Yotel NYC, which opened in 2011 just off of Times Square, has a lavender glow that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. It emanates lazily from the walls, the ceiling, and the computerized concierge counters. The New York location is the first free-standing hotel by this hip, ultra-modern London brand, which entrusted the seasoned lighting design firm Focus Lighting to bring its unique identity to life in LEDs.

Michael Cummings, a principal designer at Focus Lighting, walks us through the hotel  and discusses the finer details of the design:

“The interior design was inspired by the business-class airline cabin and Japanese pod hotel—a modern, sleek look with a small-is-smart, modular approach. Yotel gave us guidelines very early in the project that clearly stated its brand identity. Beyond that strong central core, we and the Rockwell Group had almost unlimited creative opportunities in the design process for bringing that identity to life.

Philips Color Kinetics were used in Mission Control’s retail case and throughout the hotel, where an ambient glow created with indirect lighting was chosen over decorative fixtures. Photo: Nikolas Koenig

“The Castore floor lamps in the lounge area near the restaurant really helped create some visual definition and add a little warmth and coziness as an ambient, glowing light source. Actually, those globes are one of the only incandescent light sources in the entire project. At night, the rounded-corner ceiling panels in the Club Lounge can turn Yotel purple, or they can do a kinetic lighting effect. Inside each of the panels is a grid of RGB LED nodes; they are spaced six inches apart on a center grid and backlight a translucent rubber material. That grid basically becomes a low-resolution video screen that can show clouds passing by overhead, or little water droplets falling into a puddle.

Yotel’s small guest “cabins,” which were inspired by Japanese pod hotels, have minimal lighting. Fluorescent tubes give off a soft purple glow for a branded experience, but guests can also switch it to white. Photo: Nikolas Koenig

A series of hidden, vertically mounted pin spotlights creates a theatrical atmosphere for the Yobot, which dances in and out of beams of light as it checks guests’ luggage. Photo: Nikolas Koenig

“As you walk or drive by, you really can’t miss this façade,” Cummings says. “It’s lit with Yotel purple on a textured-cast panel wall system with a slight, subtle relief at the top.”

“As you walk or drive by, you really can’t miss this façade. It’s lit with Yotel purple on a textured-cast panel wall system with a slight, subtle relief at the top. We did a whole series of shootouts between different lighting manufacturers to determine the right output and the right color—that perfect purple. It was really the blue in the mix of red-blue-green that made a subtle difference, and Traxon had it.

“On the fourth floor, you’re in what is called Mission Control, which is a concierge area and the main amenities floor. All of the accents on the ceiling are Lighting Science Group MR-16 retrofit LED lamps in Lightolier trackheads with magnetic transformers. We went back and forth between using a light fixture with an integral LED versus a light fixture that could accept a retrofit LED lamp. We consider this for any given project, but for this one, we opted to go for the retrofit because we wanted the owner to take advantage of continuing advances in retrofit LED technology.

Inside the Club Lounge, the lighting similarly supports Yotel’s chosen brand. Photo: Nikolas Koenig

“The predominant use of LED technology throughout the property really worked well to highlight the sleek, modern interior design. In addition to the brand identity purple, we used the pure white LED to create a kind of futuristic, modern space. It has a 2001: A Space Odyssey feel to it.

“To make the leap between the purely functional lighting of the interior of an airline cabin to Yotel’s interiors, we created a lot of flexibility in the dimming system. One of my colleagues took a trip to Dubai, and to wake people up, the airline actually used a color-changing ceiling effect that mimicked a sunrise. It wasn’t just all the lights blinking on—it was gentle. That’s what we tried to do at Yotel, create a composed mood within each space.