Three ways to light a hotel lobby

Hotels aren’t just for sleeping. They are used for conferences and meetings. Most have restaurants and coffee shops. The whole world passes through the hotel lobby but in the main, people who stay go there to meet.

The overall look and feel of a lobby is usually determined by the architecture and interior design. But the UK has some of the best lighting designers in the world and they can often take the lead in making the most of a space. The larger hotel chains will also have guidelines for lighting.

However, if a designer is not involved and there isn’t any guidance, this article should give you some ideas.

First, a regimented array of luminaires giving uniform illumination across the whole space just won’t do the job.

Apart from making sure that any steps or ramps can be seen, there isn’t much in the way of ‘tasks’ that have to be illuminated. People quite often read or use a laptop/tablet in these areas so you should provide enough local lighting (or maybe a narrow spotlight in the ceiling).

Glare shouldn’t be a problem, but remember that the seating in these areas tends to be quite low. This can give you a more direct view into the luminaire and therefore more chance of seeing a bare lamp.

The three options all use a combination of similar luminaires but the emphasis is different.

The visible lobby area in the example used here is about 15 x 10m. The overall height of the ceiling is 3m, but many of the luminaires are in a dropped beam at 2.5m.

The key to this is the 10W Sola M10 fire-rated downlight. They have a 40-degree beam so they can be used to light large open areas. Here, they are used in the circulation areas and also in some parts of the central seating space. Their fire rating means that they can be used in almost any area of a hotel or home.

The M10s are also used in the other two options for background lighting and circulation.

The other major feature in this option is the use of 15W pendants over the tables. Varying the output of these in combination with the downlights means the emphasis can change by day and night.

To provide more contrast, there are directional spotlights over the sofas. Again, these can be used in combination with the pendants and other downlights.

Finally, the rear wall has wide angle wall washers recessed above in the beam to provide a soft scalloped effect on the textured surface.

This option is the best way to break up a large space and offers the greatest number of scenes.


Tech spec

Luminaires Predominantly downlights and pendants

Optical control Reflector

Arrangement As shown

Electrical load 7W/m2

Pros Very flexible; suits any mood

Cons Requires careful co-ordination

The most striking aspect of this scheme is the narrow angle scalloping on the textured rear wall. This is provided by spotlights hidden behind a small upstand. On either side are similar wall lights that continue the theme.

We have then used colour-changing RGB strip in the coving and in the reception area panel to the right. These could be matched for continuity or made different shades to provide contrast. Colour change can be wonderfully subtle or it can be used to create a big impact. We can't show the changing colour here, unfortunately, and it is always advisable when speaking to clients to show visualisations of the space with different coloured scenes. If in doubt, do a demonstration.

As with the first option, there are directional spotlights above the sofas and fixed ones in the circulation areas.


Tech spec

Luminaires Fixed and adjustable spotlights

Optical control Reflector

Arrangement As shown

Electrical load 6.5W/m2

Pros Striking appearance

Cons Always take care when aiming adjustable spotlights

This almost exclusively uses linear LED strip, both white and RGB. The wide angle and high output of the strip means that with sufficient care (and calculation) you can light the whole space.

The main source of illumination in the central space comes from the light above the coving. This could be cool or warm depending on the time of day. There is also a centrally mounted spotlight over the table.

​The linear theme continues with lines around the end wall that emphasise the rectangular pillars and beams. This is a good way of providing continuity in a large building.

The ability to change the colour means that there are almost endless possibilities using linear RGB strip. The technology can be simple to use and it is easy to get carried away with a huge variety of coloured scenes. You just have to make sure that colour doesn’t dominate more important issues such as the overall look and function of the space.


Tech spec

Luminaires RGB and white linear LED

Optical control Opal diffusers or recessed

Arrangement As shown

Electrical load 7W/m2

Pros Emphasises the rectangularity of the space

Cons Always take care not to overdo the colour change