Light fantastic: lighting design for bars and clubs

Adventure Bar in ClaphamLighting design is an essential element of a bar’s ambience and look, reports Mark Ludmon

When you walk past the latest Adventure Bar of an evening, clusters of lights and neon tempt you into an inviting oasis of warmth and style. Lighting design plays a key role in controlling the ambience of the new venue in Clapham, south London, devised by Paul Nulty Lighting Design with design company Finch Interiors. “The lighting design successfully reflects and underlines the Adventure Bar brand and our offer,” says Tom Kidd, one of the directors of the Adventure Bar group. “It’s raw, honest and dramatic.”

The dramatic design comes from using simple theatrical techniques and feature luminaires alongside comfortable lighting for the booths, with low-energy solutions wherever possible. The total expenditure was just £6,500 including a lighting control system, achieved by reclaiming old luminaires and sourcing components such as squirrel cages for the pendants from eBay. A cage area at the back is wrapped with fairy lights, with a striking neon sign saying, “Wait here, I’ve gone for help”, created by Electro Signs (pictured above). At the front of the bar and along the panelled wall and banquettes, there are clusters of light bulbs. “They provide visual emphasis and sparkle, drawing the eye into the space and that of passing trade,” Paul adds.

The use of LED sources at Adventure Bar reflects the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs in favour of LED lamps. While LED is more flexible, Paul points out that it is proving to be one of the biggest challenges in hospitality design because of their higher cost. “The LED affords greater opportunity for long-term cost savings through energy usage. However, hospitality projects are often designed with a three- to five-year design life. This isn’t really enough time to see payback on the increased capital expenditure. Often hospitality projects are delivered on tight budgets and LEDs are inherently more expensive than their incandescent alternatives. They also require complex control systems to dim and create contrast, drama and ambience.”

Paul says this increased layer of cost and complexity will not go away because of increasing legislation, which is why bar owners are turning to specialist lighting designers to find ways of maximising budgets. But he adds a word of caution: “You really do get what you pay for when it comes to LEDs. Cheap ones are ‘cold’ to look at, dim poorly, if at all, and do nothing to create the ambience necessary in the hospitality industry.”

Apres Bar - Mere Green, West MidlandsCleverly concealed RGB LED strips were used to enhance the striking interior of Town & Country Inns’ new Apres bar in the Mere Green area of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. The lighting strips integrate with a wave of ply latticework that runs along the ceiling and down one wall, changing colour from pale golds and aquas in the daytime to the Apres concept’s signature reds during the evening. This geometric lattice design was carried through with the addition of new Foscanini Tress pendants over the bar and booth areas, again in the concept’s trademark red. The striking lighting scheme was devised by Tyson Lighting with designer Matt Rawlinson of Raw Design to accentuate the Apres brand’s new look inspired by contemporary northern European modernist design.

A combination of contemporary and retro lighting was used to help create a stylish, glamorous interior for the Aspers Casino at Westfield Stratford City in east London. From the gaming room to the Sky Bar on the roof, the lighting schemes were created by Inspired by Design. They include the striking, organic-style Ceiling Swirl (pictured below) which echoes the ripples and swirls of water, positioned over the casino’s private bar. Diffused light has been created over the poker tables by using hand-pleated Taupe Organza circular shades while clusters of 1950s-style Circular Pendulum ceiling lights with black silk shades add to the ambience of the restaurant and gaming tables.

Aspers Casino by Inspired By DesignInspired by Design also worked for Gala Casino in Russell Square, London, commissioned by Fisch Design to revamp the lighting to create a “wow factor”. After the removal of a crystal chandelier, a new centrepiece was needed for the gaming room so Inspired by Design came up with a large crystal bead chain light feature. Maninder Lloyla, creative director at Fisch Design, says: “Overall the lighting was a key factor in the design but we were looking for a bold statement, something to create a bit of a talking point. The effect of the new feature is like a crystal waterfall in the middle of the gaming room.”

