In bars and restaurants, lighting plays a central role in the interior decor, and understanding the rules of proper lighting is essential when creating the right mood. Lighting dictates the atmosphere of any establishment just as much as the architectural design. Proper ambient lighting will set the tone of your bar or restaurant’s ambiance and have a direct influence on your patrons’ experience. Here are a few tips on how to effectively create ambient lighting in a bar or restaurant.

Make Lighting a Centre of Your Design for your Bar or Restaurant

Lighting should never be an afterthought. It should be part of the design of the building and of every room and a factor in every design decision from the beginning. Not only will it affect the way your restaurant or bar is lit but will affect logistical decisions like the location of electrical outlets, seating arrangements, and even the height of tables, among other things.

If you want a uniform aesthetic, design lighting fixtures like chandeliers or specialty light fixtures that fit in from the very start. If you want an example, you can see what we did with the Chakra Riverside Restaurant. We were able to diffuse lighting through the whole dining room by adding uniform bright orbs to the ceiling and pendant lights to select areas. This makes sure that every table is properly illuminated without being overwhelming.

Chakra Riverside Restaurant Lighting Shalini Misra

Use Natural Light as Much as You Can… Or Go Bright

Knowing how to borrow natural light and use it to your advantage is also essential. Natural lighting always beats artificial lighting and will add to your bar or restaurant’s atmosphere. Position your most important tables near windows and keep the light fixtures to a minimum. This is the approach we took when designing the lighting for the Chakra restaurant in Kensington. We arranged the booth seating right next to the large windows and added pendant lights over smaller tables, making sure to add shades to the windows to make sure the light coming in isn’t too glaring.

restaurant pendant lights

If this isn’t an option, you’ll want to look into bright, white lighting. This is especially useful in food preparation areas, in the kitchen, and anywhere where you want to display food. Bars and restaurants with open kitchens will most certainly want to make use of bright lighting. Proper kitchen lighting should enable chefs to see what they are doing at all times. When done correctly, it can help to boost kitchen performance and improve safety.

Highlight What You Want to Show Off

Direct lighting is key when you want to highlight particular areas. Use direct lighting where you’re displaying food, such as salad bars and items you want to sell, be it a dessert shelf or array of alcoholic beverages. Use coloured lights sparingly, and always make certain these choices match your décor and atmosphere.

Direct lighting and accent lights can draw attention to architectural features and decorative items. Direct lights and large lighting arrays over a bar will attract people to it, whereas leaving it in the dark will prevent them from approaching it. You can see this in how we designed the Decorex Champagne Bar. The brilliant chandelier and red cloth behind is the visual centrepiece of the room, and it invites guests to approach while capturing the attention of anyone in the building.

Decorex Champagne Bar Lighting Shalini Misra

Use Lighting to Create Separate Atmospheres

We discussed above the importance of using bright lighting in the kitchen, and more natural light within the dining area. However, if your restaurant opens during the evening, you’ll need to take this one step further. While you will still need stark white lights in the kitchen, you can use cosier lights in the dining area to create a separate atmosphere that is cosy and comfortable, and gives it a more intimate feel.

Use darker lighting in intimate booths, and warm, yellow lighting in the bar area. You may also want to look into optics lighting to show off your spirits and make it easier for customers to see what drinks you have available when ordering personally from the bar. Not only will this help to create separate atmospheres within your restaurant, but it will also help to make your dining area look larger, and more inviting.

Proper lighting is the perfect addition to any decor. If you want your clients to feel at home in your bar or restaurant, make sure to never neglect the importance of lighting and make it a central part of your design from the get-go.