"Edith Wharton might be tempted to eat her words about the "vulgarity" of electrical lighting were she to be teleported to modern-day Lenox to dine at Firefly."
Written by Judy Polan
When restaurateur Laura Shack, owner of Firefly in Lenox, wanted to spiff up her dining establishment, she decided to change not only its name and menu but its d̩cor, with dramatic new lighting featured throughout the interior. Shack, who had trained privately with the late master chef James Beard in his New York home for three years and owned a catering business in New York City for ten, opened her Roseborough Grill at 71 Church Street in 1993. After enjoying a successful twelve-year run, she felt that it was time to "reinvent" herself. "I love what I do and I wanted and needed a change," Shack says. She imagined a new design for her restaurant that would enhance the playful spirit embodied in its motto: "Eat... Drink... Laugh!"
Shack found a kindred spirit in architect Tom Douglas of Northampton, known throughout western Massachusetts for his innovative and contemporary design work, much of which focuses on "hospitality" projects, with a strong emphasis on richly appointed interior spaces meant to accommodate a large number of guests. He has also worked on a number of historic theater projects, including the renovation of the Calvin Theatre in Northampton and a feasibility study for the restoration of the Mohawk in North Adams, Massachusetts. Douglas brought an acute awareness of the "theatrical component of the restaurant experience" into his stunning new design for Firefly's interior.
Edith Wharton might be tempted to eat her words about the "vulgarity" of electrical lighting were she to be teleported to modern-day Lenox to dine at Firefly. The restaurant glows with a hearth-like warmth; it emanates a gentle ambiance, yet is sleek and thoroughly contemporary in design. Tom Douglas' first challenge was to reconfigure the existing bar area, which was being used as a serving counter, and transform it into an attention-grabbing space that would be instantly inviting to the restaurant's younger clientele. He framed the bar area from above with a glossy, low ceiling, and added hanging pendants that bounce light off the ceiling and copper-faced bar surface, creating a mood of combined excitement and warmth. He designed plexiglass boxes with inbuilt lighting to form the shelves on which the bar's glass bottles would stand, the and behind them he installed a ribbed plexiglass window painted in a glow-maximizing amber color. This particular type of glass diffuses light horizontally and spreads it indirectly throughout the room. "It makes everybody look good," he laughs, "as if they're tanned from a recent Caribbean vacation. Indirect lighting, especially when it's bounced off amber and red colors, is quite flattering to everyone."
In the dining area proper, guests encounter large suspended panels of lustrous golden mica framed in mahogany and illuminated from above by recessed lights. Small silk-shaded table lamps placed around the room's burgundy- and pumpkin-colored banquettes add a homey touch and make each party's seating area feel like an intimate club space what Douglas calls "a cozy residential nook, with a clubby 1920s feel." Silhouettes of bottles appear through the ribbed glass window behind the bar, creating a dreamy, langorous landscape.
"I think of lighting in the same way as I think of fine furniture," says Douglas. "It is one of the most important components of restaurant design. People are going out for a total experience, a transporting experience; everything you do in a restaurant should be designed to enhance this."
One thing that all of us are looking to enhance, as the dark days of winter draw near, is the quality and quantity of light in our lives. It's no coincidence that so many people observe November and December as a season of lights be it through Hindu Diwali tradition of placing small oil lamps on rooftops and around the house; decorating our homes with twinkling Christmas bulbs and ornaments; or lighting colorful candles to sparkle in our Hanukkah menorahs.
The Berkshire region long known for its natural beauty as well as its many models of classic yet forward-looking interior design offers a plethora of public spaces where people can settle in for a quiet evening with friends or enjoy a jazzy night out stimulated, soothed, and entertained by imaginative illumination.
In the words of Berkshire glass guru Steve Fellerman, "Let's face it without light, there is nothing."
From casual cocktail parties to elegant and formal dinners, Firefly offers catering services for a wide range of events. With menu choices to delight all palates and options for every budget Firefly will make sure your event is truly memorable. Contact Firefly today to start planning your celebration.