Lighting design for hospitality projects is a demanding and convoluted task. Each space needs to appear visually interesting and intriguing while possessing a seamless integration of elements and materials that need to create an attractive whole.
Lighting selection usually requires extensive thought and discussion with the people who will be spending the most amount of time within the space. For hospitality, diners need to be able to read menus, see their food as well as each other, all while enjoying a relaxing and appealing atmosphere created by the lighting design. The key to a successful lighting outcome in hospitality relies on the application of both indirect and direct lighting, with a layered design achieved by combining various luminaires.
Paul Lim, Director and Lead Designer at Mata Design Studio is familiar with the challenges that come with lighting a hospitality space. According to Paul, lighting design has always been an integral part of his projects, and through his jobs, he has been able to explore it in further detail. He believes smart lighting design will transform a good space into a profound space, whether that be a boutique hotel or a large scale, public urban design. What characterises exceptional lighting design to Paul is an understanding of technology, a consideration of the design concept, an application of different luminaires and facilitation of mood through colour. “I strongly believe that through well considered, technical illumination, a project can truly stand out. Lighting can make guests feel comfortable and at ease without them even knowing why,” he states.
Paul’s local and international travels continue to inspire his interior design work. He identifies the abundance of visual media as a source of inspiration that can open the door to influences from all corners of the world. Although this inspiration can come from anywhere, Paul believes it is the background research and briefing from a client that creates the beginnings of a great space in hospitality design.
Paul focusses his attention towards LED when discussing the significant changes he has witnessed within the lighting industry. He explains that with the rapid onset of this technology, it has fundamentally changed the way designers think and use lighting within their projects. “Seeing the change from tungsten to LED, in its infancy to now with improved efficiency, CRI and lumen output, it has come so far,” Paul remarks. He comments that LED not only changes the way we embrace lighting but has also allowed designers to improve their knowledge in use of products.
Mobility, operating temperature, range of light output and improved efficiency continues to shape how designers apply light uniquely to their projects. A designer’s understanding of current technology and an awareness of what is on the horizon will only improve the way projects will now be illuminated. For Paul, he expresses enthusiasm towards the improved accessibility of automation and control systems. “I am particularly excited by this advanced technology and how this may be more cost-effective and obtainable for people across the board,” he reveals.
When approaching lighting a hospitality space, utilising a variety of techniques to highlight, define and create general illumination for the textures, materials, colours, features and pathways is vital. Paul confirms from experience, the main difference between lighting design in a cafe to a restaurant is the transition which a restaurant space needs to make from a daytime to a nighttime environment with ease and simplicity. In the context of lighting design for hospitality, we see that casual establishments may naturally have a brighter setting, while a fine dining establishment may possess a moodier ambience. Paul emphasises that every project is unique and will have a different set of requirements which he will need to tailor a solution to fit.
With any lighting design; ambience, CRI, colour temperature, the mood you want to achieve and types of luminaires used are critical factors in creating the desired space. Paul believes these environments can engage patrons and elevate the experimental quality of the design. “Great spaces can evoke a sense of emotion, and by highlighting particular elements or even hiding them, the user is given an edited and controlled representation of the space,” he comments. This application allows the space to look its best at all times, whether it be the colours, textures or the backlighting. Paul emphasises that good lighting design will typically ensure the venue seems warm and inviting (colour temperatures between 2700K and 3000K). He confirms the design should also be layered with several luminaires for varying effects, have a balanced contrast on surfaces and materials and give the venue an ability to control the lighting levels and effects, when required.
As any designer will tell you, the challenge in lighting is to create one smooth application that will not create a space that appears too cluttered or manipulated. A true indication of success to Paul is walking into a Mata Design Studio created space and seeing the venue active and busy, “there is nothing that makes me happier,” he remarks. For Paul, his primary drive is the challenge of creating unique and successful spaces for his clients, whether that be from a functional, aesthetic, or business level.
One of Paul’s favourite Mata Design Studio projects to date is Rice Baby, a modern Asian restaurant in Subiaco, Perth. Rice Baby was a project where materials, textures, colours and patterns were playfully employed to create a design for a casual, local eatery with a bar that opens from lunch to dinner. “Within the existing built fabric, we had the opportunity to design a new dining concept for the client and explore the concept of the Asian restaurant,” he states. In the design, Mata Design Studio moved away from traditional notions of the stereotypical Chinese restaurant, using a wide range of lighting applications from ambient to direct lighting which highlighted furniture, plants and art. Paul establishes that Rice Baby is a smart, modern dining space for all demographics, with a detailed, timeless design and a ‘shophouse’ undertone.
As hospitality design progresses, Paul believes the industry is becoming increasingly competitive, narrowing this down to consumers becoming more educated (particularly with today’s technology) and with the ease of obtaining information. Confirming that this level is causing a shift for businesses to focus more on craftsmanship, quality and originality. “We see the need to create something unique for our clients, which makes it a much more interesting and varied landscape for everyone,” he confirms. Though Mata Design Studio draws some inspiration from trends, they typically steer clear of them, explaining that trends change and with the rise of fast fashion, they are moving quicker than ever. “When working in the commercial sphere, it’s important that the fit-out will be able to still look relevant in a couple of years time,” Paul explains.
With the high level of competition in the hospitality design industry, Paul explains some strategies Mata Design Studio adopt to stay at the forefront of their competitors, “We encourage collaboration within the studio between designers so that each project benefits from a broad range of experiences.” Paul discusses the importance of keeping in touch with suppliers regularly to obtain current knowledge of products and confirm what is happening in other industries that align with the design. To understand what is trending both locally and internationally, Mata Design Studio also analyses various projects, from digital or print media sources. Paul affirms that well-considered lighting design and selection will help deliver a distinctive, pleasant and memorable experience as well as making a vital contribution to the visitor experience.