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HOSPITALITY LIGHTING 101

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by Mercedes Brennan in AMENITIES, GUEST HAPPINESS, LIGHTING
January 11, 2019

Welcome to the hospitality business!

That’s you, Airbnb and short-term rental owners. Your business, despite its “home away from home” moniker, isn’t that much different from a hotel’s. And because hotels have put a lot of thought and money into how they light their properties, you should too.

I asked Tracey Clayton, a writer for the hospitality industry, to give us the skinny on the basics of hospitality lighting and why it’s critical to guest happiness.

Without further ado, let’s see what she has to say….

In the hospitality business, first impressions and a welcoming atmosphere are what count most. I can’t state that enough times. It should be your mantra if you want to be at the top of your game.

That’s why it’s become increasingly important to pay attention to the smallest details which influence the guest’s mood and satisfaction while staying in your short-term rental, hostel, or Airbnb property.

The big question you should always ask yourself when analyzing the details of your property is ‘how will this thing influence my guest’s state of mind?’ Because lighting has one of the largest effects on mood than any other factor, paying attention to how to best employ it, is critical to keeping your guests happy.

Unsurprisingly, research shows that a sizable percentage of guests leaving negative feedback on travelling and lodging websites tend to emphasize poor and low-quality lighting. Furthermore, they get specific about it, like “bad bathroom lighting! I couldn’t see to do my makeup,” or “no bedside lamps – sucked!”

In order to raise awareness about this issue and help short-term rental owners improve their guest feedback ratings, I have singled out the types of lighting to get right and the reasons why they’re so important in Airbnbs. Let’s take a look.

A great first impression

1. Outdoor Lighting

First things first – when we talk about how to create the ideal customer experience, keep in mind where it all starts – the exterior. After all, many guests arrive after sunset and outdoor lighting is key.

The Cactus Flower in Los Angeles has carefully planned entrance lighting – uplights in the planters and a front entrance door sconce welcome entering guests, getting them excited for their imminent stay.

Did you know that people’s senses are on high alert when they first spot your Airbnb? Sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste are on overdrive. They notice things they might never see in their everyday lives.

In addition to beautiful entrance doors, applying the proper lighting and visual effects that enhance the architectural design of your property will give your guests their first ‘wow’ moment. Additionally, your guests entrance will be safer, as they will be less likely to trip, and they can actually see to put the key or keycode into the front door.

The outdoor lighting of the Chateau de la Resle, a short-term rental hotel, is both well-lit and romantic and makes spending time outside a pleasure.

The best thing about an awesome first impression is the afterburn effect; meaning, because you have them in a good mood on the outside, it lasts a while. They will be all the more excited to walk in and settle down for the evening.

When investing in outdoor lighting systems, make sure lights are automated and consist of hidden flood lights, bollards and strip lights that illuminate the surrounding greenery, water features and façade.

2. Warm and welcoming foyer lighting

Because you already have them in a good mood due to your delightful outdoor lighting, why stop there?

Two matching marble lamps flank a white plaster mirror in this San Diego Airbnb.
Design by 1 Chic Retreat

Once your guests have entered your property, they will likely stop in the foyer or entryway and take note of things, so it’s crucial to have efficient and welcoming lighting.

Floor and step lights (if appropriate), wall sconces, table lamps, or an impactful chandelier are great choices. Don’t make the mistake of having only recessed ceiling lights and nothing else; it’s off-putting and unwelcoming. Pair a ceiling light with side lighting, such as a sconce or table lamp. Guests need warm light and pizzaz.

The foyer is not a place to play it safe. Guests love a wow factor when they walk in and stunning or unusual lighting delivers! Chandeliers, sconces and table lamps can do a great job accomplishing this.

Maria Llado’s Madrid short-term apartment features a pop of brilliant color in it’s foyer chandelier. Who isn’t going to be blown away walking in here?

Installing dimmer switches helps regulate the brightness and overall mood in the foyer during the course of the day, especially in winter when natural light is often not enough.

Focal Point or Task Lighting

1. Highlight Areas of Interest or Gathering

Some areas of a house need to be highlighted, notably dining areas and areas of interest, such as bookshelves or artwork. Calling attention to them makes them all the more impactful.

Dining Tables

Dining room chandeliers or pendants are critical for both visual impact and psychological well-being. Additionally, seeing one’s food while sitting down is pleasurable and highlights one of the best activities while vacationing – eating.

Hanging pendants or chandeliers over dining tables is critical in adding the final touch to a dining roomscape. This simple, modern one complements the simple, clean-lined dining furniture in this spectacular lakehouse on Airbnb. 

