Three ways to light a lift lobby

Lift lobbies are one of the key public areas in hotels, and it’s worth making a good impression.

You are unlikely to have to light a lift lobby as a standalone project but, in any case, it should be considered in relation to the adjacent areas. In the hospitality sector this most probably means the reception area and nearby restaurant and bar. The hotel’s interior design will, to a large extent, determine the type of lighting you put in the lift lobby.

From an illuminating engineering standpoint, you’ve got a fairly free hand. There’s no real ‘task’ to perform and glare is unlikely to be an problem because guests are only in the space for a short time. However, many large hotel chains have their own style guides. This can restrict what you can do and limit creativity.

In the absence of any other guidance, you could consider the lobby as a workplace. Here, the recommended illumination levels are 200-300 lx horizontal, ensuring good vertical illumination on people’s faces (and ensuring that the lift buttons are visible). The amount of illumination should be similar to that in the spaces at either end of the lobby.

Don’t forget that lift lobbies don’t usually receive much daylight. There are liftshafts on either side and often an internal corridor on another. The lighting will be on most or all of the time so efficient sources will save you a lot of money.

One particular bugbear of mine is a lift lobby that is difficult to find, so one of the suggested options here is designed to help overcome that problem.

The lobby in our example here is about 3m wide, 3m high and 9m long with a corridor at the end.

Direct/indirect units are common in spaces with a high ceiling, although the one in this example is only 3m high. The appearance of the luminaire is crucial to the effect you want to achieve. I have used a modern-looking unit. In technical terms, you could most probably achieve similar horizontal and vertical illumination using a large pendant lampshade, but few suppliers offer photometric data for those, so it’s trickier to give an example.

The advantage of this option is that you can make a big statement with it. These ‘commercial’ pendants and lampshades are often more than a metre across. For the same reason, it’s easy to get it wrong. If you’re not careful your lobby can be poor taste writ large.

Tech spec

  • Luminaires Direct/indirect pendant using ceramic metal halide lamps
  • Optical control Matt white reflectors
  • Arrangement Two as shown
  • Average horizontal illuminance 190 lx
  • Electrical load 6W/m2
  • Pros Easy to install
  • Cons Getting the right style of luminaire is crucial

Here, the only lighting for the lobby is around the door frame at the entrance to the lift. The effect is quite dramatic – especially if the walls and floor have dark finishes such as black marble or leather. During my research, I came across a lobby for a merchant bank where the floor was made of dark wood and the walls were equally sombre.

I was doubtful about the amount of light that would enter the lobby area but the calculations show that we achieve an average of 200 lx on the horizontal plane although, unsurprisingly, it’s quite a bit darker at the mid-point between the doors. Don’t be tempted to wind up the output from the T5s or LEDs to boost the illumination level. If you are not careful, the strips will become too bright and glaring.

This solution works best with narrow lobbies; ones that are, say, less than 3m wide.

Depending on the size of the space and the surface finishes, you should consider whether any extra lighting is necessary to supplement the central area.


Tech spec

  • Luminaires Custom-made T5 or LED strip in lift door frame
  • Optical control Opal diffuser
  • Arrangement Around three sides of lift entrance
  • Average horizontal illuminance 205 lx
  • Electrical load 13W/m2
  • Pros Dramatic, works well in a small lobby
  • Cons You must make sure the surrounds aren’t too brigh

This will give the guests something to talk about. If you are happy using colour, this option is great for attracting attention and opens up a world of possibilities. If you are using only white light, then T5 would be an alternative to LEDs. But this option works best with coloured LEDs. An obvious solution is to use the corporate colours of the establishment. If there aren’t any, employ someone who understands how to use colour.

Be wary of frequent colour changing – how many times have you seen it done well?

This option must be carefully integrated into the architecture. Don’t assume there is space in the walls and ceiling for the recessed strips.


Tech spec

  • Luminaires Recessed LED
  • Optical control Prismatic lens
  • Arrangement A funky zig zag pattern
  • Average horizontal illuminance >500 lx on white setting
  • Electrical load 15W/m2
  • Pros You can’t miss it
  • Cons Try to avoid chromatic overkill


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