Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In the still of the night

Last Friday's post came out of my reaction to the House Beautiful Color Institute held the day before at ADAC here in Atlanta. One of the things said was that there was a trend to dark and though, personally I am not a fan of dark rooms, I can appreciate them as a romantic venue - fire burning, candles flickering, gold glinting, wine glowing ... well, you get the picture.

One problem I have with dark rooms, or perhaps with magazine editors, is that they are generally photographed during the sunniest of days. So why a problem? Well, coming as I do from northern Europe when at midwinter the days are so short – as if the sun cannot be arsed – I associate dark rooms with the short days, the twilit days, the dark nights when fire is defense against the boundless ... all the more so as I consider that yesterday was the autumnal equinox, and nights will now be longer than days as we head towards winter.

For me, dark rooms are meant to be lit by candles, firelight and occasionally moonlight; to have gold, frankincense and myrrh under mistletoe; to be mysterious and slightly disorienting; to hold books, wine, chocolate and quiet communication between loved ones.

That's why it seems counter-intuitive to me to photograph such elemental rooms in bright daylight.

"In the still of the night
As I gaze from my window
At the moon in its flight
My thoughts all stray to you

In the Still of the night
All the world is in slumber
All the times without slumber
Darling when I say to you

Do you love me, as I love you
Are you my life to be, my dream come true
Or will this dream of mind fade out of sight
Like the moon, growing dim, on the rim of the hill
In the chill, still, of the night"

Photo of Larry Laslo's room at the 34th Annual Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse from New York Social Diary.
Song by Cole Porter


  1. Great great post. I do so agree.You hit all the perfect notes-Cole Porter. It is a problem- it all, painting rooms to trend and not to all the important things,light, climate, appropriateness. One reason I loved the "infamous"BW Kips Bay room was- I could love that room on a gray overcast NY day. Swedish houses are beautifully painted in colors that welcome with wintery landscape. It makes sense when we apply the rules- regardless of the trends. GT

  2. How right you are: the rules are there to guide and sometimes be broken but what really worries me is the trend to wastefulness in an industry that is paying lip-service, at best, to sustainable design. If we discard clothing seasonally are we to discard decor seasonally too? I always appreciate your comments, they are so well thought out. Thank you.

  3. I agree with la about the important things of light, climate and appropriateness. I, too, think trend decorating is a huge mistake. But there is a plane where trend and important things intersect. I, personally, love dark rooms. Perhaps it is because I spend the summer months working in the garden that when I come inside, I want a different light. My personal plan is to consider the important things, ignore trends and do as I please. My husband and I both have light sensitivity and as much as light pouring in from all directions looks good in mags, I'd hate to have to wear sunglasses in my home!

  4. Well said, home before dark, and I cannot agree more about trend decorating. Some trends have given the decorating world classics - Rococo was a trend, albeit political as well as decorative, and the Louis XV chair is a wonderfully democratic piece of furniture.

  5. You so beautifully profiled the atmospherics of a room with the dark and light through Cole Porter's lyrics. I have always been partial to overcast days and low light in rooms, whether created by natural or man-made means. Like the great Dutch masters, I love the nuance and subtlety of winter light and the way it bathes a room in a kind of gentle quiet. I don't follow decorating trends, but believe a room should reflect the rhythms of a day, a season, and an individual, and compose itself to suit all.

  6. I agree. Dark rooms come alive at night, which is the reason why I chose not to paint my living/dining room a dark color-I spend a lot of time in this room during daylight hours. The thought of being in a dark room during the day seems a bit depressing to me. Now, in a very small space, or in a room that will be used in the evenings...divine!

  7. It is the time of the year when we yearn for warm, cozy rooms. And while it is not practical to repaint every season, I do switch out small things, such as pillows and throws...bringing in deeper, darker colors!