Lobby Lighting for Hotels

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Welcome back to our Lighting for Hotels: Introduction to Hotel Lighting for Hoteliers series. If you missed last week then don’t worry, we have the important points listed below. This lighting series will cover everything that hotel owners, management, and employees need to know about maximizing hotel lighting. If you want to make sure your guests get the most out of their stay and to get the most out of your bottom line then this hotel guide series is for you. Be sure to subscribe to this series to get notifications when a new post goes live.

This week, we will cover hotel lobby lighting and how it builds off the impression set by your exterior lighting. Your job as a hotel manager has only just begun, but we’re helping to guide you all the way to lighting success. The impression made by your exterior lighting is one of awe, warmth, and openness. We build off this inside with your lobby lighting, but now with a deeper concentration on layered lighting. These layers will help guide your guests as they begin their check-in process and will aid hotel staff in performing their duties.

Now, let’s dig into our next segment, hotel lobby lighting! 

First, we must provide a disclaimer. Thousands of hotels around the country have been built or remodeled over the past 5 to 20 years. When they opened their doors, the lighting was perfect from the front to the back of the house. From the rooms to the lobby to the parking lighting had a purpose and flowed from one area to the next. Overtime workers have replaced burned-out bulbs with the wrong LEDs and those beautiful properties have lost some sparkle. If this has happened to your property then keep reading and then call a Lumen Master at GoodBulb.

Entering the hotel lobby should be a pleasant and striking experience, it should make the statement that we are as good or better than the price tag to enjoy our rooms. This is the area where every guest will pass, from their initial check-in, nightly activities, and their check-out. The lobby should be built around comforting guests while providing task lighting to aid hotel staff. Your lobby should allow guests to travel easily, from the lobby area to reception, to the transition area (the elevators and stairs). Lastly, highlight accent pieces in your hotel that will wow guests and create a unique impression to remember your hotel by. As said by Douglas Nysse, an award-winning designer, 

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“If you lose them at the beginning, it is very hard to recover. In their mind, they’ve decided it is a bad hotel.” 

Be wise and take these words of Douglas Nysse to heart, hoteliers must grab ahold of this opportunity and use it to their advantage – to establish a strong, pleasant, and lasting first impression on their hotel guests.

Welcoming and Functional Lighting

Mary Bamborough, president of the International Interior Designers Association (IIDA) Michigan Chapter, stated, “a lobby must send the message, ‘Welcome. We’re glad you’re here.” One important feature of an effective lobby is the ability of visitors to orient themselves to the building and easily navigate through the space. Guests should feel welcomed, warm, comfortable, and – navigational. When they enter the lobby, it’s important that they feel good and clearly oriented. One of the ways to achieve this is through exceptional lighting design.

When guests walk into the lobby, they notice the beautiful chandeliers, the warm ambiance, the smooth check-in, the beautiful wallpaper, sculpture(s), and paintings. They admire these things and talk about them, but most of the time, what they don’t notice is the lighting design behind it all. Lighting that is naturally integrated into the overall design creates a hotel with a beautiful transition from the exterior to the interior.

There’s not one formula for lighting a hotel lobby. Every hotel has its unique architectural design, interior decoration, target audience, and brand story – the lighting design depends on all these factors. Generally, the ultimate goal is to make the guests feel warm, and welcome, guiding them through the space. Staff benefits from great lighting design as well as it allows their administrative activities and tasks to be done under proper lighting. The following are common considerations that every hotel manager should consider in their lighting plan.

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Lighting Focal Points

When it comes to hotel lobby lighting, there are three areas that we must focus our attention on:

  1. The entrance
  2. The reception area
  3. The seating area

These are the three main focal points of a hotel lobby, where plenty of activities are taking place throughout the day. Given this, lighting must be aesthetic but also functional.

Layered Lighting

Before we discuss lighting in these areas, let’s talk about layered lighting and lighting transitions first. Utilizing different types of lighting in an area is called layered lighting. This is often done in hotels to achieve a certain effect and purpose. At times, layered lighting helps guests in determining where a space starts and another begins, giving them cues or signals.

The Four Types of Layered Lighting:

1. General and Diffused Lighting

General lighting is the main source of illumination in a space. This uniform, base level of lighting can easily become the focus of energy reduction, as the light levels from other fixtures can be lowered, especially when using LED bulbs. General lighting is primarily used to allow staff and guests to move freely throughout the space without paying much attention to any particular area (bright and dim lighting). Diffused general lighting ensures a sense of well-being, which makes customers feel comfortable. One way to achieve this is by arranging recessed fixtures using reflectors, baffles, and lensed trims in overlapping positions.

