It’s hard to believe that the Ham Yard Hotel is the middle of London’s busy Soho. The newly opened £90 million boutique hotel has been designed to feel more like a living room than a commercial space, and the lighting played a big part in creating the right atmosphere. ‘We wanted it to feel like someone’s house with integrated source lighting and statement decorative pieces,’ says Susan Lake, a senior designer at Lighting Design International who devised the scheme.
At first, the owner envisaged that decorative luminaires would provide most of the lighting, but Lake and her team were concerned that the result might end up looking a bit flat. Instead, they came up with a layered scheme that appears to visitors as if it is mainly based on decorative pieces, but in reality combines integrated lighting, accent lighting and decorative lighting. ‘There are a lot of decorative pieces and visitors might think that all the lighting comes from those, but the hard work is actually done by the architectural lighting,’ Lake says. ‘It’s softly done so you don’t always notice it.’
Although the design and decorative elements of the lighting scheme were vital for the overall result, this hasn’t diminished the green credentials of the Ham Yard. ‘They managed to get a BREEAM “excellent” rating,’ confirms Lake, ‘so it’s an energy-efficient project despite all the decorative lighting.’
Here are seven clever ways the Ham Yard Hotel uses lighting.
1 Bookshelf lights
The bookshelf luminaires have a linear LED lamp at the back and an angled, painted MDF that sends the light back out towards the lighting room, drawing attention to the book shelf and adding a fun element to the unpretentious ambience that Lake’s team sought to create.
2 Patterns of light, without shadows
Probably the most distinctive lighting feature at the Ham Yard, the vases placed in rectangular recesses on the back wall of the restaurant serve as luminaires and art pieces at the same time. The lighting design team didn’t want the vases to cast shadows on the wall, so they did a number of tests and mock-ups before they were happy. ‘We discovered that the best way of doing it was to put a GLS LED lamp at the bottom of the niche, then the ceramic vases were hollowed out at the base and placed on top of the light, which reduced any harsh cut-offs,’ said Lake.
3 Quirky candles
From a distance, the back of the 1950s bowling alley looks like a brick wall with real candles flickering in niches in the wall. The bricks aren’t actually real, and nor are the flames. Instead, LED candle lamps have been used to get the flickering effect.
‘It’s a very different hotel and we were trying to come up with different ideas to make each space unique,’ said Lake. ‘We wanted it to feel quirky and unpretentious.’
4 A river of light
When it comes to installing unusual lights outside on a public thoroughfare, it’s always handy to own all the surrounding buildings. Firmdale Hotels, Ham Yard’s parent company, does, so it was relatively easy to excavate the entire courtyard outside the hotel while it was being built. That allowed the lighting team to install a ‘winding stream’ of blue LED lights on the ground, demanding the attention of passers-by and leading guests toward the entrance. ‘We wanted the LEDs to reach all the way to the entrance but due to cost we couldn’t do that. So instead, we had them coming through the arcade and we’ve got them again at the main entrance by the front door,’ says Lake.
Although going below-ground was easy, the Ham Yard still needed to have the right permissions in place. ‘We had to present to Westminster City Council to get planning permission for the exterior lighting because there is a public walkway through the courtyard,’ says Lake. ‘We couldn’t just do what we wanted, we had to get it all agreed by the council.’
5 Controlled focus
Wall art plays an important part in the look of the Ham Yard, no more so than in the area outside the hotel’s meeting room where a triple-height ceiling and tall, retro film posters demand a creative lighting solution. Remote-controlled LED downlights allows the hotel management to change the focus of the lights.
‘As in any hotel they move furniture around and things aren’t always where they used to be, so it’s much easier to be able to angle your lights exactly where you want them with a remote control,’ says Lake who adds: ‘Commissioning is so much easier when you don’t have to get an electrician to go up on a scaffold.
Choosing long-lasting LED downlights over halogen reduces maintenance time and costs, and Lake is happy with the capability of the LED alternative to accurately reproduce the colours of the artwork. ‘These are really good fittings and the colour is really close to the halogen version so we’re really happy.’
6 Reclaimed lines
Rather than going unnoticed, the ceilings in the meeting room and arcade have been emphasised with light that open up the space, bring out the architectural lines and create more indirect light. ‘In the meeting room we used LED ceiling coffers to provide an upright light along with pendants over the table, to get workable upward and downward light at the same time,’ Lake explains. In the bowling area and bar, coffers underneath the worktops of the tills give a similar effect.
7 Emphasis on texture
The red columns in the bar area and bowling alley are covered in fabric, which you don’t necessarily notice from afar. To bring out this quirky feature, downlights have been placed in the ceiling around the columns with visible beams painting parts of the columns.
The ceiling light in the bowling alley has been coloured with a combination of two filters to match the colours of the fabrics on the wall.
At this stage, the lighting team had to adapt their solution to the vibrantly coloured environment. ‘When it came to commissioning the lighting they had already put all the finishes on the walls and a lot of the walls are covered in vibrantly covered fabric. That suited the light even better than we expected, especially around the columns where small LED downlights bring out the vibrancy and texture of the fabric,’ says Lake.