Lighting design is one of the aspects of every project that can so easily be overlooked at the outset or underestimated in its importance. Mystery and Nulty Lighting director, Emilio Hernandez, reveal some of the ways that good lighting design can shape your hospitality brand. 

Hal's Bar & Grill

It’s easy to see lighting as simply a functional part of the design, but it’s a crucial aspect that not only contributes to the overall brand experience, but also encourages customers to part with their cash and therefore increase your bottom line! It all comes down to how every aspect of the design of a restaurant, bar or club needs to engage with the customer and create an emotional connection…

“Each and every space we visit or pass through evokes some degree of emotional reaction, either consciously or sub-consciously,” says Emilio Hernandez, Director of Nulty Lighting, specialists in hospitality lighting.

Adventure Bar Clapham Junction Neon Corridor

Control your customers’ speed and direction

Have you ever noticed how you slow down when you walk into darker spaces? This is no mere accident and, darker lit spaces encourage customers to slow down, increasing dwell time and therefore potential revenue.

This is a trick that has long been used by retailers and we use to much success on our restaurant and bar designs when appropriate.  Of course, the key is to make sure this is relevant to your concept.

Clients that approach us looking to create a grab and go concept, we might suggest a brighter lighting scheme to, to encourage higher customer turnover.

The importance of light and shade

It is critical that any lighting we do introduce into our schemes is considered in not just an aesthetic way, but a practical way too.  Both the lighting source and the shades need to be considered independently.

Bokan restaurant interior at night

Sourcing the right shade would commonly be considered to be merely an aesthetic necessity, however with our high rise restaurant/ bar concept, BOKAN in Canary Wharf,  with its spectacular views and huge amounts of glass window, whilst we picked beautiful fittings that reflect the brand concept, we also had to ensure that the shades themselves shielded the bulbs within, as any exposed bulbs would be reflected back on the the perimeter glass, which would interfere with that key USP – the view itself.

“Material finish samples are critical to lighting,” says Hernandez. “For example, specular finishes (cut glass, crystal, chrome) require a number of point or focused light sources to be best revealed, however, to avoid glare, they need to be dimmed and balanced with ambient light or an evenly illuminated diffuse surface to create a comfortable environment.”

Lighting to tell a story

We don’t want to ignore the aesthetic importance of decorative lighting to create an amazing brand experience and help to convey the brand’s story and personality.

Za Za Bazaar Busy Restaurant

When we created ZaZa Bazaar in Newcastle, we knew we wanted to create a concept that was inspired by the street markets of Asia, so we sourced a striking array of lights that became the key feature for the interior design of the project.

Intricate, innovative and defining; each lighting element was picked to create flow, atmosphere, authenticity and intrigue and we are immensely proud of the result.

Multi-functional spaces

Adjusting the lighting levels and therefore mood throughout the day can also help to create an all-day concept feel that will provide you with a steady flow of customers from open to close.

Scarpetta Handmade By Italians

“Understanding how a space will be used means that a lighting designer can make sure that a lighting scheme’s range of light levels and scenes accommodate both vibrant and intimate levels,” says Hernandez.

“We’ll often talk about how hard a particular light source needs to “work” in a space, but in an ideal design there will be the ability to control or balance a number of light sources to achieve the required light levels, while providing a feeling of quality and depth.”

Scarpetta Counter

This was particularly important with Scarpetta, a Canary Wharf all-day venue we designed with Nulty, which included a day time restaurant, night time bar and product displays – all in one multi-functional space.

There is so much more that can be said about lighting for any hospitality project, be it daytime café, night club, bar, restaurant or all-day venue that requires mood-shifting throughout the day.

Scarpetta Lighting

“Increasingly and excitingly, lighting is being seen and appreciated as a tool or medium to help transform spaces throughout the day,” says Hernandez. “By this I’m referring less to ‘feature lighting’, such as large chandeliers or a back-illuminated feature wall, and more to clients who understand the need for layers of light and multiple diffuse, directional and ambient light sources.”

Ultimately, every single client and every single venue is different and requires different lighting design. Effective lighting is incredibly important but as one part of an overall concept it also needs to work with everything else.

“When it comes to hospitality, lighting design doesn’t exist in isolation – it merely helps define the space,” says Hernandez. “If you think of a venue you’ve visited that has a certain atmosphere, it will most likely have a thoughtful blend of materials, interior finishes, music and light, which all complement each other.”

Browse some of our hospitality projects to see how we’ve successfully used lighting in all of them to suit the purpose of each venue.

For more lighting design inspiration and tips, go to

To discuss the interior design for your hospitality brand, call the team.