Paul Nulty Lighting Design (PNLD) has completed the interior lighting for the first solo restaurant of chef Skye Gyngell breathing life into a 19th-century drawing room at the world famous Somerset House, London that hasn’t been open to the public for over 150 years.
In collaboration with interior designer Briony Fitzgerald and architect Stuart Forbes Associates, the practice has helped bring warmth to a space flooded with natural light and with ceilings that stand over four metres tall. PNLD’s concept was to enhance, yet soften, the commanding architecture of clean stone columns and vast ceilings to create an intimate dining experience. The lighting concept, based on the restaurant’s name and aligned with Skye Gyngell’s vision for softness, draws spring-like gentleness throughout the space balancing the cool tones of natural light with the warmth of the interior design.
PNLD wanted to draw guests through the season’s colours and textures as they walked through the rooms. As they enter the reception, guests are enveloped by subdued, natural colours resembling a forest at dusk; Lindsey Aldeman’s chandelier, in the design of twisted branches and tipped with rounded luminaires, adds to the natural effect and feel of the space and washes an ambient light over the muted golden tones of the walls. Artist Emma Peascod’s verre eglomise provides a richness of colour that PNLD has lit from top and bottom to radiate the intricate foil petal detail behind the glass. The light catches the texture of the materials to create liveliness from the foil flowers that shine and sparkle.
Through wide arches, guests can see the atrium and main dining area where the freshness of a spring day has been created using a tonality that tempers the coolness of natural light that floods into the two rooms.
Ambient and accent lighting delicately pick out details across the tables and walls, easing the vastness of the main dining area. Banquettes modelled on the curvature of the imposing columns are illuminated to create spaces of intimacy; the grand windows are framed with up lighting to give a balanced luminosity. With an interior of original features combined with modern art and architecture, the characteristics of history and the present day have been harmonised.
Brazilian ceramic artist, Valeria Nascimeto has created symmetrical sculptures of 5,200 individual porcelain petals for the walls that face out across the dining room. PNLD has gently washed the sculpture with light to highlight the individual porcelain petals, creating shadow, texture and depth.
The restaurant’s atrium is cool from the natural light above and enhanced by the muted stone tones of garden designer Jinny Blom’s feature panels that delicately adorn the walls. The lighting complements a nocturnal atmosphere with a concealed strip of luminaires around the skylight, drawing the eye to the outdoors and providing an ethereal background illumination. Hidden spotlights create the effect of dappled moonlight permeating through tress producing a textured light effect on the panelling. This dusky ambiance is visible from within the restaurant’s dining room and combined with the atrium’s foliage, helps draw a spring evening into the space.
Many individual luminaires were required to provide contrast, balance and intimacy to the boldness of the 19th century drawing room and it was vital that each was easy to use and sustainable. Cluster luminaires in the main dining room are a warm halogen source, and behind the eglomise, LEDs have been used for their longevity and high performance. Throughout the restaurant and kitchen spaces, the lighting is low maintenance and low energy. The practice also implemented a flexible lighting system that allowed for light modification and illuminated the tables to keep the atmosphere intimate between diners.
Daniel Gray, senior lighting designer said: “Re-creating the freshness of a spring day and the coolness of an evening, indoors, requires a complex combination of lighting techniques that needs to be simultaneously bright while also unnoticeable. The lighting concept for the Spring restaurant demonstrates how light can be powerful in its obscurity and how it can create an atmosphere of tranquillity, intimacy and romance when used in collaboration with interior design.”Location: Strand, London WC2R 1LA, UK
Lighting design: Paul Nulty Lighting Design (PNLD)
Interior design: Briony Fitzgerald
Architect: Stuart Forbes Associates