Poor hotel lighting

A couple of months ago my partner and I had a few nights in a contemporary hotel that had acres of dark grey textured walls, dark wood or leather floors and black leather furniture in its lobby, reception, bar and restaurant. The corridors had dark grey wall coverings and carpets with lighting rafts the only illumination washing a little light a tiny way down the walls. This made for a mean, moody and enveloping atmosphere to suit the not far from the arctic-circle location.

Our bathroom was a dark grey polished concrete pod and the dark wood bedroom furniture sat on a dark leather tiled floor. The walls and the bedlinen were pure white, creating a surprisingly bright and airy atmosphere in the northern late winter afternoon when we arrived. There was only one lighting circuit for the bathroom and one for the bedroom but the bedroom was on a large push dimmer so we’d be able to change the light levels. We dumped our bags and rushed out, eager to make the best use of our time.

When we returned late in the afternoon, I realised it wasn’t going to be easy to get ready for dinner in that room. I spend my life looking upwards wherever I go (my partner swears that I will break my neck one day!) but I hadn’t noticed earlier that the only lights in the bathroom were a pair of deeply recessed downlights in the high ceiling above the washbasin. The much larger bedroom fared little better with a matching pair of downlights above the desk and a pair of solid black metal bedside pendants. The only lighting control that was possible turned out to be from dingy to “black hole of Calcutta”.

I find myself continually disappointed by hotels having incredibly poor bathroom lighting. I usually find it impossible to put my makeup on without balancing on one leg to lean across the washbasin to be under a downlight. Downlights – the clue is in the name – create harsh shadows on the face when they are the only form of illumination. There’s usually somewhere in the bedroom that’s just about OK for making up. I usually sit on the floor at the bedside table or at the desk with a portable mirror and a lot of messing around with a table or desk lamp. This time there were no table or desk lamps and the bedside lights just cast a weak downlight. The next day I had to ensure that I made-up for the evening by balancing my mirror on the windowsill to use the available natural light.

As a Lighting Designer I completely understand that atmosphere and style are vital in a hotel interior design scheme. One of my main aims for any lighting scheme is providing enough light to undertake the expected tasks. Another is creating changes of atmosphere in rooms that will benefit from it by building in layers of light from bright to very subtle. Am I the only person who wishes that more hotels would bear in mind function as well as form?

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