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Oh The Importance of Lighting


Let there be light…and someone turns on the harsh glow of a single naked fluorescent tube that tries to flicker some enthusiasm into proceedings, however the atmosphere promptly dies. Ok, this s a slight exaggeration, but I have witnessed many interior environments that due to inappropriate lighting have underperformed, the same can be said for your business.

The solution seems simple and in some respects it is. But knowledge and experience is the key to successfully addressing issues with lighting. Some would say that employing the services of a lighting engineer is paramount to finding a solution. Yes, in some more tricky spaces this is true. But in the majority of interiors I think the solutions are attainable without the added cost of a lighting engineer.

The key is to match a lighting type to a function. From our interior design perspective there are the following headings. General lighting, Directional lighting, Feature lighting, Safety Lighting, Concealed lighting, Detail Lighting and Coloured Lighting. I have broken lighting down like this to make it less daunting to understand.

General Lighting Any lighting that illuminates a space. Its not specific it washes the entire space with light without out exception. It could be anything from a flood light to a single bulb from a ceiling rose. It gives light for sure but from an interiors perspective we need more than that from lighting.

Directional Lighting This may be confused with Detail lighting, which I will address later. Directional lighting guides you through a space to a destination. This is very useful to attract customers and subconsciously guide them to a predetermined location within the space. It can be achieved by heavy or subtle illumination of particular areas over others, with a feature light at the destination.

Feature Lighting In my opinion the most important lighting within a hospitality space. I would caution that this is an area that you do not want to compromise on. Money spent here on the right fittings will pay back with dividends. Feature lighting can destination piece, it can be viewed externally to attract customers, it can be a single fitting or a quantity. It can it be ceiling, floor or wall mounted. But it must always compliment the interior and should have your customers talking and admiring. It needs to be special and ideally unique.

Safety Lighting Not the most glamorous heading, but essential to every commercial space. Do not cut corners with this type of lighting. Steps should be be illuminated from the side wall or edge lit steps. In the event of loss of power, emergency lighting with back up power will illuminate to guide customers out of the space. Many modular ceiling fitting have the facility to incorporate an emergency lighting pack. Also remember that emergency exit signage must be illuminated as does all emergency directional signage. It is important to seek professional advice as to the type and location of safety and emergency lighting. It will vary greatly depending on the design, layout, size, number of floors and number of covers.

Concealed Lighting As the heading alludes, you cannot see the source of the lighting. It can be hidden in ceiling coffers, hollow cornices or behind seating. Light boxes come under this heading also. With light boxes these do not have to be wall only, consider ceilings and floors. Also consider the how the lightbox is dressed…graphic, fretwork, etching transparency. This is potentially the most versatile and effective forms of lighting. It allow expression without limits, with one exception, it must compliment the overall interior design.

Detail Lighting Picking a detail and illumination it and nothing else around it. That is detailed lighting in a nutshell. It may be a picture light over a painting, or a pin spot from the ceiling on a piece of sculpture. Low set lighting over tables also come under this heading. The illumination of pathway or aisles within the restaurant can be detailed, this is where we can get confused with directional lighting. Any light that that focuses on a key area and excludes the surrounding is detail lighting.

Coloured Lighting Ah, flashing or all the colours of the rainbow in time to the music? No no no…Coloured lighting is a delicate thing. Get it right and you have added value to you restaurant, get it wrong and suffer the consequences. It is a very fine balance. My advice, keep it limited and keep it simple. If you need colour focus on a particular area, say the bar, or a private dining area. Stick to one colour or fade very slowly from white to one colour and back. And as mentioned before always make sure it compliments the overall interior design.

With lighting it is all about setting a mood. All or some of the above can be utilised in any interior space. But we need to keep in mind the core objective and that is to create a mood or atmosphere that will enhance the dining experience for the customer.

Finally, the last piece of advice. Invest in a proper dimming control system and have separate lighting loops. Have at least six separate loops. This will allow you to change the mood from lunch to evening dining at the touch of a button. You will have total versatility with your restaurant lighting. Customers will not always consciously notice but subconsciously they know when something is right and when it is not. Be enlightened.


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