I was at a launch in the main conference room of the Custom House one evening last week, located at first floor level centred on the rear portico overlooking Beresford Place. A 1920s neo-Georgian room with oddly old-fashioned detailing for the period of the building, it was painted a somewhat lurid shade of early '90s yellow.
What grabbed one though immediately upon entering the room was the utter hideousness of the lighting - a central Waterford chandelier fitted out with about 20 white, plastic CFL orbs hovering above the gathered crowd. Not only did the chandelier look preposterous in all its mutilated glory (allbeit, admittedly, not the most attractive of light fittings going in the first instance), the intense dull fluorescent glow emitted from a central source made it one of the most uncomfortable rooms I've ever been in. It was nothing short of an embarrassment to the dignity of the surroundings, like a someone who almost knows how to dress smartly, but gives the game away with the brand tag on the cuff of their suit.
What is this obsession with manky CFL bulbs in State ceremonial buildings?! Who is pushing this, above myriad other sensitive alternatives, to the detriment of the aesthetics of some of the most significant interiors in the country?
A simple alternative to this lunacy is fitting the same chandelier with sparkling halogen candle bulbs at a 28w rating instead of the typical 40w and fitting on a dimmer. This compares favourably with a typical 12w CFL 'candle' bulb typically used as replacement. A halogen bulb works out at about €2 to buy with 2000 hours of life, versus €6 for a CFL at 10,000 hours. Not a ringing endorsement for halogen, but still a considerable saving.
What also struck me about the above event is how much more pleasant the room would have been dimly lit with a warm halogen glow - arguably more energy could have been saved by the use of a dimmer rather than nasty CFLs. There's just no joined up thinking on this, with a crude blanket solution applied to every situation. Otherwise, there was a very nice use of warm tungsten spots around the perimeter of the above room which negated some of the CFL aura.
Almost every State building I know has now been wrecked with CFL candle bulbs. One of the very last bastions is the State Drawing Room in Dublin Castle, where it's only a matter of time before Waterford's most accomplished State commission is about to be mauled.