In the wake of a virtual worldwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lessened footfall in both retail and dining environments, encouraging customers to step in again will be at the forefront of designers’ minds. It’s unsurprising, then, that an emerging trend in lighting this year is illumination that creates a welcoming ambience.
“There’s a general trend towards dynamic lighting that has color and kelvin temperature-changing properties that can set the mood,” reveals Jill Klores, Partner at Dallas-based Essential Light Design Studio. “Certain systems can be programmed to turn up the vibrancy, ideal for product highlighting too.”
And while UV light used for sanitization can only be used when stores are closed, lighting with other health benefits is having its moment across applications. “There’s a focus not only on the psychological attributes, but also the physiological benefits of lighting that’s tuned to circadian rhythms – great for retail staff and customers in malls without natural light,” says Klores.
For the new Peter Millar (Raleigh, N.C.) menswear store in Chicago, lighting forms part of the “architecture of the design.” At home in such an iconic city, it was an artistic choice by Jeffrey Hutchison & Associates (New York), along with lighting designer Bill Schwinghammer, to work under the influence of renowned architects Mies Van der Rohe and Louis Sullivan. In the main body of the store, in a slight departure from geometric lines, recessed cove lighting curves where the ceiling meets the wall, emulating a cornice and inspired by Sullivan’s classic decorative ceilings. In an intimate alcove displaying jackets and offering custom tailoring, uplighting washes up and bounces back into the space. “The light creates an open, airy feeling. The color temperature we selected is bright, to work with the natural light that floods in through the windows open to the street,” says Jeffrey Hutchison, President.
In stylistic terms, “there’s a push away from high-gloss to more natural, brushed finishes and making environments more home-like,” says Nelson Jenkins, Owner and Lighting Designer at Lumen Architecture (New York). “As lighting becomes more compact, and edge- and back-lighting becomes more affordable, there’s a greater opportunity to make surfaces points of illumination.”
At Peter Millar, that’s perfectly exemplified in the fitting room area, where integration of light gives the impression of a futuristic, floating ceiling, and in the accentuation of product walls, “giving off yet more ambient light,” says Hutchison.
From setting a scene to simulating natural luminescence, lighting at retail is all about a warm atmosphere, healthy glow and a comfortable customer experience. In the post-COVID era, lighting as a tool for mood management has never been so important.