Designers talk lighting trends, LEDs

Fire Farm

Lighting design has become a very sophisticated art form in hospitality projects, according to EJ Phillips, national sales manager of the showroom division at Nora Lighting. “Visitors now walk into a lobby or restaurant and are impressed with the overall lighting effects produced by layered lighting, which creates mood, ambiance and excitement.” 

“Clean, modern, minimalist designs have gained traction in hip and trendy hotels, along with steampunk, in which odd objects are transformed into lighting fixtures,” Phillips said. “Gritty, metal finishes and repurposed objects are reinvented as creative lighting fixtures, along with geometric-styled glass pendants, sconces and chandeliers.” 

In terms of materials, Phillips has seen a rise in copper, stainless steel and perforated metals for urban designs. “Cylindrical and triangular shapes are popular pendant styles,” he said. “They define the smart, hip, ‘metro’ look, yet transitional styles still continue to be popular in dining rooms.”

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The Rise of LEDs

What was possible five years ago and what is possible today is like night and day, said Adam Jackson Pollock, director of Fire Farm Lighting. “Within a few short years all the constraints to design imposed by concerns about heat, material suitability, lamping size, weight and even shock hazard have been almost completely eliminated,” he said.

Shadows and sparkle add dynamism, and fluorescent lights weren’t helping, Pollock said. “LED brought that back, and then opened the door to so many more materials and expressions that were impossible before,” he said. “It added a tremendous layer of complexity to the implementation of the technology and its control, but it also opened up tremendous new opportunities.”

Pollock believes that LED is the dominant driver of design. “There seems to be an emphasis on clusters of smaller individual lighting elements and a surge in linear and circular fixtures that weren’t really possible before. I think we will start to see fixtures that go beyond exploring what forms are now possible with linear LED, but actually start to explore the technology for its unique qualities and explore the way the light interacts with material and how that light affects the room around it.” 

“LEDs have impacted the look of pendants and chandeliers because the LED package is now smaller and more compact,” Phillips said. “Designs are sleeker because of the size reduction in the cavities needed to hold the LED light sources. So the look of LED chandeliers and pendants has become more modern and imaginative. There is also better visual comfort, improved color rendition and new control of Kelvin temperatures, along with a respect for the mood of the environment.”

Not every designer is a fan of LEDs, however. While he uses them for some pieces, designer Christopher Moulder prefers to stick to the classic incandescent bulbs for aesthetic purposes. “LEDs are getting better and better, but I have yet to find a light source as full and warm [as an incandescent]—which is important when you want to look good in a hotel,” he said. Still, the color rendering from LEDs is improving, and the bulbs are also being recreated for 360-degree lighting instead of the (so-far) traditional spotlight model. 

But even Moulder appreciates the value LEDs provide. “LEDs are much more efficient,” he said. “I can have more light coming from the same transformer."

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