December 22, 2020
By Laura Fredericks

Hotel lighting is an often overlooked but vital part of a property’s design, atmosphere, and feel for both guests and staff. The right dramatic lighting can make a lobby look cool and modern, while dated lighting can make a space look like it’s in need of refurbishment. Read on for 10 hotel lighting ideas that are sure to enhance your property and boost the customer experience.

Why hotel lighting matters:

Whether guests and staff realize it or not, the lighting in a space can affect their moods, behaviors, and how they react to situations. A jet-lagged guest may be very angry with a slight delay or hiccup in their check-in process if standing under harsh fluorescent lighting, and relatively calm in the same situation when the lighting is soft. Although the effects are often subtle, the right lighting can result in more productive staff, happier guests, and a better overall atmosphere in your hotel.

The difficulties of lighting in the hospitality industry:

Lighting the spaces used in hotels and other hospitality-focused areas is a unique challenge for designers. There are often task-specific lights that need to perform a certain job, such as bright lights without glare over casino tables. But those task-based lights need to work with the overall atmosphere, such as in restaurants where tables need to be lit but still meld with the look of the restaurant space.

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Some spaces, like hotel lobbies, are relatively straightforward in their needs because they will always perform the same job. But event spaces, outdoor spaces, and other public areas may need much more flexibility to accommodate various use cases and lighting needs.

By working with a professional lighting designer and taking these tips into consideration, you’ll create the perfect mix of lighting solutions for your space and really impress your guests.

Enhance your property with these 10 hotel lighting ideas:

1. Use a lighting designer.

If you’re just starting out with the design or redesign of your property, now is the time to involve a lighting designer. Even if you’re reworking one space within your hotel, a lighting designer’s knowledge will be invaluable. These professionals know the latest trends in lighting design, and can make sure your hotel lighting ideas integrate with the design of the architecture and all of the ways you will use the space. They’re also up-to-date on the latest regulations, can help create a sense of brand consistency across multiple properties, and have many strategies for reducing your costs and increasing energy efficiency

2. Use natural light where possible.

It's an unfortunate fact that most of us spend a large portion of our lives indoors. Business travelers spend almost all of their time in offices during their trip, and even vacationers will rely on indoor spaces a fair amount of the time (especially during inclement weather). Using natural light as a part of your lighting design has a number of positive effects, including boosting the energy of your guests and staff, reducing lighting costs and energy consumption, and making your space a more integrated part of your surroundings.

3. Keep your ceiling in mind.

The ceiling in your space plays an important role in how lighting reflects and bounces around the room, as well as how the lighting itself is installed and operated. Loft-type spaces without a finished ceiling will need to be installed differently than lighting on a drywall or plaster ceiling to accommodate the lack of a smooth surface. Decorative ceiling features can also change the way light reflects, and should be taken into consideration in the lighting design. Lighting can also help to adjust for very low or very high ceilings, creating an illusion of space and openness that can help guests feel more relaxed and comfortable.

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4. Pay attention to transitions.

Transitions between differently lit areas should be planned carefully so that the effect is not jarring for guests and staff. Going from a brightly lit area to an area with soft lighting can be unpleasant if there isn’t an appropriate transition. Hallways, doorways, alcoves, and small transitional areas can all be used to provide an intermediate effect and ease the transition for guests.

Remember that guests coming in from outside will also need time for their eyes to adjust. During the day, keep the transition area fairly bright, and match the tone of sunlight with lights set to a cool-white (about 4000k) tone. At night, the transition area should change to a warmer and softer tone to help guests’ eyes adjust from the darkness outside. This transition area lighting can include two separate sets of lights, or a dimmer that changes automatically with the time of day.

