The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Lighting

Key Points

Create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere in every room of your hotel with these tops tips on hotel lighting. On this page, you can find out more about the following:

You can create an ambience your guests will love simply by installing new lighting.
Speak to the team today on 0113 8876270 email for help and advice.

Lighting is all about creating an atmosphere from the moment someone walks into a building, to the time they leave, and so is crucial to maintaining a hotel's image and business.

This is a simple guide to some common hotel lighting ideas which can create a comfortable, welcoming space for both guests and staff. However, this is only a guide, and if you find an idea that goes against the grain, but works for you, then it could be an innovative way to make your hotel stand out.

How to get the basics of hotel lighting right

These are things that are not only applicable to hotel's, but all types of lighting. These ideas should be implemented and thought about throughout when designing and fitting the lighting.

Natural Light

This is your friend! Many people are often inside all day in office jobs or meetings, and so letting the natural light flow through the building will be a welcome change. If it proves difficult to get natural light into a space, artificial lights with a colour temperature close to daylight (4000K+), are a good substitute. Also, this means that maintenance such as cleaning windows should be a high priority, as it will mean more light is coming through.


With your lighting you are aiming to create part of your brand image. Whether this be cosy, elegant, or futuristic, your lighting should reflect this, while still being practical. This is where decorative lighting can be really useful.


Layering your lighting will really help bring a room together, and this is why it's mentioned so often. The three layers that need balancing are:

  • Ambient= filler light to cover the whole of room
  • Task= for specific tasks, such as behind the reception desks
  • Accent= for highlighting certain features such as nice architecture or a piece of art

Dimmable/Controllable Lights

Not everyone needs or wants the same amount of light, and as the lights changes through the day, you might want to change it to save energy. For example, if it's a nice day outside, you are unlikely to need the foyer lights on full brightness. Having dimmable lights that can either change automatically or which can be manually changed could solve this problem. Make sure to check that your lights are dimmable before purchase however, as not all are. You can find out more about installing dimmable bulbs in your hotel with our frequently asked questions on dimmable light bulbs.


This article's focus will be on the type and amount of lights used, but that doesn't mean that the design of the fixtures are less important. This will be down to a personal choice about which best suit your brand and the room they are going in.

An area-by-area guide to lighting

In this section, we will go through each area of the hotel individually and give some helpful tips on how to light them.

Entrance/ Foyer

The entrance and foyer provide the first impressions of what the guest can expect throughout the inside of the hotel and so it's important that it has the 'Wow!' factor.

Lighting experts state there are four areas within the entrance of a building which each need to be lighted slightly differently. Here's what you should aim for with the lighting in these areas:

  1.  The actual entrance= Just in the doorway you might want to add an adaptation area, to allow a guest's eyes to deal with the change in lighting. During the day this can be brightly lit, to mimic outdoors, whereas at night it can be dimmer.
  2. Lobby= This is what people are going to notice once their eyes adjust. Recently, statement chandeliers have been creeping back into fashion as they are really eye-catching, but other forms of decorative lights can be equally effective and are less maintenance. A seating area is also common nowadays, and it is necessary to light this properly such as for people who want to read. This can be achieved through pendant lights or desk lights on nearby tables.
  3. Reception= One of the first things people will be looking for is the reception desk and so it's important to make it stand out. You can either do this by lighting it brightly with LEDs or Fluorescents, which will also mean that both guests and staff can see each other clearly. You can also get creative with some accenting LED ribbon lights around the top of the desk, just to make it more eye catching. Matte counters are also good for avoiding glare from overhead lights.***
  4. Surrounding Corridors= The key element to think about is keeping corridors bright enough to be inviting and welcoming. Not many people want to feel like they're entering a tunnel on the way to their room!

****Don’t forget to light behind your reception desk too! Task desk lighting and some backlighting for computers can make a receptionist's day much easier, and help them welcome guests and deal with problems smoother and quicker.


