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Sean’s Kitchen, Sydney


issue 46 December / January 2008/9

Mark Elliott of lighting designers Point of View explains the thinking behind a radical scheme in one of Sydney’s newest restaurants

Diners have a plethora of choice when selecting restaurants; its not only the food that needs to capture the imagination of prospective client, the environment needs to stand out beyond the competition. Lighting in a restaurant is a crucial element and adds the extra layer to the environment lifting it above the good to the excellent. Dining is predominantly performed under artificial illumination, and it’s lighting which largely creates the ambience and sets the mood of a restaurant.
Lighting design has evolved to meet this challenge by embracing techniques and equipment, which are more theatrical in approach, rather than purely architectural.

Running the full length of Sean’s Kitchen is a feature wall, which evolves through the course of an evening. The changing colours and projection effects change the mood of the restaurant as the night moves on, giving diners something to capture their attention throughout their experience of Sean’s Kitchen. Starting off with a water ripple effect on the sheers curtain, this fades out to reveal a mirrored surface with a decorative window frame graphic hanging behind the sheer curtain. Over time, back lighting to the one way mirrored film reveals a forest image, which is printed on the glazing. LED colour changing lighting behind the two-way mirror film illuminates the trees creating an ever-changing piece of art.

Another technique often used in theatre to create drama is to keep ambient light to a very low level so that the lights draw the viewer’s attention to specific and evocative elements. In a restaurant environment the same technique is used where light is focused on each table, creating pools of light encasing each diner in their own environment, as if they were sitting around a campfire; reflected light of the pure white cloths warm the faces of diners.

The same technique is used in the open kitchen areas, where lighting is integrated into the joinery, lighting the task surface and bouncing light up on to the chefs rather than downlighting and casting ghoulish shadows on their faces. Open kitchens are theatre and the chefs the actors, they need to appear vibrant, exciting and sexy. Typical white fluorescent lights have no place in this environment. High power warm white LED strips play a large part in the integrated lighting, the size and colour temperature of the LED strips are ideal, creating an even warm illumination. Where previously Xenon strip lighting was the designers choice, recent energy codes have made this impossible, the evolution of LEDs had made this source an excellent replacement.

‘Hero’ light fittings often become very popular very quickly and before you know it they are used in every restaurant and café in town. We felt it was crucial to provide individuality to this space not only in the lighting ambience, but in the fitting design, so all of the decorative pendants and table lamps were custom made to our design. In the private dining the three chandeliers playfully present as a chandelier, but they are far from the Swarovski crystal stereotype. Standard everyday light bulbs are clustered and suspended below a mirrored recessed panel. Whimsically framing the cluster is a picture frame which relates to the baroque design aesthetic.

In the main dining area, twistable pendants on exaggerated gooseneck suspensions make a sculptural statement, but which give functional flexibility, retaining pools of light on each table even when the table set out is changed.

Our main philosophy in lighting design is always to work closely with the interior designers and architects to integrate lighting equipment into architectural / joinery details so the light effect enhances the materials and elements in the space rather than the equipment physically dominating it. In a well design lighting scheme diners should notice the lighting, but just feel that they are in a comfortable, beautiful environment. At Sean’s Kitchen elegant lighting and wonderful food go hand in hand.


Sean’s Kitchen, Sydney Sean’s Kitchen, Sydney
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