You only have to step outside and watch how the mood changes as the light shifts throughout the day to realize that the same rule applies inside. Lighting can make or break the vibe in a commercial space, and business owners need to pay attention to how they use its power. Aiming for more than just illuminating a space when natural light is not available, creative lighting techniques can give an interior that undefinable element that elevates it above others.

Photo above: Cosmo PL light

Of course, while being creative is one sure way to awe your customers, keep in mind that your lighting must be, above all, functional. Your fixtures need to provide enough light and visibility so that you can complete all your tasks comfortably and that your space looks cozy and inviting to your customers. Keeping your lights dimmable will also allow you to change their intensity and therefore the ambiance in an instant. Remember to install separate dimmers for each type of lighting to have total control over each corner of your space.

So, what creative lighting techniques should you consider and what kinds of light fixtures can give your space a visual boost?


Radiance 1 – Light Pendant By Justice Design Group


Creative restaurant lighting with whale-shaped wood pendants

Japanese-style Fish-shaped Whale Chandelier by LabPiece on Etsy

1. Using light fixtures for pops of color

Adding a pop of color through light fixtures is a quick and affordable way to breathe life into a space dominated by neutral hues. While canister lighting and track lighting serve their functional purposes, pendants and sconces have the unique ability to serve as both sources of illumination and colorful accent pieces. When they flaunt vibrant colors, they can steal the spotlight and create striking focal points.

Creative lighting with above-the-counter pendants in vibrant red

Kung Fu Boba Tea cafe design in Temecula by Mindful Design Consulting

Hanging gracefully in mid-air and in full view, these colorful fixtures break up the monotony without overwhelming the overall design. They effortlessly infuse energy and playfulness into the room while maintaining a sense of simplicity and uncluttered aesthetics. In short, they strike the perfect balance between simplicity and boldness.

The beauty of using light fixtures as colorful accents lies in their versatility and adaptability. Depending on your design preferences or the mood you want to create, you can easily swap out the shades to experiment with different colors. This allows for flexibility and the ability to refresh the look of your space without making significant changes to the overall design scheme.

Colorful lighting in neutral cafe interior

Colorful Nordic Ceiling Lights by Cozy & Modern on Etsy

2. Layering your lighting

Similarly to other elements of design, layering your lighting is an effective way to create a space that feels warm and that invites exploration. It involves the strategic combination of ambient, accent and task lighting to create a well-balanced environment. Each type of lighting serves a specific purpose, working together to enhance the beauty and functionality of the space.

Ambient (or general) lighting is the foundational layer that provides overall illumination to the entire space. It ensures that the area is well-lit and sets the overall mood. This type of lighting is typically achieved through ceiling-mounted fixtures, such as recessed lights or chandeliers. 

Accent lighting is used to highlight specific architectural features, artworks, or focal points within the space. It draws attention to key elements that deserve special emphasis, and adds a touch of visual drama. Accent lighting fixtures can include track lighting, wall sconces, or adjustable spotlights. 

Task lighting is designed to provide focused illumination for specific activities or work areas. Task lighting fixtures can include table lamps, under-cabinet lights, or pendant lights positioned over counters. 

When possible, try to incorporate all three layers of lighting in your space to create a warm ambiance. Small pockets of lights highlighting particular features, and building upon general lighting that provides the bulk of illumination, give light a textural feel very pleasing to the human eye.

Layering lighting in restaurant with directional and accent lights

Natural Hemp Lighting by RetroLightDesigns on Etsy

3. Integrating lights with other elements of design

If you ever admired the look of patterned wallpaper, remember that you can take it a step further by creating the same effect by using lights. Carefully selected sconces or cleverly positioned accent fixtures can create plays of lights and shadows on your walls, or accentuate the beauty of your 3D tiles with their intricate lines and angles. The effect can be mesmerizing and adds an unexpected sense of depth, intrigue and enchantment to your space. Such techniques use lighting to enhance the look of other design elements, yet the result goes far beyond bringing in some patterns. 

Creating interplays of lights and shadows using a pendant with a cutout design

No. 39 Ovals Pendant Lamp by Het Lichtlab on Etsy

One of the many creative lighting techniques to consider is the use of wall washers or uplights, which can create a dramatic effect by grazing the surface of your walls with light. This technique highlights the unique textures and details of your walls, particularly when paired with 3D materials or with great architectural features. You can achieve a similar effect by using 3D Tiles with built-in LED lights.

Enhance this interplay of lights and shadows by experimenting with different light intensities and angles or with dimmable fixtures or adjustable spotlighting. For instance, casting gentle, soft light at a low angle can create a subtle and soothing atmosphere, while directing a spotlight from above can lead to bold and dynamic shadows. Using decorative elements, such as frosted or textured glass fixtures, adds further visual interest and diffusion of light.

Both indoor and outdoor areas can benefit from simple cutout lamps or lanterns that instantly elevate the look of an empty corner or table. Of course, you need to consider how these areas look during the day when natural light turns them into inefficient decor elements.

Solar lights with a cutout design casting lights and shadows on a table

Decorative Solar Lights by Beauty Bloom on Etsy

4. Going for more

As with everything else, there is power in numbers when it comes to lighting too. You can turn the simplest light fixtures into a showstopper by simply bringing in more lights and creating charming configurations. For instance, a few dozens pendants or a similarly built chandelier can mimic the depth and mystery of a starry sky and create an atmosphere reminicent of warm and romantic summer nights.

Light configuration mimicking a starry sky

LED Starry Sky Commercial Lighting by Hangout Lighting on Etsy

You can also choose to go for size and bring in bulkier pieces that fill in the space between your furniture and the ceiling. In this case, keep the other design elements simpler in order to allow your light fixtures to shine. Organically shaped pendants, for instance, have a contemporary look, but a soft pleasant presence.

Large organically-shaped light fixtures above restaurant table

Wabi-Sabi Chandelier by LightninggFinds on Etsy

5. Choosing unexpected shapes or materials

Opting for unconventional shapes or materials allows your lighting fixtures to become statement pieces that capture attention and leave a lasting impression on visitors. By deviating from traditional designs with these creative lighting techniques, commercial spaces can set themselves apart from the norm and be more appealing to the customer in search of the next Instagrammable background or simply hungry for new visual experiences.

Using a wooden guitar sculpture as a creative lighting solution in restaurant

Guitar Shaped Chandelier by Nicalike on Etsy

Unexpected materials such as wood, bottles, paper, books, even musical instruments can be transformed into one-of-a-kind light fixtures and even become the very signature of your business. Unique shapes can also create a sense of wonder, from complex geometric shapes or configurations to the fluid organic shapes that lend a space a spa-like feel or an intriguing look.

Creative cloud-shaped pendant in clothing store

Cloud Pendant Light by Forest Lighting on Etsy

If you are thinking to open a new business or are in the process of rebranding and remodeling your existing business, contact us to get a free consultation from Mindful Design Consulting. Click HERE to price your project design.

Also, take a look at the “Branding By Interior” e-book, the only book written on this subject at this time. It brings insight into how you can turn your business into a market-dominating competitor by using human cognitive responses.

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