low-lighting creates a great, cozy coffee house ambiance
low-lighting creates a great, cozy coffee house ambiance

The concept of “ambiance” (or ambience) isn’t very well understood by most Americans today, it seems. Google tells us that ambiance is defined as: the character and atmosphere of a place.

I’ve always stated that there are two main things which make up a place’s ambiance: 1) Lighting, and 2) Music. Art/d├ęcor have an effect on the mood of a place as well, but not as much as lighting and music.
A lot of people don’t seem to grasp that, at least in my experience.

For example, I’m currently staying at a friend’s house while he and his family are out of town for a few days. It’s been a great place to get away and just focus on getting things done. But the problem? He has no lamps in his house, at all. Only overhead lights. This totally kills any cozy ambiance that the place could have.

Actually, there is one lamp, but it’s in his 2-year-old’s room. (I turn it on anyway.)

And since it’s just after the winter solstice, the days are short and nights are long, meaning less natural light from the sun.

This is a nice house in a quiet neighborhood, perfect for getting away, and could have a *very* nice atmosphere, but it’s just so… bright. Almost harshly so. The over-bright lights just kill the mood. Ambiance is another way of saying the “mood” of a place.

If you’re trying to create a cozy ambiance at home, low-lit lighting is key (which is to say, dim lamps). Christmas lights and/or rope lights work great as well. Dim lamps along the walls always give a cozy feel to a place, like a pre-industrial revolution English pub. Oh yeah, and candles. Candles are the ultimate tool for creating just the perfect cozy mood/feel.

Of course, “ambiance” could apply to other moods, too. I just happen to like “cozy”. Discos/nightclubs have a different ambience. So do 50’s style diners. It’s all about lighting primarily, and music secondarily.

Just look around whenever you’re indoors. Look at the lighting and notice how it makes you feel. Is there any music playing? If yes, how does that fit in with the general feel & atmosphere of the place?

Restaurants understand this concept. Hotels and lodges have it down. Interior designers obviously understand this, but it seems like the average person doesn’t. But once you start paying attention, it’s hard not to miss.

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