Illuminate Your Dining Experience


How to best light your restaurant.

“In architectural lighting design, the luminous environment evolves out of the character and the intent of the space … and the needs, desires and expectations of the people for whom the space is created” —Carol Chaffee Associates

Lighting is an important tool for the restaurant architect and designer. Appropriate lighting design completes the thought that starts with the design of the physical space and the furniture and objects within that space. Unfortunately, the value of well-designed lighting is often overlooked. We work with lighting designers on most of the restaurants we do. Carol Chaffee Associates of Minneapolis has been involved in many of these projects and has collaborated on this article with me.

A feast for all senses — taste, aroma, sound and music, form, surface finishes, color, art, light, and people — is our expectation when selecting a restaurant for a dining experience. 

When a restaurant is thoughtfully designed, many impressions unite to invite us to return.

Illumination, the ephemeral partner of architecture, completes and reinforces the restaurant design theme and contributes to the positive impression.

The lighting designer addresses:

  • Visibility: perception of form and space.
  • Image to be conveyed.
  • Uses of the space.
  • Color.
  • Surface finishes.
  • Atmosphere.

There are many ways to approach lighting design for restaurants depending on the type of venue and desired atmosphere. Is the theme dramatic, comfortable and casual or maybe family-friendly? The lighting designer uses varied lighting methods and patterns to evoke impressions of privacy or intimacy, relaxation, spaciousness or pleasantness. The designer’s selection of which room surfaces will receive light, overhead versus peripheral lighting emphasis, uniform versus nonuniform lighting, and bright versus dim choices, creates these impressions.

Once the atmosphere to be created is understood, the lighting designer starts with a lighting layout and fixture selection. The design process will always consider a layered lighting approach, light-level variation and lighting control.


Add new comment