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How hospitality lighting can really make or break a space

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

With the hospitality industry more competitive than ever, hoteliers and restaurateurs are having to innovate their offering by improving materials, decor, sound and fragrance, as well as lighting to create an environment that appeals to all of the senses.

I have been working in lighting for more than 10 years and have experienced first-hand how lighting can really make or break a space. My approach to lighting design is to combine both look and performance. I work alongside architects and interior designers to support the delivery of exceptional lighting solutions for hospitality, retail, residential and commercial projects. My mantra is that lighting is not just about functionality and allowing you to see, but it also provides the opportunity to reveal the beauty and atmosphere of a space.

Functionality and atmosphere

The right lighting can completely elevate a guest experience, positively contributing to the overall atmosphere and appeal of a space. Different areas of a building have different uses and the first step to creating a successful lighting plan is to pinpoint and define these. By doing so, plans can be made as too how lighting can reflect these.

Light fixtures are often chosen purely on how they look aesthetically – they are used as decoration; to create impact and reflect the personality of a space. The role that light plays however goes beyond this - providing effects, atmosphere and ambience in ways that cannot be achieved by other means. Selecting lights purely based on the aesthetic generally means that other fixtures have to be installed to illuminate the space, ending up with duplication and extra cost. When choosing lights, it is really important to look at the aesthetic, but it is vital to look at the type and amount of light emission they provide to ensure they deliver the functional, as well as the atmospheric.

Create a sense of arrival

Most people think the guest experience starts as soon as they arrive in the lobby, but it is before they have even stepped inside. Creating the right sense of arrival starts with how a building is lit from the outside – it is important to warmly welcome guests from the outside in, directing them clearly to the entrance and into the lobby, where they will be greeted by a well-lit reception desk. In the morning, there should be plenty of daylight or bright white lighting, to help guests feel energised and awake. Alternatively, if guests are arriving late at night, the lighting should be warm and welcoming, helping them to feel relaxed and comforted.

Managing atmosphere and spaces in hotels

Lighting is a key tool for creating atmosphere and should be used to help contribute to how guests feel during their stay – welcomed, relaxed, calm, romantic - as well as aiding restful sleep. It is important, therefore, to make the best use of light in each space, to create the right mood throughout the entire hotel.

I always advise to create a mood board for hotel lighting projects, dividing the hotel into different areas and evaluating the atmosphere that is needed for each. For example, while the guest rooms could provide a sense of calm and relaxation, gyms and swimming pool could have a more functional lighting helping to motivate and revive. Lighting in corridors and landings could be the opportunity to create a focus on features such as room entrances, as well as artworks.

In hotels where there are free-flowering spaces between reception, lounge, bar and dining areas, effectively one large room, lighting can be used to create the distinction between each function and guide the customer to correctly use the space.

Dining by day and night

The times I have needed to use the torch on my mobile phone to read a menu or walked into an enormous dining space with no atmosphere, illustrate to me just how often lighting can be overlooked in restaurants.

Italian lighting designer Davide Groppi is a great innovator in dining lighting - he considers the light as an ingredient of the food on the plate, enhancing the taste experience. It is important to ensure that your guests can clearly read your menus; to enable them to enjoy the visual elements of their food, as well as adapt your dining environments throughout the day to create the right atmosphere morning, noon and night.

Home-from-home guest rooms

It only takes a split second to make a good impression when a guest first enters a room, so it is important to make it count with warm and inviting lighting.

A guest room needs to deliver different types of light:

- General ambient lighting - for the bedroom and bathroom (this is important for the practical illumination of the space and closet and is best solved using the diffused light of a pendant or a wall lamp)

- Task lighting - for reading in bed, working at the desk (a careful choice of these lamps can also add to the atmosphere)

- Mirror lighting - for personal grooming

- Subtle night lights – dynamic in-room night lighting sensors can be applied to respond when guests rise during the night, with low-level lighting illuminating the floor automatically for increased safety

One of the most common complaints from hotel guests is when the bathroom lighting is poor – the solution is to provide diffused light by the mirror, which creates no shadow. Light can also help with the perception of the space. For example, a small room can appear larger than it actually is – by positioning a soft light at the far end of a room enables the guest to perceive the full length of the space upon entering.

Being in control

As lighting control systems in private residential projects are thriving, it is important to consider how this functionality should be implemented in hotel guest rooms. The key advice here is to keep it simple and intuitive. There is nothing more frustrating for a guest than when they're staying in a new hotel room and cannot easily work out how to turn the lighting on and off. The simplest way is to put one control system for the general diffused light at the entrance of the room, and for other lighting introduce control switches as close as possible to the source of light to make a physical connection between the lamp and its control (for example, a bedside table lamp switch by the bed).

Getting professional advice can be illuminating

Lighting design is a critical element to the design of any residential, business or hospitality project and I specialise in supporting interior designers and architects to find creative and functional lighting solutions to fit their client’s budget and requirements. I can create a full lighting plan for your projects and I work with a carefully curated range of Italian design brands to deliver on this. Please do get in touch using the form below if I can help.

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