The 1 Hotel Mayfair opened in July 2023, just opposite Green Park. With its bronze doors and a facade draped in a living wall of green foliage, it’s immediately eye-catching among the buzz and flurry of Piccadilly. Walk into the lobby and you’ll be greeted by a check-in counter hewn from a single 200-year-old oak tree, and a four-metre chandelier woven from living moss; Welsh slate, Yorkshire stone and timber from fallen trees has been used throughout, alongside reclaimed materials.

This is sustainable luxury in the heart of London: a pre-existing structure upcycled from a seven-storey, nondescript four-star to a nine-storey, five-star hotel that opened to five-star reviews. The 1 Hotel group is a pioneer of environmentally responsible hospitality, which aims at reducing its carbon footprint wherever possible while maintaining high standards of design, service and experience.

Visual Energy was responsible for the lighting design of the entire hotel – from bedrooms and front of house to the restaurant, bar, café and facade.

Having visited the group’s first property on Miami’s South Beach, the team were keen to impart the same sense of eco-sensualness and subtle warmth while staying true to the hotel’s Mayfair location. Throughout its five years on the project, the team worked to the mantra of ‘This is Mayfair’, riffing on the neighbourhood’s old-school reputation and the high-end craftsmanship found on Savile Row and Jermyn Street.

But the project also posed some interesting challenges. How to create a luxurious ambience while constrained by the limitations of the original building and by the limitations of low energy consumption? The response was to get creative.

Finding solutions with bespoke design
Working with the original 1980s infrastructure meant dealing with low bedroom and bathroom ceilings that couldn’t be raised. Realising there was nothing available that provided the correct amount of warm, ultra-low glare and energy efficiency, we collaborated on a design for bespoke downlights that measured just 50mm, small enough to fit in the tiny ceiling void.

To avoid energy waste, we ensured most lights served multiple purposes. For example, a single light illuminates the entrance, feature living wall and water fountain next to each of the 108 bedrooms. And to illuminate the plant box in every bedroom, we devised a simple but effective solution that kept electrical output to a minimum: place a box within the box with an LED strip wrapped around it, which bounces light up and down, creating the distinctive shadow effect around the plant and lighting the amenities.

Other challenges included creating a unique halo effect around the bedroom headboards, which involved placing a uniform line to follow the curvature of the design – rather than straight across. And for the display shelves that separate the bar from the main lobby, we drew on our experience at the V&A and treated them like museum vitrines, creating points of interest with tiny fibre optics concealed in the uprights and shelves. For Tom Sellers’ all-day restaurant, Dovetale, we had to take into account the natural light coming in through the skylights, an open kitchen, and the need for shifting moods throughout the day and night. The result is a galaxy of downlights set into the beautiful wooden ceiling, all working to showcase particular elements – ice buckets, food, bartenders – but without being obviously visible to the guests below.

The overall result has been to create a lighting system that reflects and complements the hotel’s elegant, biophiliac design and its use of natural materials, creating a warm, comfortable feeling of relaxed, accessible glamour. On the sustainable front, 1 Hotel Mayfair uses 50% less energy than a standard five-star UK hotel – each of the 108 bedrooms is lit with less than 4.9w per square metre – using fittings that are up to 80% recyclable. Visual Energy has worked on existing buildings before, but raising a four-star hotel to a five-star standard presented its greatest challenge yet. And the hotel group’s eco-awareness has had a game-changing effect. As well as raising the bar for sustainable hospitality in the UK, it’s also had a lasting effect on the Visual Energy ethos – we are committed to sustainable practices in all our projects.

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