2. Perimeter Lighting

Perimeter lighting helps to define spaces, provides vertical lighting, and makes the space feel larger. Done with wall sconces, vertical lighting creates a pleasant environment that adds to the visual impact the walls have on the space. Vertical surfaces can be lit for visual comfort, spaciousness, and directional cues.

3. Task Lighting

Task lighting is used to illuminate an area for a specific task by providing a focused, localized, and higher level of light. Necessary to the functioning of the space, it is important to use energy-efficient sources to reduce operating costs. Task lighting is most effective when used as a supplement to general lighting in workspaces, conference areas, and office areas. Effective task lighting should eliminate shadows on the intended illuminated area while preventing glare from any additional light source being used. Pendant luminaires at the front desk are a great way to provide task lighting for work.

4. Accent Lighting

Accent lighting creates a dramatic emphasis on the space using a focused light source(s). It adds depth, contrast and creates a focal point for items to be displayed by highlighting shapes, textures, finishes, and colors. If this light is directed ambiguously, the result may cause unwanted shadows as well as distracting glares. The key is to make this illumination more precise and of higher intensity than the surrounding ambient light. Track fixtures and recessed housings with adjustable trims provide directional control and are especially effective for accent lighting.

hotel lobby led lighting

Lighting Transitions

Lighting transitions in lighting layouts help guests adjust from one lighting experience to the next. An abrupt transition from various lumens and color temperatures is an unpleasant experience. We have to keep in mind that our eyes need time to adjust to lighting. Therefore, lighting transitions are necessary. In a hotel, the entrance, hallways, elevators, alcoves, and other small areas may serve this purpose.

Now, let’s discuss lighting the main focal points of a hotel lobby.

Entrance Lighting

Since your guests have arrived, we should be listening to Mary Bamborough. The entrance lighting must be warm and welcoming helping them transition from the exterior to the interior lighting. During the day, your property may benefit from natural sunlight on a sunny day which is a pure white light but not every day is Sunny. I guess that’s life. At night, the lighting must be warmer to help the eyes adjust to the darkness, 3000 kelvin is used in a lot of properties across the country and it looks nice. The entrance uses a layer of general, task, and decorative lighting. Dimmable lighting in this area is a great way to maintain different light levels throughout the day. We recommend an automated control system that dims the lights according to the light levels outside.

Reception Area Lighting

This is the next area that guests look for upon entering the hotel. A well-lit reception is fairly bright that it catches the guests’ eyes immediately and signals them to come. It uses general, task, and decorative lighting. Task lighting is especially important in this area as it allows staff to work efficiently. Having pendant lights and table lamps present can aid staff and guests alike in a successful exchange of information for the check-in and check-out process.

Seating Area

The seating area is where guests may rest while waiting to be checked in, for their shuttle to arrive, or on other guests. This area often uses soft and relaxing lighting such as recessed lights and table lamps.

Using Lighting Layers

Having looked into the different ways of lighting each of these areas, we come to see that a hotel’s lobby utilizes layered lighting as a whole. Primarily, it uses general lighting for the basic illumination of the entire space and may even incorporate perimeter lighting to define the size of the space. Next, with all the activities happening in every part of the lobby, it also uses task lighting for specific functions like the check-in process. Finally, a hotel lobby builds in accent and decorative lighting to create a pleasant aesthetic look for guests. Successfully layering these lighting types in the lobby helps to create a warm, beautiful, and functional space that will satisfy your guests and turn them into loyal visitors.

Common Bulbs Used in Hotel Lobby Lighting

Most of the time, a hotel lobby uses the following bulbs for general, task, accent, and decorative lighting.   

BR30 and PAR38 Bulbs

Both BR30 and PAR30 are reflector bulbs commonly used with recessed cans for general lighting. BR30 helps distribute light equally while PAR38 creates a dramatic effect from a high ceiling.

MR16, PAR20, and PAR30 Bulbs

These bulbs are reflector-type bulbs commonly used for accent lighting. They effectively highlight displays and similar areas mainly for aesthetic purposes.

T8 Bulbs

T8 bulbs are more often found in the back of house environments than the front of the house.  

B10, B11, and A19

Chandeliers are by far the most common decorative lighting fixtures in hotels, especially in the lobby. They make use of torpedo light bulbs like B10s or B11s, often to create an elegant and nostalgic effect. Another common light fixture found in the lobby is table lamps, which require standard light bulbs like A19s.

