Restaurant lighting not just about illumination

Restaurant lighting not just about illumination

Lighting in restaurants is less about illumination and more about curated art, location reference and brand communication says Jeremy Quantrill, managing director of Dernier & Hamlyn

As a bespoke lighting manufacturer that has been around for the best part of two hundred years, we know a thing or two about the importance of suitability of lighting for its environment. While sometimes lighting is there purely for practical purposes, in the hospitality sector this is rarely the case and in restaurants even less so. Of course, guests and staff generally need to be able to see where they are going and what they are eating (unless dining at Dans le Noir!) but the lighting is invariably more about creating the right atmosphere and suiting its environment.

Here when we talk about suitability, it’s about meeting the designers’ concepts and creating a grammar which increasingly acknowledges the restaurant’s history, location and spirit.

Take The Ivy a firm fixture on London’s dining and social scene since 1917. With interiors that invoke the glamour of this time by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, the lighting is a crucial part of the ambience throughout the day and night. When the restaurant re-opened after its extensive refurbishment, reviewers invariably noted that MBDS had made it feel lighter and more expansive without losing its soul – quite an achievement. An aspect of the new design that was often commented on was the fantastic stone topped central dining bar, which boasts beautiful lamps made by our team in London that were based on original photography from the 1920s. The brief was to achieve a luxurious appearance and decorative features combined with subtle lighting. The lamp bases were cast in solid brass using handcrafted wooden moulds, the glass shades were hand cut to accomplish the desired faceted look and their internal facings sandblasted to provide a soft spread of light.

Fera, the Michelin starred restaurant at Claridge’s, the epitome of timeless art deco inspired elegance, is another example where the décor and soul of a period in time is translated through its design. Created by interior designer Guy Oliver, who has worked throughout the hotel for more than 20 years, his desire is to create period appropriate interiors. In Fera this demanded bespoke lighting that complements other features in this beautiful room. We worked with him to trawl our extensive archive to source inspiration that resulted in a relevant dialogue between the internal architecture and features and established a language that worked with the style that he wanted to evoke. Taking a gothic arch detail on the capitals of the columns, this was followed with the shape of the mirrors fixed to the columns, into the metalwork below and through to the pedestal lamps that sit atop the marble counters of the serving stations in the restaurant and in the cocktail bar. They feature strong, streamlined shapes, typical of this glamorous epoch and are finished in polished nickel to emulate the desire for shiny materials akin to chrome a brand new material of the time.

While for Hoborn Dining at Rosewood London, the brief for the lighting and the resulting fittings were very different indeed. In keeping with the client’s ‘A Sense of Place’ philosophy that ensures that all of its properties respect and reflect their locations, Holborn Dining is a grand British brasserie. Clearly this is something of an oxymoron, but fits perfectly with the Britishness with a twist that was required. The lighting here complements this philosophy and comprises six eye catching blackened steel oval chandeliers, some 7m long that were manufactured using mixed construction methods incorporating both laser cutting and making sections by hand. Their seemingly simple lines are not only a discreet hiding place for the emergency lighting that has been fitted to the light fittings’ cross section bars, they are also housing 500 120mm LED globe lamps custom made to meet the exacting aesthetic and energy usage brief from the designers. Despite a global search no LED lamps that met the specified criteria for quality, light colour and visual appearance that was required could be sourced so a supplier that specialises in LED solutions for heritage buildings, to create bespoke lamps that achieved all of the requirements. These and many other examples show that restaurant lighting is there for so much more than the illumination it provides.

When used cleverly, it can be an integrated part of the design that can be an artwork, an articulation of a period in time or a translation of the restaurant’s brand. Specifying developing and manufacturing bespoke lighting that contributes to creation of the ambience is extraordinarily exciting. It can also be less expensive than people sometimes think. By carefully considering the most important objectives and how they can be achieved using a whole range of intelligent engineering methods, finishing techniques and lamping options, solutions can usually be found that not only tick all the aesthetic boxes but stay within budget too.

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