Nobu – Monte Carlo

During these hot Summer days and nights – my thoughts drift back to a wonderful project – designing the lighting scheme for a NOBU restaurant in Monte Carlo (no less). In a place with seemingly constant sunshine, it was an interesting challenge translating the role of artificial light under the intense Mediterranean sun within a highly glazed space raised and cantilevered over the sea.
After all – lighting design primarily looks at illuminating a space when the sun goes down, but it is important to remember that it remains an important tool to use in the day. The interior scheme had a cool coloured palette so light reflected very well – but we still needed to produce highlights with lighting strong enough to cope with a restricted field of contrast. Inside, the drinks and sushi prep bars needed to be lit well throughout in the day.
The challenge was to create an illuminated atmosphere conducive for high-end dining in what became an increasingly restrictive space. The concrete construction and the various site constraints stopped us from using many ‘go to’ solutions. Coupled with the interior designer’s preference not to use floor and table lights; the opportunities to position and hide lighting fixtures shrank dramatically.

What do you do…

This is when every lighting fixture counts and it must make a major contribution to the scheme or it’s out. Too much lighting kills the dining atmosphere and we had to heavily rely on downlighting from a relatively high ceiling. This is where commissioning and the scene setting was so important, to build in lots of circuits for as much control as possible within budget and shape the scheme from there.

We also decided to create pockets of light that formed accents, lightly contributing to the overall lighting levels at night. This was mostly affected by lighting the sculpture.

The one place we could deploy recessed floor lights was to enhance the evening scene with a shimmer of the fabric which echoed the rippling of the sea. The was achieved by siting voile fabric surrounding the private dining tables, and uplighting and downlighting the material with a 3000K warm white shallow recessed floor up-lighter.


Another challenge was lighting a huge winding sculpture – a bespoke piece only seen in sketch form at the time of our design. The key was to light it dramatically without spoiling the ambience of the rest of the interior. However, how do you light a sculpture that is so open, where some of the light catches on the form but a lot of it will just pass through and travel deeper into the space?

“What do you do with this light spill – harness it or minimise? How do you avoid glare to the diners?”

The solution to this major piece of the lighting design jigsaw was to light it in pockets to create accent light. Choosing lines of sight from common thoroughfares we lit the piece to draw the eye through the space to the sculpture. The fixture we finally chose to do the job was a deep baffled LED spotlight on drop rods, with a long snoot at the front of the light to restrict potential glare unless a diner tried to look down the barrel of the fitting. This also helped funnel the light and stop unwanted spill.

“How do you create a flexible lighting scheme in a widely open plan space that required flexible table plans – in fact no specific set table plans?”

Downlighting was the only tool at our disposal. Breaking the fixtures down into multiple groups for a number of preset scenarios so the tables could be moved but would have to follow the spotlight onto the middle of the table.

The issue with too much downlighting is it can flatten the scheme with light mostly coming from one direction. They had to be significantly dimmed at night but were still on call to whack up to full on dull winter days. Amazingly, even Monaco gets rain!


The captivating drama of the restaurant is the sushi preparation area ‘staged’ within the restaurant. It had to be well lit for the safe functional use of extremely sharp knives, the sculpture above had to be lit too – all without bleeding out too much light into the dining space and flattening the lighting scheme.

We initially tried to rely on the overhead downlighting through the sculpture but the lux levels were not sufficient and we had to cancel out unwanted shadows from the sculptural rods above. We choose polished chrome display lighting to increase the levels, positioned close to the task area.

There – a thorny problem but successfully resolved and a scheme that has received complimentary feedback by the operators and customer alike.
If you have a knotty problem why not share it with the team at Orange Lighting. It’s not everyday we are commissioned by Monte Carlo restaurants – we happily make do with the UK! Just call us…

Andrew Orange, the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.