote it creates an updraft which causes the lamp to slowly spin and cast a revolving pattern across the walls as you can glimpse in the photo below. The moment I saw it in the store window I knew it was perfect. It came from LA Design on King Street West for CAN$1600.




Just like the shadow created by the ship’s lantern and Mooi pendant, I use spotlights to create shadows against my art and sculptures. Based on a photocopy of my hand, this ten-foot-high metal rebar sculpture was made by Canadian thingmaker, Dave Hind. Located in my lounge, I lit it from above, using spotlights located on either side of the piece. The spotlights are on dimmers so it’s not too bright. The effect is amazing at night – particularly when I dress it up with a bracelet of holiday cheer! The second photo is another sculpture I adore, lit up in the backyard as evening falls!



I also have a spotlight pointed at an old Ontario apple orchard ladder which creates an interesting focal point:




Finally, I also adore this standing lamp whose provenance I can’t recall from a store now out of business. It casts a wonderful pattern across my linen draperies. I paid CAN$200 for it.



As you can see, I adore light and shadow. With artful execution its use can heighten allure, cast a spell, and invite our dark side to come into the light and play. Who doesn’t want that now and then?

Check out the work of:

Dave Hind, Thingmaker
Brantford, Ontario

Want to learn more? Here’s my Rejuvenating The Button Factory about the renovation of my unique urban space in Toronto, Canada.

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~ Steven and the urbaneer team

PS. Is your home awash with recessed lighting? Are your halogens not on dimmers? Click here for an amusing rant on flippers.


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