Bold, dramatic lighting features are one of the specialisms of Lightstyle, which has created stunning stairwell lighting for hotels and restaurants such as The Warrington pub and restaurant in Maida Vale, London, previously part of Gordon Ramsay Holdings and now run by Faucet Inn. For the Holiday Inn Express in Oxford Road in Manchester city centre, Lightstyle created a twisted class chandelier four metres in height and 1,400cm in diameter for designer Lautus Design of Guernsey, creating a “wow factor” for guests arriving at the hotel.

Industrial-style light fittings are particularly on trend at the moment, from reclaimed metal factory lights to old schoolroom pendants. This demand is met by the Urban Vintage range from furniture and interiors specialist Andy Thornton, which has unveiled more vintage and industrial contract lighting for 2013. Additions include a new collection of industrial pendants in chrome and old white, with matching wall lights available to complement the look (pictured left). “The pendants look particularly effective hanging over a bar or table,” says Lucie Bartle of Andy Thornton, “and would look equally striking in a very contemporary interior or to complement the more industrial ‘lived-in’ look which is so in demand at the moment.”

Case study: Blue Boar

A former government building has been transformed into the InterContinental London Westminster hotel, including the stand-alone Blue Boar Bar & Restaurant. RPW Design worked on the interior design, including the decorative lighting, for all the public areas including the intimate, wood-panelled cocktail bar.

Reclaimed antiques were transformed into unusual lighting by Antiques By Design, such as a light made from an old-fashioned radio speaker (pictured). Pendant lights made of antique nickel complement the bar’s masculine style and are grouped or hung individually to create intimate lighting above each seating area, sourced from Marston & Langinger.

Bespoke industrial-style lights over the bar were designed by RPW Design to fit into the overall masculine, clubby design concept but to add an edgy look. They were made for the bar by Frandsen Projekt in Denmark.

Case studies: SGM brings dramatic lighting to clubs

A centrepiece of Luminar Group’s new Moka nightclub in Crawley, West Sussex, is a dramatic ceiling starburst using 120 LT-100 LED pixel tubes from lighting specialist SGM. Run from a proprietary media server, they have been rendered and pixel-mapped so that lighting chase sequences can change from resembling a spectrum analyser to sending waves shimmering through the one-metre rods.

Lighting technician Paul Manser was impressed by the LEDs. “I have used LED systems before but not in this format. Anything that I have used hasn’t provided any kind of pattern definition. This really expands my creativity.” The rig is accentuated by six of SGM’s powerful Idea Beam 300 automated heads which merge with pre-existing equipment to enhance the dancing experience.

The LT-100s build up through the night, starting by just flickering on the edges but bursting with more graphic effects when the dancefloor is buzzing, mostly controlled manually. At the end of the evening, it cross-fades bright slabs of colour and then goes completely white to signal it is time to go. “Customers are now getting used to it, and it really helps the crowds disperse quickly,” says general manager Adam Foxley. “The lighting is fantastic. We are using it very much as a special effect and I am sure it’s one reason that the club has been running at capacity.”

The installation was carried out by Technical Arts, and the SGM fixtures were supplied by UK distributor LED Projects. The overall club was designed by Design At Source. Click here for more on Moka.

More than 1,000 LED light sources from SGM have been used at the new 1,800-capacity Wonderland nightclub in Maidstone, Kent. Formerly a Liquid club, a stunning new look has been designed by Terri Naylor of Dakota House of Design for operator No Saints.

LED paper lanterns greet customers as they arrive in the foyer and walkways while the main club space, called Tomorrow, features flown arrays of eight SGM SP-6 Six Pack blinders and four banks of four SGM X-5 white strobes which pulse onto the dancefloor, punctuating the beam action from 24 SGM Beam 300 moving heads. The centrepiece is an overhang comprising 225 of SGM’s one-metre LT-100 pixel tubes, interspersed with 784 bright Led Pix LP-700 pixel cubes, zipping along the ceiling between each row.

First published in the February 2013 issue of Bar magazine.

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