The bedroom is a place to relax after a long day of sightseeing and will be the place the guests sees most of within the hotel. Don't let the rooms lighting let you down! Here are some basic tips:

  • Basic ambient lighting can be created by having recessed downlights in the ceiling. Making sure this lighting is dimmable will also be a positive, as it means different guests can change the lighting to suit their needs. You can also add in a decorative piece, if you think this will add something to the room.
  • People now expect lighting by their bedsides, but make sure it isn't blinding. Smaller bulbs with warmer colour temperatures are best for this. Mounting bedside lights onto the walls also frees up more side-table space.
  • Placing light switches by the bed is a must, as it means people don't have to stumble around a dark, unfamiliar room trying to find their way back to bed.
  • Do not make the lighting system so complex it cannot be easily understood. Although some people love new technology, some just want to keep it simple, and too many switches are seen as a nuisance.
  • If there is a desk in the room, make sure there's sufficient task lighting. This might just mean adding a desk light onto one side, or making sure there's a spotlight pointing towards it, but the good lighting will make any person who is using the room on a business trip very happy.
  • If you are updating your lighting systems, perhaps it would be a good idea to invest in lights which are linked to a key card system, meaning the lights would only be on when the room is occupied, saving both energy and money


There are certain rules from home lighting which can be used here, such as dimmable downlights for the ambient lights and having lights either side of the mirrors for task lighting. To find out more, you can read our post here about getting more from bathroom lighting, but for that extra special feel, here are some tips.

  • Using light coloured surfaces mean that you don’t have to use as much light because the colour will reflect the light around the room.
  • White Opal Glass can help avoid the glare diffused, direct light can cause, which makes the bathroom a much more relaxing space to be in.
  • Special lighting, such as LED ribbon lights around the counter, will just add that extra hint of style that might not be apparent in home bathroom lighting.
  • If there is a bath, try not to have a downlight directly above it as people are likely to be looking upwards and so could be accidentally blinded by the light in their eyes.

Corridor and Stairs

Although this may not be the first place you think about lighting, corridors and staircases need to be well lit for safety reasons, as well as aesthetic ones.

  • Like the bedrooms, most places like to have uniform lighting throughout their corridors, as this creates a sense of continuity and efficiency.
  • Bouncing light off of walls and ceilings can make a smaller corridor appear bigger. This only works with light coloured walls however, as darker coloured walls would absorb the light.
  • Corridors can be lit by overhead luminaries, such as LED panels at regular intervals. Also, placing lights at either chest or foot level can help guide a path through the building in case of emergency, and adds an interesting feature to the wall. Alternatively, corridors are more likely to have artwork or plants in them, which would benefit from accent lighting via a spotlight.
  • Staircases are also best lit from overhead, with a wide angle lamp. Lights at foot level are also advised to avoid shadows which can be dangerous. Depending on how bright the lights are, you may not need one on every step, but there must be one at least every 3 steps.


While dealing with food and drink, the last thing you need to worry about is customers not being able to see the menu!

  • First you have to think about what atmosphere you want to create. If your general theme is calming and relaxing, then warmer, muted colours would suit as it would allow people to unwind. However, if you wanted a more lively atmosphere, bright lights with some different colours would be best.
  • The table should be the focus of the lights. Having pendant luminaries at eye level are great if the tables are staying in one place, but if they are going to be moved around, then directional spotlights on a track might be better, as this allows for more movement in the room without losing the light.
  • Accent and decorative lamps can be used to draw attention to any features in the room such as architecture or a bar area.


As with any other industrial kitchen, lighting is important for safety and hygiene while working with food, steam, and sharp objects.

  • For the basic lighting, either a fluorescent with a protective layer or LED tubes provide bright light that are safe to use around food preparation. Protected fluorescent ensure that, even on the smallest chance they do break, everything is contained and so they don't become a health hazard.
  • Neutral white light is the best for kitchens as it is bright enough for everyone to see everything and be aware of their surroundings.
  • Fairly obvious, but make sure your lights are at least damp resistant as the steam from cooking can damage ordinary lamps, and replacing these can be disruptive and annoying.
  • Most extractor fans now come with lights in to illuminate whatever is cooking. The general trend recently has been to use halogen bulbs, as these run on a low wattage which last longer than traditional bulbs as they are not as affected by the heat build up. Alternatives are fluorescents or LEDs, as these last a long-time, which is especially good in extractor fans as sometimes the fittings are hard to get to.

Emergency Lighting

Of course everyone hopes for the idyllic holiday and most of the time they will get one, but sometimes things go wrong and its important that the lights are there to help prevent more panic spreading and to guide people to safety. Although these tips are quite obvious, they are still very important.

