charlestown house project
This Old House TV's Charlestown house project
When it came time to choose light fixtures for This Old House TV's Charlestown project, Dan and Heather Beliveau faced a problem many owners of old houses confront: how to respect the period of their home and make it comfortable for modern life. Sleek modern fixtures can clash with the classic lines and historic details that constitute much of an old house's charm. At the same time, old-fashioned lights can look fusty and dated and leave homeowners without enough light. Compromise is tricky but not impossible. Focus on fixtures that reflect modern sensibilities but also give a nod to history. So it went with Dan and Heather. After several meetings, we compiled a list of where they needed and wanted light, including, accent, direct and indirect lighting. With list in hand, we set off for the lighting showroom, where they quickly realized the challenge of selecting fixtures. There are so many, and they were choosing not only for their own home but also for the rental apartment downstairs. Budgetary concerns were on the table right beside aesthetic ones. I suggested that we start in the foyer and main living spaces. The foyer is both square and tall; I suggested a round period fixture that corresponded with the Civil-War era exterior of the house. From the foyer, we headed to the upstairs hallway, where Dan and Heather decided on wall sconces with oval backplates and round arms that echo the form of the foyer's light. The living room-flooded with light in the daytime-already sports an ornate plaster medallion on its ceiling, the perfect home for a chandelier. We looked at several with the flair and design of the house's era but decided on a less ornate though still traditional fixture. More modern, recessed accent lights, nearly invisible, accent the room's plaster details and the artwork above the fireplace. Looking through the colonnade and into the dining room, visitors will see another chandelier, two wall sconces and perimeter lighting that complement those of the living room. These different light sources will create a layering effect that will keep the rooms well lit and comfortable at any time of day. In the kitchen, we left behind our period lighting concerns and looked to contemporary features for this updated space. We selected two, small, low-voltage pendants for the bar area, recessed ceiling lights, and halogen, under-cabinet task lighting. Indirect lighting will give this room a soft glow and keep the space feeling open and airy. The first floor bathroom also has a modern twist in the form of a pendant lamp with a lemon scavo glass shade, hand-blown in Italy. While still hot, the glass is dipped into minerals, ash and sand, which give it a weathered look. The choice is a bit of a surprise for a mid-19th-century home, but it is a prime example of the ways in which the old can be combined with the new to great effect.

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