Friday, September 11, 2009

An 18th Century Mood

Greetings, my little pink-cheeked cherubs! I've been away, but I have not forgotten our sweet moments together, here in my cozy little lair, tucked safely into my corner of the World Wide Web. And I have brought you gifts! Delicious tidbits and sweetmeats for the mind to savour!

Today, I wish to share with you the concept of the 18th century ambiance. Like all things romantic, ambiance is fickle and tricky, yet flows easily when the mood is right. In our fast-paced, electric world full of modern conveniences, we want to recreate a more natural, more hand-made world, that still has an opulent feel. How do we achieve this?

1. Lighting
Many a great film director knows of the power of good (or bad) lighting, and no one in my mind has used it to better effect than Stanley Kubrick in his film adaptation of The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray. Like many others, when I first saw "Barry Lyndon," I thought it was drawn out and a tad dull. But something kept bringing me back to it, enticing me to try again. Well, I am certainly glad I did.

The film as a visual work is breath-taking. Many (but not all, contrary to myth) of the scenes were shot without any use of artificial light- some indoor evening scenes were shot only by candlelight!

"Does this lighting make me look pale? Wonderful!"

Kubrick also used special lenses to make the picture flat, so that the entire film would resemble a moving painting. Arty!

The take home message here is-
natural lighting. Flickering candles, the warm glow of a crackling fire, the ghostly cast of a tin lamp. Nervous about fire? There are some truly wonderful electric candles out there that can give an effect that's almost as good (my grandmother used to keep some in the windows of the sun porch, and turn them on every night).
If you're feeling particularly lavish, go for a crystal chandelier.

2. Music

The most obvious choice is, of course, period music, and classical seems to be the most logical. Bach, Handel, Haydn, Vivaldi, and of course, Mozart.

Of course, this is hardly the only music that was available during the Age of Enlightenment. What about the popular ballads of the day? What about music for English country dance? If you're feeling bawdy, how about a drinking song? has a wonderful collection for your perusal:

Still, we're looking for a mood here, and not necessarily something that's strictly period. In that vein, I'd like to recommend the following albums:

a. The Decemberists - Hazards of Love
I'll admit it, I adore absolutely anything that Colin Meloy creates. The man has a way of capturing an antiquated feel in all his music. But the Decemberists' latest concept album, Hazards of Love has a particularly rococo feel to it (there's even a song all about a rake- A Rake's Progress, perhaps?) and yet, it's totally modern. A love story, a rock opera, and a very progressive bit of music in it's own right. And it's absolutely gorgeous!

b. Loreena McKennitt - The Book of Secrets
A beautiful album with a really mystical feel. It even contains a musical adaptation of Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman."

c. the Braid soundtrack
I just finished this game today (it's only $15- download it to your Mac or PC immediately, or play it on XBox Live!) and I was completely blown away by it. Apart from being a very challenging and unique puzzle game, it is visually STUNNING. But of course, we're here to talk about music. Creator Jonathan Blow used licensed music from Magmatune artists to cut down on production costs, and the results are remarkable. Each piece has a beautiful, timeless feel that fits the mood of the game perfectly, but also, of course, fits the 18th century just as well. The full soundtrack is available for download from Magmatune.

If you're feeling more upbeat and funky, why not follow Sophia Coppola's example in "Marie Antoinette" and bust out the '80s New Wave and post-punk? Anachronistic, certainly. But it captures the opulent feel of the Rococo period just the same.

3. Decor
What fabulous chateau would be complete without the correct decorations? The perfect chaise, the sumptuous drapes, the plush rug, the tasteful paintings? But how do we get this-

in a modern flat?

We start with color choices. The Rococo was a period of light, fluffy colors. Ditch the dark rugs and drapes (or save them for when you're feeling more Victorian). Think pastel- white, cream, pink, baby blue. And don't forget gold! A gilded mirror or picture frame can add the perfect touch.

Also, surround yourself with art. Paintings, engravings, statues, even a cute little miniature! Of course we can't all afford the originals, but that, my dears, is what is for! Don't forget the gilded frame!

But don't let yourself get too cluttered. Notice how open the room above looks? (Open, but not empty- a delicate balance.) Be smart with your space and keep a good amount of the floor open. You never know what you might need it for!

Of course you can't have a completely bare room full of artwork. What about furniture? As with everything else, think light-hearted. Curvy, winding shapes that put one in mind of twisting foliage, or waves on the sea. When it comes to upholstery, go for brocades or printed pastoral scenes. Get some fancy throw pillows or an elegant rug. And of course, a canopy bed. (Oh la la...)

Finally, if you're feeling really daring and DIY, check out Nama Rococo. They have the most beautiful Rococo-themed wallpaper you can imagine, with a modern twist of course. It's delightfully chic!

Well my darlings, that is all I have time for. Keep your eyes peeled (ew!) for my next post, where I shall delve into the dangerous world of fashion!

1 comment:

  1. i like your mind's state of taste. thanks for the topic!