Light and Shadow Play

Recently, my husband and I hosted a dinner at the loft of a chef friend of mine. I loved the unfinished gritty, rough feel of the space which is located in a warehouse building in the Wong Chuk Hang area of Hong Kong. Think craggy exposed brick walls and old world, multi-paned (or simply ugly!) steel framed windows flooding a sprawling space with light in the daytime. The raw industrial – or as my daughter Arianne characterizes “smoky” – vibe was enchantingly enhanced with such complete illumination. Needless to say, authentic Italian cooking in an off-the-beaten-path site spoke to the bohemian in me. I thought that it was the perfect location for a pre-summer gathering for clients and friends.

However, one person’s charming bohemian vibe is another’s – my husband’s – bugbear. My husband worried that it wasn’t a polished, proven commercial place but on the evening of the dinner, he was speechless with surprise. My chef friend had literally transformed his loft into this cozy, charming and utterly captivating salle a manger!

The open layout was a blank canvas in which he set a sizable square table to seat ten, draped with a red embroidered cloth and festooned with glassware and candles. The effect was deliberately dramatic yet unpretentious and welcoming.  (My apologies that there are no photos but warehouse living is currently a legal grey area.)

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Fabric-imbedded glass used in the corridor off living room.

I am sure many hostesses use candles to great effect but in this room, the glow of the candles casting shadows off the glass and silverware bathed the entire room in much needed warmth. The contrast between the location in daytime and nighttime was so stark that even friends who have visited previously commented upon it.

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A view from the living room into the corridor leading into the private family areas. The glass wall is on the left side.

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A closer image of the hallway picking up the light from adjacent rooms.

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The master bedroom which gets a lot of natural light.

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The other side of the master bedroom with a fabric-embedded glass wall.

This got me musing about playing with light and shadow in interior design. In retrospect, my apartment had the benefit of a architect who designed with this element in mind. We bought a 1960s flat in Hong Kong with high ceilings, square rooms and a high usable space-to-gross floor ratio, which simply means that we were not saddled with a lot of common areas in our building that one pays for but never uses. We tore out all the walls and reconfigured a four-bedroom flat into a modern two-bedroom space. Our architect recommended glass walls imbedded with fabric for both privacy and textural interest while still transparent enough to let in light.

Fabric-imbedded glass used for the master bedroom/bathroom wall.

Fabric-imbedded glass used for the master bedroom/bathroom wall.

We did this for all the bathrooms but what really gives our space a continuous airy feel is the glass wall that makes up the only corridor in the apartment. An otherwise dark space picks up the ambient light from the rooms on either end.

My conclusion- When designing, consider the reflective quality of the materials in creating the baseline mood of the space. In my place, the reflective nature of glass subtly enlarges the narrow hall space and the bedrooms and creates the impression of openness. Mirrors would have a stronger effect; just think about ballet studios. Glossy surfaces or even stainless steel work too, particularly in kitchen surfaces to visually expand the size of a small room. Then, one could mix in matte finishes for contrast, interest and shadow play – all the while keeping in mind the natural ambient lighting. A lighting plan is therefore secondary if only for its added impact and mood changing effect.

Note:  All photos in this posting are the property of KaSA Global Interiors.  

Fabric-imbedded glass sourced from Fabricnation Ltd in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.  

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