Lighting up the Winter Darkness with Style

It’s midwinter in Indiana at the time of this writing, and I’m thinking about light. It’s scarce ’round these parts right now. The internet says we get 186 sunny days per year in Indianapolis, below the US average of 205 (I probably shouldn’t have looked that up.) San Juan Capistrano, CA (where we held our conference last year) gets 285. Sarasota, FL., 251. Makes me wonder what my ancestors were thinking when the wagon train pulled in to Indiana and they said, “Yup, this’ll do!”
But I have a plan to get more light in my life. And it doesn’t involve a plane ticket.
I love outdoor light (all 186 days), and I’m usually the guy who wants just a bit more indoor light in the room, as well. Unless it's florescent ceiling light. That pallor-inducing, life-draining form of glare is probably from the devil.
Of course, light has loads of spiritual significance and helping spread it is a big part of my calling, but that's material for a another post. For now I'd just like to focus on the gift God's given in our ability to create, harness, and shape it.
For instance, I appreciate well-planned lighting, like those hidden spotlights way up in the ceiling at Restoration Hardware that illuminate the beautiful overpriced chair perfectly, or a nice big drum light hovering low over my table at a restaurant that emits a cozy aura.
So, back to my plan. It is, simply: have more lights. But not just any illuminators; unique, stylish--even bizarre--lights, placed for optimal effect.
And since inventorying our lights in the dead of winter gives me a certain amount of joy, I thought I'd share them with you, too!
Some of these were gifts, some we made, and some we found at bargain prices. (Enlarge the images by clicking on them.)

We bought these semi-circular sconces at the going-out-of-business sale for a local design store, and they've been a simple joy.  They are all wood but almost translucent, creating a warm glow, and the spaced wood bands allow the light to fan out in an interesting way.  I've never seen any sconces quite like them. They are probably my favorite lights in the house, the first to come on in the morning and the second to last to go out. They're in a space that is full of repeating circular themes and, as the Dude would say,  they really "tie the room together."

If this light looks crazy to you, its because it is. It's one of those things my wife can't gush over enough ("love, love, LOVE").
Seemingly straight outta some enchanted forest, this one is made of twigs on a chandelier frame, with crystal jewel and metal frame light covers. It was a gift from her sister who bought it, then couldn't figure out where to put it. (Don't worry, the cool LED bulbs won't catch this on fire.)

Danielle and I got inspired and made this after seeing a display with similar elements at Anthropologie, the wonderful clothing and design store. It's an 8 ft piece of

driftwood I picked up at Falls of The Ohio state park on the Ohio River (my favorite spot for driftwood), some Ball jars from Goodwill, jute rope from Lowe's, electrical tape and wire. I'll happily to make you one, if you like.


The previous owners of our house put a giant 20' long recessed light on the wall of an upstairs room.
I thought it was a pretty ingenious way to light the space, until one of my friends commented, "That's a gutter!" And I realized it was, which put my appreciation of it in the...you know. My mission became to make it less gutter-like and I asked God to give me an idea. On spiritual retreat one day, I came across a dead tree in the woods that had sloughed off its bark. Dramatic, deep-grooved tulip tree bark. It was laying on the ground in one perfect 20' piece.
And, viola! we now have the God-inspired "log light."
This is one rare case in which I find florescent-style bulbs (now switched to LEDs here) acceptable and blessed by God.
Pro Tip: LED bulb prices have come way down. Replace your 50 watt track light bulbs with even brighter LED bulbs that only use 6 watts. My whole 5-light kitchen track system now only uses 30 watts, less than a single halogen! And its much brighter (and yes, dim-able). (Note: Switching out florescents for LEDs is a bit more tricky and might require a new fixture.)

We have more than our share of hanging lamps in the house, several given to us like this shabby chic lamp with a wire lampshade. Not my favorite, but there is something charming about it. And the wife loves it.
I'm sort of a sucker for red so this mod light from Silver in the City begged me like a puppy to take it home. It's not always out, but will always be around.
The lovely drum light comes from West Elm, and was an excellent value.  It's a lot bigger than it looks here, actually 80" in diameter. (Click the image to enlarge.) Our daughter used a glue gun to attach and wrap some jute rope around the cord to create a more stylish swag.
And it does deliver that cozy dinner-time feel.

This amazing chandelier was a(nother) gift from Danielle's sister. While at an antique store in Florida she came across it and thought it "looked like us." And we are so glad she did. It adds a wonderful sense of whimsy and warmth to the room (which has a rustic feel). The lights were hand-dipped in silicone by the artist, and they look almost like bio-luminescent sea creatures.  It is always a treat to flip the switch and bring this one to life.

I never get tired of the way this lamp stand catches the light with its polished metal curves.
We picked this and the floor version up at a cool design store in Toronto (I can't remember the name of it).
We decided to juxtapose the modern, sleek stand with a natural jute shade from World Market. I think it works.

Like books, can one ever have enough cool table lamps? My wife would say "absolutely", but I always seem to have room in my heart for one more.
The awesome antler lamp and this huge stained glass lamp were gifts, but the cool striped shade originally came with the curvy metal stand from Toronto (above). The antlers aren't real (you can't tell) and the stained glass lamp is a replica, but the glass is just wonderful, with large amber marbles embedded throughout. It's larger than it appears--60" in diameter--and weighs a good 30 pounds.
It's always enjoyable to switch one of these guys on for a late night read.
Speaking of that, I love the language that describe how lights work, they glimmer, shimmer, glow, gleam, glint, glisten, glare, blaze, shine, reveal, illuminate, burn, warm, reflect, flash, radiate, pulsate, emanate, and sparkle. That might even be worth a "love, love, LOVE."
There you have it, some of the fanciful indoor illumination that helps get me through the Indiana winters, keeping up hope for the light and Light that comes. Reminds me of a little poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

 

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
("God's Grandeur" Gerard Manley Hopkins)
Shine on,
Scott

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