View from Bar

I’ve been updating my portfolio lately, so I’ve had a chance to take a fresh look at some of my projects from grad school. My favorite class was Advanced Lighting Studio, taught by the fantastic Josh Feinstein of Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting. It was an incredibly challenging class, but something about our projects and Josh’s no-nonsense style combined to make it an especially inspiring semester for me. I also loved the material and could really feel my knowledge and design sense grow as I learned more about lighting, which is one of the most important elements for a successful interior.

“We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”
- Jun’ichiro Tanizaki In Praise of Shadows


Our first project was a bar design in an existing building in Boston’s South End. We needed to choose a concept and inspiration for the bar, then design the space based on the chosen concept with special emphasis on lighting. I chose waterfalls for my inspiration for several reasons. I love the way light is transformed as it passes through the moving water, and I felt like the image of falling water could be beautifully expressed as light passing through soft, diaphanous fabrics. These are some of the images I found that best represent my concept.


In the floor plan, my goal was to create distinct bar, seating, and service areas while maintaining the three structural columns, which posed a good space planning challenge. I brought the concept of the waterfall into the floor plan as a continuous, fluid, curvilinear line that extended in plan around the perimeter from one end of the bar to the side opposite the entrance. Not only is the waterfall line represented in plan, but along its journey it transforms three dimensionally from the bar top into an enclosed bench then into general bar seating.

Floor Plan

I mirrored the shape of the bar in the ceiling plan with a dropped ceiling that followed the shape of the bar. Recessed into the dropped ceiling were custom surface-mounted fixtures inspired by water droplets.
I integrated the three columns into the overall design by covering them with translucent rippled glass backlit from floor to ceiling and using their placement to create a visual division of space.
The wall behind the booth in the back was lit with a projected image of slowly moving water to create a trance-like effect and to mask the restrooms and service areas behind.
The built-in seating along the perimeter was backed with white mesh material lit from above, where I recessed the curtain suspension and LED lighting into a cove to give an overall feeling of a waterfall descending from beyond the ceiling.

Reflected Ceiling Plan

Elevations and Perspectives

The elevations show the profile of the wave above the entrance, the change in ceiling height, and the vertical representation of the curvilinear line, expressed in the change of material in the bar that swoops up to form the back of the booth.


The perspective below and at the top of this post show views from the front and from the bar. You can see the glass-covered backlit columns, the custom surface-mounted fixtures, the entrance wave, and the effect of the white material lit from above.

View from front


This detail shows the custom light fixture above the bar and the image that inspired the idea.

Custom Fixture Inspiration

Detail of Custom Light Fixture

Detail of Backlit Corian Entrance Feature

One of the lighting features I had the most fun with was the wave-like structure above the entrance/street-facing wall. I knew I wanted it to be backlit with a gradual change from blue to white light. To achieve this effect, I placed a white LED strip along the bottom and a blue one along the top, and the wave was built of translucent white Corian. The wave had to be constructed as one piece attached by moveable hinges so that the light strips were accessible.

Detail of Illuminated Column

This was a tricky detail to figure out because I had to create a structure for the fluorescent light fixtures to be mounted on around the column, and I had to make one of the four glass sides hinged at one corner so that it could be moved to change out the light bulbs when needed.

The software I used: Autocad (plan, rcp, elevations, details), Google Sketchup (3D model and sketches), Piranesi (perspective renderings), Adobe Illustrators (2D renderings)

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