By LESLIE LINSLEY Citizen Columnist
The other night I had some friends for dinner. Just before sitting down I adjusted the lighting over the table and lit the candles. One of my friends commented about my sensitivity to lighting, which I acknowledged. I often cannot keep myself from adjusting the lighting in friends' houses when visiting. It's a compulsion. When I expect guests at my house I often adjust the dimmers so that, as the sun goes down, the lighting is just right and I don't have to think about it.
In the summertime I keep fairy lights wrapped around tree branches lighted all the time so when eating outdoors this lighting takes over as evening approaches. Environment has an affect on mood even if we aren't always totally aware of it. For example, the houses I've rented in Key West have been decorated in a personal way and I appreciate this even when the taste is not my own. It's fun to live with someone else's style, temporarily. After three months I do miss my own things and the way I like to live and entertain. But the break is liberating.
I've talked about this with many of my designer friends and, it seems, we all do the same thing; make the place into our own for temporary living. My friend, Jonathan says he can't relax in any space that he hasn't covered with a throw, pillows, added lots of flowers in vases and lots of candles to alter any lighting situation that isn't quite the way he wants it to be. At the moment I have a reverse lighting problem, not enough of it for important tasks. If I can't borrow from friends (which I often do), I buy the best and simplest things I need for affordable prices like from Kmart or Pier I Imports or Home Depot and the Salvation Army.
I also notice the lighting in restaurants and the other night had a pleasant experience in a new space on Greene Street. Jon and I met up with our artist friend, Bill Welch at Frangipani Gallery on Duval where his latest work from a recent trip to Cuba is on display along with those of his students.
"There's a great new restaurant we should go to," he said, "I had the best burger there last week. You'll love the décor. Very South Beach ambience," he continued. Solo is a spacious, high-ceilinged, warehouse-like space that could easily be found in SoHo or the meat-packing district in New York City or on Newbury Street in Boston. It used to be a sports bar and I'm told the interior hasn't changed all that much, but it's very cool and upscale looking without being off-putting. The black interior is both elegant and inviting and the lighting is perfect for any occasion. The design is modern with sleek black leather banquettes and glossy tables. Everything is very modular in design.
At first I thought, "Oh no, this isn't a Key West kind of place," but once seated by the extremely friendly waitress it's easy to appreciate what they were trying to achieve. The restaurant is spacious and open across the front looking out onto Greene St. and there's seating outside as well - great for people watching at lunch or dinner. On Bill's recommendation we all had burgers and he was totally right on. Best burger ever! Of course the menu had much more interesting fare and we have since returned for the appetizer and drinks at happy hour. The lighting was just right as we could see the menu and each other without being overly bright or too dim. Not all restaurants or homes achieve this and it makes the evening most enjoyable. After the first impression one should become so comfortable in a space that you no longer pay attention to it so you can enjoy the company you are with and the food you are eating. Solo does all of this. We all commented however, that the chandelier was hung too high. That's tricky even in most homes.
The most important space where lighting really matters is in an art gallery. The purpose here is to show off the artwork at its most flattering. A couple of Sundays ago we went to the retrospective show of the work of the late artist, Richard Kemble. His former partner, George Korn and Thomas Livingston did a beautiful job hanging the work. Retail stores, especially those selling jewelry, know a thing or two about lighting. Next time you are in a shop notice the lighting and think about it in relation to your home.
While table lamps were replaced with more modern recessed ceiling lights over time, table lamps are a necessity. I like 3-way light bulbs as you can adjust the lighting for different situations. Short of this, every lamp should be on a dimmer. And if you want to be really fanatic about lighting, a pink bulb in a powder room lamp gives just the right glow when you are having guests. No one wants to see themselves in harsh, overhead lights in the middle of a dinner party.