Birth Of A Hotel: How Lighting Affects A Traveler’s Hotel Experience

As we’ve explored in the “Birth of a Hotel” series thus far, hotels, particularly those in the luxury sector, take the little details very seriously. To (pardon the pun) shed even more light on the issue, we turned to Jeff Dross, corporate director of education and industry trends at Ohio’s Kichler Lighting.

What we found? Much like our interview earlier in the series with Mood Media, lighting is a delicate blend of art, science and environmental awareness.

There are three basic types of light for any room – task, ambient and accent. The wattage and placement of each can dramatically affect everything from a guest’s mood to their sleep habits.
Task lights, for example, are found over work desks or in a bathroom, allowing for a guest to fulfill basic needs like applying makeup or to do work.

Ambient lighting is a general layer of light applied to any room, taking into account natural light from windows or other spaces. These lights are often your basic on-off switches when you enter a room.

Accent lights, Dross explains, are what makes the room look pretty. “It’s the reason we might wear jewelry… it adds to the general interest of a room.”

These terms apply to any interior space, but are particularly important in hotels looking to craft a specific aesthetic or mood.

Dross, who has been working in lighting for nearly four decades, says that hotels have only recently begun to put these lighting techniques into regular practice, including guidelines for specific lighting types as well as the aesthetic (lamps, etc.) into manuals and best practice guides.

The biggest challenge, he says, has been moving away from incandescent lighting to more energy-efficient products. These changes, along with a greater focus in the residential front on light color, opened up the average homeowner and traveler’s eyes to the power of properly-lit rooms.”Oftentimes lighting is forgotten. [Designers] make take a week and a half selecting the lamp or the sconce and [debate] how they’re going to illuminate the light in the bathroom or powder area… but I don’t know that they’re taking as much time with the color,” he says.

Hotels, he explains, had previously purchased lights that were “very blue,” ranging to nearly 5000 Kelvin. Appropriate lighting would be nearly half that, at around 2700 Kelvin, which offer a warmer, more comfortable tone.

The good news is that hotels have improved. “If you to compare 2012 with 2008, I would say every hotel is spending more time thinking about the appropriate color of lighting.”

Hotels still have a long way to go, however, particularly franchised brands. Standards may spec out the lamp or bed type, but they often neglect the light bulb itself, or staff replacing the burnt out bulbs could opt for cost instead of color.

So do us a favor – next time you’re in a hotel, take a mental comparison of the lighting techniques used throughout the room. Do you like what you see? Your answer may be a clue into how deeply the hotel delves into the details of the guest experience.

The Birth of a Hotel” is a Gadling-exclusive series that details what happens as a hotel prepares to open. Follow along with the articles and updates at “The Birth Of A Hotel” page, here. We’d also love to hear from you, our readers. If you have a topic about hotel development or trends that you’d love to see explored, or leave a comment below.

[Image Credit: Capella Washington D.C. preview image of the hotel’s Presidential Suite]