A good friend of mine, married to a professional fireman, lives without candlelight. Indeed she lives in a house from which all forms of naked flame are exiled.
Her husband has, somewhat sadly, seen too much melancholy evidence of what happens when it all turns to custard. I, no particular extreme risk taker, could not imagine a house in which candles were never lit, they seem so much a part of making a room work.
Candle-lit dinners are not reserved for visitors (or romantic events). Most nights there are candles on the table. Except at the height of summer – but even then there tends to be a stick with an unlit candle somewhere.
On other occasions candles get lit in the studio or library to add a little ambiance to the lighting of the room in which the overhead lights are dimmed and the other lights pooled.
So many of the items that we collect here were designed if not for candle-lit then gas-lit rooms that had a much lower level of light than the all-penetrating light of modern fittings. Therefore objects were designed to reflect light – in order to bounce it around a bit more and make the room more sparkling. Most obvious are the mirrored overmantles and chunky gilt frames, but cut crystal and china with a gilded stripe or the spine of a book splashed with gold, were all part of the same attempt at a symphonic reflection of light.
Candle light is of course wonderfully flattering. The warm sparkle of a candle, or group of candles, placed between you and the person across a dinner table almost always bathes both in a kinder light.
However one of the nicest moments in a candle-lit dinner is when it’s all over and you put out the candles. We have a little brass candlesnuffer and once it’s done its job it sends enormous curling plumes of white smoke high into the dark blue painted ceiling of the Studio. For a moment the room is cast in darkness with only the smoke still providing plumes of light as it billows up into the ceiling. For me this makes the risk worthwhile.