CHALLENGE Located in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood, L2 Lounge brings a sense of its exterior surroundings indoors with the space's exposed brick, stone walls, and concrete floors. The high-end neighborhood is fitting for the members-only club (although non-members may be granted entry for a price if space permits). L2's design contrasts rough walls and smooth surfaces throughout, such as white fabric ceilings, white lacquer panels, and backlit glass. This posed a challenge in regard to lighting the space, according to Maureen Moran, principal of Washington, D.C.–based MCLA Architectural Lighting Design, who says she was surprised by the reflectance levels. “In most clubs or lounges, you don't have a white ceiling,” she notes. “One of the challenges was to get the lounge dark enough.” Working with the architect, Lehman Smith McLeish, and the client, MCLA developed a lighting scheme that is completely dimmable, uses approximately 80 percent light-emitting diode (LED) technology, and captures the underground feel of the space, which includes four lounge areas, while utilizing the white surfaces throughout.

SOLUTION When the team from MCLA first saw the space, the designers immediately thought to use color knowing that the client wanted a lighting design that was unique and upscale, Moran notes. She adds that LED technology was an appropriate lighting solution for the project because of the low-level light situations associated with a lounge space.

Upon entering the exclusive club, patrons find themselves in a narrow entryway, illuminated by a wall of color-changing LED laminate glass panels on one side and white lacquer panels on the opposite wall. This vestibule is bathed in a soft colored glow as the paneled wall, which surrounds the coat check, is the sole illumination source in the space and is backlit with RGB 1W LEDs each individually controlled to create different color combinations. As Moran explains, additional lighting was not necessary in this area because the lighting creates the illusion that both walls are backlit, in turn filling the entire space with light.

Glass doors from the coat check hall lead the clientele into L2, which features two bars and four lounge spaces separated by stone walls. Video displays, able to show dynamic effects and patterns, are used throughout the project, with one lounge space even projecting images onto its white fabric ceiling. To offset the video display walls from the stone surfaces, strips of warm white 3000K 1W LED grazers frame the video screens. While eye-catching in their own right, Moran notes that the video components, not part of the lighting scheme completed by MCLA, blend into the space nicely and do not distract from the other lighting elements.

Not wanting to penetrate the acoustic stretch fabric ceilings of the lounges with downlights, the design team kept all lighting at the perimeter with 50W PAR30 halogen track spots slid between the wall and where the fabric ceiling stops. Moran notes that a spread lens is used on the spots to enhance the texture of the walls. While the architects were curious if there would be enough light in the space, Moran says she always was confident that there would be, although she admits that she was surprised at just how much the finished design could be dimmed while still providing adequate light levels.

In addition to the coat check area, color-changing backlit panels also are used along the front of the two bars. Moran says the client was very much involved in the programming of the lighting scheme, and there are a variety of preset programs to choose from, depending on the occasion. Color also is used in the unisex restrooms, where the individual stalls have a profile cutout of a man or woman, backlit in either blue or pink by 35W MR16 wallwashers with a dichroic custom color lens from within the stall.

The prestige of L2 is heightened by its location in Cady's Alley, an upscale part of Georgetown recently developed into what Moran calls a “design center,” featuring numerous furniture chains, antique stores, and boutiques amid the cobblestone pathways and brick buildings. The design team created a classy lounge-appropriate lighting scheme for this high-end space by embracing the opportunity to use LED technology as the main light source, while at the same time achieving the sophistication, ambiance, and quality sought after by the client.

Project L2 Lounge, Washington, D.C.
Design Team Lehman Smith McLeish, Washington, D.C. (architect and interior designer); MCLA Architectural Lighting Design, Washington, D.C. (lighting designer)
Photographer Prakash Patel, Washington, D.C.
Project Size 4,450 square feet
Watts per Square Foot 3.24
Manufacturers Birchwood Lighting, Color Kinetics, Lutron, ProLume, USA Illumination, Times Square Lighting