Lighting Focus: The current direction of lighting innovation

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With pivotal lighting developments and trends afoot in the illumination of restaurants, four designers give their thoughts on what is leading the way in lighting innovation


Edited by Jill Entwistle

Sandra Brookes, senior designer, Lighting Design International

After three lockdowns, everyone is nostalgic for what life was like before Covid-19. And, after months of being at home, the desire for a luxurious experience gets stronger. This sense of nostalgia is very likely to inform design trends in the restaurant sector.

It has always been important to create a unique identity for a restaurant space to draw diners through the door. Lighting both directs the eye towards the feature interior elements and is also often the feature itself. Currently, the most extraordinary centrepiece pendants are trending in signature restaurants. Usually bespoke pieces, they dominate the space and become key to the restaurant’s identity.

The inherent magic and intimacy of the candle-like effect has defined the ambience of many successful restaurants, and there is no sign of this waning. Key to creating the desired lighting atmosphere is the correct balance of brightness and colour temperature. The control system, governing the brightness of the source, is essential here both in realising a cosy and congenial atmosphere, and allowing the lit canvas to be set seamlessly. Currently, the favoured lighting colour temperature is a warm 2,400K to 2,200K.

Rather like the candlelight effect, there are certain aspects of restaurant lighting that remain perennially important. To coin a cliché, we ‘eat with our eyes’: however excellent the food, it really needs to look appetising and appealing. That is largely down to colour rendering – especially in a high-end restaurant, light sources with a high CRI (90-plus) are vital. Whereas even 10 years ago there was a concern that LEDs could never replicate the lighting quality of halogen, the improvements in their colour rendering have been rapid, with some sources achieving CRI 98.

Restaurants, like retail and other sectors, will always be subject to fashion but, ultimately, well-considered lighting that sets the appropriate mood for the occasion and reflects the brand will be the ultimate everlasting trend.

 

Richard Bolt, partner, dpa lighting consultants

Tasca by José Avillez, a restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai, with lighting by dpa lighting consultants. With the spectre of social distancing likely to remain for some time, lighting now needs to flexibly align with evolving spaces. Image Credit: Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, DubaiTasca by José Avillez, a restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai, with lighting by dpa lighting consultants. With the spectre of social distancing likely to remain for some time, lighting now needs to flexibly align with evolving spaces. Image Credit: Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai

Like many sectors, hospitality has unfortunately been hit very hard by the pandemic. More than ever before, I feel it will be necessary for hotel restaurants to be designed with flexibility in mind to cater for interchangeable usage, table layouts and configurations associated with social distancing and differing group sizes, as well as interior themes and displays. It could be that within a restaurant space, more retail and art displays are introduced to break up the density of dinners, and to provide a greater aesthetic impact.

For lighting, the trends need to follow suit. Fittings need to be integrated so that lighting can align with these evolving spaces. For instance, the use of tuneable white light to illuminate changeable displays and dining spaces to coincide with the time of day, theme, materiality and colour palettes. Perhaps also a greater use of remote controlled light fixtures to ease the burden and practicality of regular re-aiming, based on differing table layouts.

The miniaturisation of fittings through the evolution of LED sources has provided lighting designers with the most extensive architectural lighting tool kit range so far. Lighting products can now be very neatly integrated within exterior and interior details, with their form minimised and often concealed so that we only enjoy the layering of light and effects, while not viewing the source. The exception, of course, is decorative lighting where such fixtures are intended to provide a visual narrative and statement.

For me, while the decorative lighting market has evolved and developed greatly in recent years, there still remains the need for improvement regarding the integration of light sources, increased understanding of the technical characteristics and interplay between the lamps and the materials being illuminated, and the smoothness and stability of dimming down to very low levels for restaurant environments.

This would mean less reliance on decorative lighting to illuminate the dining tables, which can be picked up by a separate layer of focused downward light. It will be really interesting to see how interior design and lighting design respond and adapt with cohesion to the changing times and trends ahead.

 

Neil Knowles, creative director, Elektra Lighting

Mortimer House, by Elektra Lighting, comes with individual and vintage luminaires, and use of plants (which could present additional opportunities for illumination).Mortimer House, by Elektra Lighting, comes with individual and vintage luminaires, and use of plants (which could present additional opportunities for illumination).

The biggest change we’ve noticed in recent years is in the decorative lighting element. Previously, this would mean a few wall lights from one of the big brands (such as Chelsom). But a trend, which started for us back in 2012 on the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, was using authentic or vintage pieces, often unique and handmade. This has spread to practically all projects we work on. So, for example, instead of six identical table lamps, there would be six unique luminaires, with a variety of lamps, often requiring safety checks, rewiring and new lamp holders. Even if not vintage, there would be six unique items, with different light distributions to factor into the design.

The next trend is the ongoing downward march of colour temperature. Before LED, we were limited to 2,700K as ‘warm white’, and if you wanted warmer you needed a colour filter. Every time we go to the Light + Building exhibition in Frankfurt, we look for warmer colours (and, specifically, warmer colours that are not a horrible orange). Now, our default colour temperature for linear LED in restaurant and bar spaces is 2,200K, and often we use lower. Samples and swatches are great for this. I always go to client meetings with working samples of these colour temperatures in my bag for approval.

A variant on this is tuneable white. We’ve been using it for 20 years now in places like hotel restaurants (cool for breakfast, warm at night), but it is spreading and is easier to do every year. Time was we had to get custom fittings made to do this; now they are off-the-shelf.

Trends in interiors are interesting and the current one is plants. We can’t move for restaurants with plants on walls, hanging from the ceiling, herbs on the bar. They provide great opportunities for lighting: we’ve added spike lights, gobo break-up patterns, green accents… and this is as well as speciality lighting for plant growth in indoor locations with little natural light.

 

Rob Honeywill, design director, MBLD

MBLD’s Finolhu Resort, Maldives, has proved that simplified design is more likely, and the use of dim-to-warm technology is increasingly widespreadMBLD’s Finolhu Resort, Maldives, has proved that simplified design is more likely, and the use of dim-to-warm technology is increasingly widespread

COVID-19 has clearly been a catalyst for change, and hotels and restaurants are having to adapt. Perhaps the future will see temperature reading, facial recognition and using our smart tech to minimise touchpoints, such as check-in. Keyless room entry, for example, may become more prevalent if not the norm, and where lighting is concerned, controls in guest rooms could well be operated through a phone app. The use of automated passive cleaning with UV light throughout could be a part of future cleaning regimes. Maybe future luminaires will see a UV element as part of the design in new builds.

While the pandemic will trigger some developments, there are, of course, more general identifiable trends in restaurant and hotel lighting. We continue to see more use of dynamic lighting, and a great deal more emphasis on dim-to-warm for linear lighting. There is also a use of much wider colour temperature ranges with filament LEDs, which recreated the look and feel of tungsten when halogen was phased out. This will be with us for some time to come.

Where future trends are concerned, I see more simplification of the overall design approach for food and beverages, allowing area design to be cleaner and less technically cluttered. Luminaire miniaturisation will continue, with improved light outputs and more flexibility.

Tuneable and dynamic lighting will create greater opportunities for more lighting effect with less – crucial when interior designers and architects want to maximise on space while still giving the same experience.



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