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Design Buzz

A blog site for those interested in today's bar and nightclub design trends, including interviews and product reviews

Design Buzz: LED Lighting Tips for Nightclubs and Bars

In an earlier Design Buzz post about architectural lighting (refer below), we discussed that many nightclubs today dedicate a great deal of financial resources to lighting. Lighting accentuates the club’s façade, guides people into the club, entertains them with theatrical lighting and video display panels, enables them to adequately see stairways and creates the club’s ambiance with accent lighting.

We also acknowledged that LED is emerging as the frontrunner for the foreseeable future because of its extremely long lamp life and low operational cost. With the cost being continually reduced, LED lighting has found its way into every corner of nearly every type of lighting in nightclub and bar design. Obviously, there are many considerations and much to know. In this edition of Design Buzz we are going to further explore the various types of LED lighting for nightclubs and bars.

Creative LED Lighting Design for Exterior Applications

It’s always important to have signage that is legible and attracts the eye.

We've all seen nightclubs whose façades are merely nothing more than a “door-in-a-wall.” How appealing is that? An illuminatedScores Buffalo NY sign, such as the one shown to the right (compliments of TPR Enterprises, LTD (TPR)), will always catch the eye – adding color always helps. The upper portion of this sign is an RGB[1] linear fixture, while the lower portion (“bar,” “club,” and “grill”) is in a cool white. The opportunity to introduce color-changing often leads lighting designers to go overboard, leading them to flash it like a rainbow. In this particular instance, the club owner simply set the color each night (via a programmable controller) to represent a certain event: light blue was designated for dining hours, pink was ladies’ night, etc. This concept can also be used for high-powered LED wall-washers on the club’s exterior.

LED lighting has also found its way to exterior wall washers. The photoDesign Buzz Photo of RGB LED Wall Washer at right depicts the TPR high-power RGB wall washer, which is capable of projecting light (in a vertical fashion) up the facade of a 10 story building. 

How to Achieve the Best Results with LED Exterior Lighting

When using a color-changing system, it is important to understand the basics of how lighting works. Color-changing lighting works best on surfaces that have a light color finish. According to TPR's Paul Benton, “I can’t count the times people have asked me to design an RGB system and when I receive the drawings, the wall in question is composed of red brick; this simply will not work, so remember that it’s always better to have a light (off-white or beige) surface and allow the lighting to paint it for you.”

Some Practical Advice for LED Lighting in Exterior Applications 

Don’t Go Overboard!

Don’t be afraid to mix white light on task surfaces with surrounding colors, but be careful where you use colored lighting. Paul Benton tells this story: “I worked on a restaurant in LA that used nothing but color-changing flood lights in the dining area. The very first customer ordered salmon and as the lighting changed colors, his fish went from red-to-brown-to-black and he simply wouldn’t eat it! This could have been alleviated with pendant lighting over the table, shedding white light on the surface.”


Put Lighting Where You Need It

With respect to LED’s, as I said in my earlier post, contrast is the key.Design Buzz Photo of LED Contrast Lighting There is nothibg wrong with leaving areas dark while illuminating other areas – specifically, areas that you want to highlight. You will notice in the adjacent photo that there is not a great deal of extraneous lighting. The product used in this application is TPR’s “Westflex” family of extremely low voltage LED strip lights, available in warm white, cool white and color-changing (RGB) for both indoor or IP67 washable exterior applications. These strips can be cut in 2” increments.


Be Creative

LED’s and other forms of lighting can be used in conjunction with a varietyDesign Buzz Photo of LED Strip Lighting of products, such as sculpted glass, architectural fabric, frosted glass, acrylics, etc. The photo shown at right features LED strips behind frosted glass.


Use a Variety of Lighting

Mix it up with white light and colors and various form factors of the lights themselves. For instance, use linear lighting to accent linear features in the club (soffits, under bar tops, drink rails, etc.), flexible strips for circular tables and floods / spots where you need them the most. All of these ideas are shown in the photo featured at the top of this post.


Related Posts:

Top 5 Lighting Ideas & Tips for Nightclub & Bar Design

Top 5 LED Lighting Ideas for Nightclub & Bar Design

Top 5 Wallpaper Picks & Tips for Nightclub & Bar Design



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1. RGB is an acronym for “red,” “green,” and “blue,” the most common colored lights used to form white light, and the method of mixing them is known as multi-color white LED’s. Ostensibly, this is what is used to produce the color-changing LED lighting we use today.

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