The Kona restaurant is within the 5 star residencies of 51 Buckingham Gate, London SW1 – a part of the adjacent Taj Hotel St James’ Court Hotel.
The clientele rent apartments and rooms for short stays and a decision was made to convert ground floor offices to a restaurant and dining rooms to serve the guests within the building and the general public – serving from early breakfast through to late night service.
To collaborate with the hotel’s long standing interior designer to create a restaurant lighting strategy. Despite the designer being very experienced, the project benefitted from our role as dedicated lighting designers to oversee the restaurant lighting layout, the integration of LED lighting into the built design, the overall restaurant lighting design with our specification and supply of the architectural lighting fixtures and full digital controls. On site oversight throughout the installation and full commissioning. Liaison and meetings throughout with the hotels management, appointed architects and various contractors.
Restaurant lighting principles of good design remain a constant whatever the budget or space they are for. There are core principles that are essential to the functionality but also subjective restaurant lighting design ideas that belong to the individual designer and are to be offered into the melting pot of group decision making. Despite being employed directly by the hotel, we remained independent in our proposals and lighting design choices to offer the client and designer fresh ideas.
The restaurant lighting requirements are where the design begins and are shaped around how this dining space will run at the various times of day throughout the seasons.
For example, there will be an early morning service for breakfast. This time of day will see the space relying 100% on artificial lighting in the winter so a decision needed to be made to cater for a high lux level for a fresh morning feel. However, the primary function was to create restaurant ambient lighting for a finer dining ambience, so the lighting had to be adaptable for each ‘scene’ and when to change by tracking the sun rise and set throughout the year. This is where the restaurant colour temperature warmed as the day progressed into the evening, by dimming certain circuits to emphasise pockets of warm white light over pictures, from wall lights and in bar detailing.
A restaurant lighting design should not dominate the space and only become a focal point where the interior design benefits from its contribution. These lighting focal points are to be chosen at the time of design but will sometimes become more evident to us as the design process is maturing.
For example, the end wall of a particular dining space had a collection of framed prints which we framed the group with an hidden LED illuminated ‘frame’ of light – making the entire wall a lit framed picture.
A restaurant lighting trend at the time of hand blown fluted glass wall lights with tassels, added a whimsical decorative element and a useful accent light circuit that became an important element.
The restaurant mood lighting or ‘ambience’ came from the layers of light that contributed to the lower restaurant lighting lux levels and more individual elements of lighting. For example, a hidden strip of light in a bespoke profiled picture frame was given a decorative part to play as the levels lowered for the evening service, but in the day their emphasis was not as pronounced. This was a key lighting design decision, to use the hidden reflected light as an alternative to downlighters to provide background lighting and become a feature. Task light downlighters were always used to pin spot over the tables and adjustable to allow for table position moves.
The restaurant lighting zones were easily created as the dining spaces were created from three existing rooms that were brought together. Although we were not responsible for cable runs within an existing hotel, our decision making of circuit break downs were influenced by the constraints of the building.
The dimming racks that all circuits ran back to, were located back of house outside of the restaurant with a control network running within the restaurant for a hidden touch screen located within a cupboard that housed many of the circuits LED power supplies.
The restaurant lighting commissioning is a fundamental and exciting final stage of the process. The clients expected uses of each space throughout all occasions is listed and rationalised into ‘scenes’. For example, breakfast service, lunchtime service, early evening service and late night. The restaurant lighting levels are then balanced by changing the intensity of all contributing lighting circuits and prest for easy recall. Each scene progression is triggered by the movement of the sun. For example – we bring transition from daytime to evening lighting slowly over a period of time around the setting of the sun throughout the year.
Every choice of scene can be manually adapted by staff on demand if required with the default choice restoring itself for the next day.