5. Lobby lighting should mix dramatic and practical.

Your lobby area is a big part of the first impression for your hotel, and should be lit with an eye towards design and practicality. It should be easy for guests to locate the reception desk, and the right lighting can help you highlight this part of the lobby. The entrance should serve as a transition area to help guests make the switch from the outside environment and to give their eyes time to adjust. The rest of the lobby can include decorative lighting elements, “wow factor” elements to match your brand, and task-focused lighting for seating areas, luggage storage, and gathering spaces.

Make sure your lobby area feels appropriate to the environment, traveler needs, and your clientele. Luxury spaces often include softer lighting and furnishings, while those with an “always on” feeling (like airport hotels) might need brighter lighting. Your lighting can extend your brand messaging across multiple properties and help to make the lobby environment feel consistent all around the region, country, or world.

6. Hallways, staircases, and parking areas should be lit for safety.

You’ll need to ensure well-lit environments for your hallways, staircases, and parking areas. These are all integral to guest and staff safety, and can feel “creepy” if not lit well. Room numbers should be well-lit to aid in guest navigation of the space, and emergency lighting should be available on all emergency exits and evacuation routes throughout the property.

7. Consider performance lighting systems for event spaces.

Performance lighting systems, including track lighting, spotlights, and floodlights, are useful in spaces that need flexibility and may be used for more theatrical tasks. According to lighting designer CMD, “The right lighting will direct attention to the most important areas of the space, create the desired mood and ultimately set the scene for the occasion, whether it is a conference, a trade show, a corporate occasion or a private party.”

For the most flexibility, make sure you can point these lights towards any part of the space, opening up the possibility for a stage, dance floor, or podium in multiple places. This way you can work with event planners and guests to decide on the right lighting for their event, diagram the space with them, and offer customizable solutions as an added differentiator over your competitors.

8. Using lighting to differentiate uses in free-flowing spaces.

Trends in hotel architecture mean that more and more hotel spaces are designed as open-concept, free-flowing spaces that can accommodate various uses by guests and staff. This is a positive development in terms of space flexibility, but can make it hard to have one lighting design that works for the whole space.

By using layered lighting, you can create the perfect lighting design for each area, and differentiate the uses for the space. For instance, a seating area within your lobby may have soft spot lighting to accommodate reading, with a dimly-lit bar area nearby, and a brighter area near reception so that guests and staff can see clearly during check-in. Lighting can show where one area of the space ends and another begins, giving helpful psychological cues to your guests.  

9. Guest room lighting depends on ease.

Guest room lighting is relatively simple, but also a focal point for guest lighting complaints. Keep things practical here. If you can make sure of a few basic things with your guest room lighting, your guests are sure to feel more comfortable and relaxed. 

Clearly visible light switches should be immediately available upon entering the room, as well as at the bedside so that guests don’t need to get out of bed to turn off the lights. Layer the light options so guests can pick the right lights for them. Include a desk lamp, free-standing lamp, and decorative table lamps along with ceiling lighting. Guest bathrooms should have a central light, plenty of light in the shower area, and a well-lit mirror. Motion sensors are usually not a good idea in guest rooms or bathrooms  they’re far more likely to cause confusion or irritation than traditional lighting with switches.

10. Don’t forget energy efficiency.

As you explore all the various hotel lighting ideas, keep energy efficiency in mind. Sustainable lighting solutions have come a long way over the years, and now offer beautiful lighting effects that will save you energy and maintenance costs over the long term. 

Your energy efficiency can also be a major selling point with certain guest audiences that focus on sustainability. Make real efforts towards sustainability in all areas of your hotel, and then share those improvements with your guests as a competitive advantage.

Use these hotel lighting ideas to create beautiful, well-lit spaces throughout your property!

Ready for more design inspiration? Check out hotel lobby ideas that are sure to make your guests feel welcome. 

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Laura Fredericks

Laura brings a decade of insight to improving marketing, as she has worked in technology since 2010. She has experience starting and scaling a business, driving customer marketing, and speaking at live events, including WeDC Fest 2018. She founded Describli and Paradigm Labs, and currently works with companies to improve their customer relationship management and content strategy.

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