On a cold, wet day when twilight arrived at dawn, in our library the grey light has leeched the warmth from the cream-painted woodwork and the off-white curtains, and the blue upholstery fades softly into the shadows. In the deepest shade, that of the bookshelves, gilt book titles gleam bringing to mind how, when the world was lit by fire, our ancestors varnished and gilded leather wall panels, flashed the cornices, architraves and door cases with pellucid color and coruscating gold, dangled silvered mirrors and sparkling crystal from ceilings and walls, all to catch the light and restore it to the room.
Now we use electricity and our rooms are much brighter than previous times but how many of us design rooms in such a way that surfaces, objects and textiles collaborate with light? We shade lamps, glaze walls, burnish metals and woods, hang huge expanses of mirror, polish floors, yet I wonder how many understand the reciprocal relationship between luminosity and luster. Photography and the need for clear portraits of rooms has done away with atmosphere and much is lost. The past is indeed another country, they did things differently there.
I began with the photo above of a room designed by yesterday's designer, David Mlinaric - a living room in London. When I chose that photo my train of thought was different to the one expressed above; more about how discretely contemporary the room is, has neither the inconsequence of minimalism nor the modish use of early or mid-century modern, and is vivacious and serene at the same time.
So, in a way, my theme is light and warmth, for here is a room that would not be drained of life even on the darkest of days - the colour is a light yellow that sits well with the glowing orange of the curtains and the friendly warmth of wood and silk. One could sit in this amiable room, awaiting friends, contemplating the evening ahead, with a glass of vin chaud in hand, comfortable and relaxed.
1 bottle robust red wine
4 cinnamon sticks
1 x 5" curl orange zest
1/3 cup sugar
1 star anise
5 whole cloves
1/3 cup cognac
Put all into pan and heat but do not let it boil and simmer for a few minutes. Simmering is when a bubble two rises to the surface but there is no turbulence on the surface.
Photo by Derry Moore, copyright Conde Nast Publications, from Mlinaric on Decorating by Mirabel Cecil and David Mlinaric, 2008.
Recipe from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Christmas, Hyperion, 2009.
Phrase "when the world was lit by fire" suggested by William Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire, Little, Brown & Co., 1992.