  • Make sure you have a back-up generator away from the mains so that power can be restored to the lights, making an exit from the building much smoother and quicker. This is called Open Air Lighting, or anti-panic lighting, as it is designed to keep people calm while they find a suitable exit.
  • UK Government regulations demand at least 'suitable and sufficient emergency lighting shall be provided in any room in circumstances in which persons at work are specially exposed to danger in the event of failure of artificial lighting.'  This basically means that there should be good lighting running throughout the building, especially on stairs, in corridors and in the kitchens.
  • Check other government regulations regarding what you need for your specific type of hotel. You can find these either on the website, or a list of the appropriate extracts are on
  • Emergency lighting is where LEDs and Fluorescents long life-span and brightness really comes in useful as you can be reassured that the lights will work when you need them to. However, do check the emergency lighting regularly anyway, just to check that everything is still in order
  • Recommendations for where to install emergency lighting are: Directional changes in Corridors; Stairways; Steps and Ramps; Fire and First Aid points; Exits; Escalators and Lifts; Toilets and Generators. For specific ideas for your hotel, consult a lighting designer for more information.

You can find out more about emergency lighting on this page.


Whether it be an outside courtyard in which guests can relax in the warmer months, or a garden in which to enjoy the great outdoors, your outdoor lighting can add that bit extra to the hotel experience.

  • If you are going to accent light a certain feature, make sure the light is an adequate distance away, but also is hidden from view, so the feature is really the centre of attention. This may mean trying out different layouts of the space before you find one which can balance these two options, but it will be worth the extra hassle.

How greener lighting can save you money

Alternatives are fluorescents

The Carbon Trust have been pushing for more hotels to switch to greener energy, especially after a recent push of people looking specifically for 'green' hotels. Here are some of the suggestions they had for better lighting, as well as a few of our own:

  • Maintenance is key, as this shows were faults are occurring and makes the guests stay better as it shows attention to the smaller things, such as a faulty bulb. Also cleaning windows is high on their list as it provides a better impression on the outside, and increase natural light on the inside.
  • Low energy bulbs are a super easy way to save energy and money. Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent, and LEDs use 80% less. They can do this because more of the energy is converted into light rather than heat, meaning not only are they more efficient, but also that when they do need replacing or are accidentally touched, they are much less likely to cause injury. They won't need to be replaced often however, as they have a much longer life span than incandescent. For example, LEDs can last 50,000 hours, which means even if they were switched on all day, everyday, they would still last for over 5 years!
  • Occupancy sensors in rooms, store rooms, toilets and 'back-of-house' rooms can make a 30-50% saving as they mean the lights only work when needed, meaning people cannot accidentally leave the lights running, wasting energy.
  • Also, if you really want to get into the technology, Daylight sensors can control the amount of light depending on the natural light. This means that although the amount of light can stay constant, you aren't constantly using the same amount of electricity to achieve this. A good alternative to this would be to install dimmer switches, if the lamps are suitable, as then you can manually do this throughout the day.
  • You can benefit from two schemes that LampShopOnline can help you with. The first is the Enhanced Capital Allowances Scheme which helps you invest in energy saving technology that might have been too expensive previously. Also there is the Energy Efficient Financing which helps stagger payments for energy saving projects such as changing lighting.

Examples of hotel lighting

For some bright ideas for your lighting, here are a few examples that go the extra mile:

This is the Nordic Light Hotel in Stockholm. Due to the lack of light in winter, the lighting in the lobby, designed by Kai Piippo, changes in order to keep people's moods up, form blues, to ornages, to pinks. The lighting in the rooms also adjustable to the guests choice and has the new options of Nordic White Light, defined as the colour of fresh milk and snow.

These fancy lighting options are available at a price; they are part of the lighting system at The Goring Hotel in London, just across from Buckingham Palace. Each button translates into a different predetermined setting for whatever atmosphere you want.

It may not look like it, but in the Four Seasons, Philadelphia, as much lighting as possible is now Compact Fluorescents. Marvin Dixon is the director of engineering for the hotel, and says that, despite the daunting initial price tag, the lights have paid for themselves in less than a year. Since their addition, overall energy consumption was reduced by 20%, as not only did the lights use less energy, but they also cut back on air-conditioning, as the lights ran cooler than their warmer predecessors. The hotel was very conscious of the lighting decisions it made, wanting to keep the luxurious standards of the hotel, but all the guests responded positively to the change, showing that greener energy doesn't necessarily need to look cheaper.

For more information on creating a better ambience for your hotel guests, speak to the LampShopOnline team today on 0113 8876270 email

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