Food & Drink

Baltimore Restaurants are Having a Lightbulb Moment

Some spots are embracing a recent trend toward lighting individual tables with elegant votives and LED lamps.
The brass votives at Monarque transport us to 1920's Paris. —Photography by Scott Suchman

From sexy sconces to LED cordless table lamps, everything is illuminated at area restaurants, as fanciful light fixtures provide a de rigueur artistic element.

“The number-one thing you’re trying to do in designing a restaurant is create a transportive experience,” says designer Patrick Sutton, who has given rise to some of the most stylish spots in town (from Cinghiale to Monarque, both in Harbor East). “Lighting becomes very important in setting the tone. If you’re doing something that is dark and moody, you’re going to employ a lighting design that has areas of darkness punctuated by moments of light, and that creates that mood of mystery. If you’re trying to create a gathering place, you’re going to create a brighter atmosphere.”

(Interestingly, lighting not only plays a critical role in the overall experience, but can also even impact appetite. According to a 2014 study by the Rochester Institute of Technology, bright light can decrease a diner’s length of stay, while dim light corresponds with eating more slowly.)

Note the recent trend toward lighting individual tables with elegant votives and LED lamps, such as the pink “flowerpots” at No Way Rosé in Federal Hill, that lend a warm, mellow glow.

“Creating a feeling of romance is always top of mind,” says Sutton. “Those little table lamps create a pool of light at your table. And when you have that puddle of light at your table, it gives you a sense of intimacy.”

Table lights provide an unexpected bonus, as well.

“Light coming from a source below eye level makes everyone look better,” says Sutton. “It takes all the wrinkles and shadows away—everyone seems a little more attractive when the lighting is coming from the table.”