Bulb Considerations


Lumens, like all the others factors, depending on the area’s structure, design, specific functions, and hotel brand.


When it comes to color temperature, a range of 3000K to 3500K is recommended for hotel lobbies and the main entrances. This range provides a warm atmosphere that makes guests feel welcomed and comfortable and allows the staff to perform various tasks well. The seating area may require a softer light color since guests use this area mainly for waiting. To achieve this, we recommend sticking with the same Kelvin temperature of 3000K and going with a dimmable light bulb to adjust light levels throughout the day.

Color Rendering Index (CRI)

In hotel lobbies, a high CRI becomes a point of focus when there are decorative pieces like paintings, sculptures, and wall decorations that require a high degree of color rendering. For depicting colors vividly, use a high CRI bulb of 80 and above. Going with a higher CRI will make colors appear bold and vibrant.

Beam Angle

Determining the beam angle of any hotel’s space is dependent on the ceiling height, structure, and purpose. In general, hotel lobbies use floodlighting with a 55-60° wide beam angle for an even distribution of light. At times, the reception desk and the seating area incorporate spotlighting to aid in doing specific tasks.

Lighting Controls

Many hoteliers still choose to utilize both manual and automatic lighting controls to serve specific purposes more accurately and efficiently. Many hotels opt to go with automatic lighting controls for their ease of use and auto on/off features. On the other hand, a manual lighting dimmer may still be needed to achieve a specific lighting scene that cannot be done through automated lighting controls. Remember that incorporating lighting controls are mainly dependent on the purposes and goals of the space.

Automatic Daylight-Driven Controls

Since hotel lobbies are a very busy place and always occupied, the lights are usually on all the time. Automatic daylight-driven dimming helps in dimming the lights to a necessary level during the daytime, contributing to energy savings and efficiency.

Manual Controls

Most hotel lobby lights are on all the time. However, there may be times when the lobby lights need to be adjusted or controlled to create a specific effect. Using manual dimmer controls works for these purposes.

Occupancy Sensors

This type of light control is best for areas that do not receive a lot of traffic or receive traffic periodically. These sensors are sensitive to stimuli like movement and body heat that transmit signals to operate the light.

Lighting Control Software

This modern way of lighting control is popular since it is an efficient and convenient method for monitoring both your energy consumption and for controlling your light levels. Hotel managers may use this software to monitor their lobby’s energy consumption, light levels, and even be notified of a dead bulb.

Space Considerations

As mentioned in the previous segments, lighting design is influenced by several space considerations such as size and shape, wall and surface colors, points of interest, and traffic patterns. Different space sizes, shapes, and ceiling levels require specific lighting to create the desired ambiance and achieve the necessary purposes. Certain colors and textures produce interesting lighting effects in regards to the light being used. Points of interest or focal points require certain kinds of lighting depending on their functions as discussed earlier. All these factors determine a hotel’s lighting design. When these elements are carefully and properly taken into consideration guests will experience the hotel at its finest.

The hotel lobby is an essential part of a hotel. This is the first and probably the most important opportunity for hoteliers to win their guests. Having the right lighting design plays an integral role in building an amazing hotel lobby that can earn you the appreciation, favor, and loyalty of your guests.

Wrap up

The hotel lobby is an essential part of a hotel. This is the first and probably the most important opportunity for hoteliers to win their guests. Having the right lighting design plays an integral role in building an amazing hotel lobby that can earn you the appreciation, favor, and loyalty of your guests.

This wraps up this section of our hotel lighting guide but before we officially close out, let’s review a few important points

  • There are three focal points in your hotel lobby, the entrance, reception area, and seating areas.
  • Four types of lighting layers are used throughout your hotel, these are general lighting, perimeter lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting.
  • Common bulbs used in lobby lighting are BR Series, PAR Series, MR Series, T Series, B Series, and A Series bulbs.
  • Take note of your bulb’s characteristics, such as its lumens, Kelvin temperature, and CRI rating.
  • Take advantage of modern lighting controls that help create the desired lighting effect while saving on energy costs.
  • There’s a good amount of information that we covered in this section so be sure to take notes, review particular areas, and know that you can visit goodbulb.com or give us a call at (701) 205-4953 to work with a Lumen Master. We at GoodBulb have years of industry experience in helping hotel management shape their visual perceptions and save on energy costs.

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