Furthermore, a dining light adds visual interest to the dining table, giving it multi-dimensionality, something we all crave in our visual fields, whether we know it or not.

If mounting a pendant or chandelier is structurally difficult, install overhead directional lighting that highlights the center of the dining table in the evenings or darker days.

We put in a turquoise starburst chandelier in this client’s Santa Monica Airbnb.
Design by 1 Chic Retreat

Hang pendants or chandeliers so the bottommost part hovers between 30 and 36 inches (76 to 91 cm) above the surface of the table.

Artwork

If possible, install directional lighting on your most impactful art, particularly in areas in which guests spend the most time, such as living and dining rooms. Art begs to be gazed at so make it all the easier by highlighting it. Plus, the wall washing imparts warmth and romance to a room.

Directional ceiling lights in this Spanish holiday rental allow for both highlights on the dining room table and art piece.
Recessed directional ceiling lights are practical because you can direct the light wherever you want, such as pointing at artwork or shelving.

Shelving

Built in or free standing shelves offer great opportunities for showcasing books and curiosities. Swing arm sconces, like the ones in the photo below, with the heads directed inward to shine light on the shelves are wonderful. Alternatively, install directional recessed ceiling lights that wash light on the shelves.

The bookshelves in this living room are highlighted by iron swing arm sconces mounted above. Design by Salt Designs

2. Provide task lighting 

Think about the kinds of activities your guests will be engaged in – playing games, reading, cooking, hanging out and talking, working, eating – and then make sure such activities have adequate lighting. For example, if you have an armchair in a living room, do you have a floor or table lamp beside it so guests can read there?

Bedroom Sconces or Table Lamps 

It’s shocking how often Airbnbs owners forget to provide adequate bedside lights. In fact, too often, no bedside lighting is provided at all (I guess owners assume one ceiling light is enough?!). This is a really good way to get a bad review – “I couldn’t see to read my book at night and I came on vacation to read and relax!”

We can’t stress enough how much guests love swing arm sconces. It allows each person to direct their own light source. If one person wants some shut-eye, they can shut off their light, while the other guest can have theirs on. Light is Tolomeo Classic Wall Light in white.
Design by 1 Chic Retreat.

Bedside lighting is essential. Don’t ever skimp here. Ever! And that includes putting lights on both sides of the bed.

Secondly, simply providing light it is not enough. It must be good quality bedside lighting, as in “I can actually see what I’m looking at while I’m on my smart gadget or reading.” That means no dark lamp shades, no dim light bulbs, and no dinky table lamps that aren’t tall enough to give off enough light.

Get either good sturdy swing arm sconces or table lamps that have a height adequate for optimum brightness. Which height is ideal? Good question. It depends on the height of the bed. A good rule of thumb is to have the top of the lamp shade be approximately the same height as the top of the average person’s head who is sitting up in bed.

We love these table lamps in this San Diego Airbnb. With convenient USB plugs in the base, and a nice bright light, what else do guests need? Notice how the lamp shade top is about equal to the typical guest’s head height when sitting up in bed? That’s what you want to shoot for.
Design by 1 Chic Retreat

Wherever there is seating, there is lighting. 

There’s only one time when guests enjoy the dark and that’s when they are sleeping; otherwise, provide lots of light.

People sit down a lot more often on vacation than they do in their ordinary lives, so wherever there is seating, have a floor lamp, table lamp, or sconce nearby. No, an overhead light will not cut it. It’s fine to have overhead light, but it should not be the sole source of light in seating areas.

Owners Christopher and Geoffrey at their Catskills Airbnb put table lamps on both sides of the window seat daybed, allowing plenty of reading light for relaxing guests. 
Swing arm sconces hang above the sofa in this Umbria short-term rental in Italy.
Don’t forget a desk lamp for dedicated work areas.
Design by 1 Chic Retreat
This Mexico City vacation rental features a chic black desk lamp on a streamlined yellow desk.

Lastly….

A post about hospitality lighting must mention light bulbs. This isn’t too hard, just remember to NEVER buy fluorescent spiral bulbs (which are thankfully falling out of favor)! They make people look less attractive and no one wants that on vacation.

We recommend a soft-white 2700 K LED bulb. This Philips bulb is perfect for living rooms, bedrooms, the kitchen or any place in your vacation home where you would use a standard incandescent light bulb.

Instead embrace LED light bulbs.  They promote a healthier vibe which won’t cause headaches or eye strain and equally important, people and spaces look good under them.T

GET THE FREE LIST OF SHORT-TERM RENTAL ESSENTIAL ITEMS

THE 31 MUST-HAVE ESSENTIALS THAT GUARANTEE GUSHING GUEST REVIEWS

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