The instruments take center stage at music showroom

Nov. 29, 2023
The showroom features 14 specialized spaces, each requiring a unique lighting solution.

Challenge: Sweetwater is the largest online retailer of musical instruments and professional audio equipment in the United States. NELSON Worldwide designers created a new showroom and retail store on the brand’s corporate campus. The lighting program was the responsibility of Amy Laughead-Riese of 37 Volts Light Studio, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The store is organized into 14 specialized spaces, allowing consumers to shop within sections featuring the instruments that best suit their needs. At the opening of the facility in June 2021, Chuck Surack, CEO and founder of Sweetwater, said, “We have always been a business dedicated to building community. Our goal is to bridge stronger connections between musicians and offer our customers a new central destination where they can experience exactly what Sweetwater is.”

“Overall lighting was 3500K for both general and accent purposes to complement the wood flooring and neutral palette,” explains Laughead-Riese. “While each room features similar colors, unique light fixtures were used to mimic the product showcased within that section, creating a subtle wayfinding element throughout.”

Entrance lighting

The front edge of the entry portal is accentuated with a 1-in. lensed linear LED from the Pinnacle EDGEEV1 series. Beyond, a floating drywall ceiling plane is dissected with black reveals. Accent lighting is provided with Aculux 4-in recessed beveled adjustable downlights. Pinnacle’s Lift 1 × 4 troffer adds a glow at the ceiling plane. At the point-of-sale registers, Lumium’s Hydrogen 2 series, modified with a custom mounting plate, were installed at random lengths to mimic a sound graphic equalizer. “The lighting design is inspired by the musical instruments themselves,” Laughead-Riese describes. Cylinder style trackheads from Acuity’s provide flexible accent lighting so all merchandise pops against the dark display walls. 

Center aisle

Along the perimeter, rooms are dedicated to specific musical instruments. A slim canopy around the perimeter that acts as a sign band incorporates a thin recessed ribbon of light filling in the general lighting pattern, created by Q-tran’s Tape & Channel series. Another ribbon of light mounted atop the canopy grazes the blue walls and creates a glowing halo of light behind the signage.Metal display shelving attaches at the floor and ceiling with the world’s largest pedal display. The top-cap of the structure conceals LED Linear’s Mars Nano luminaire. With the black baffle, the light fixture is nearly invisible, yet the top shelf is illuminated as brightly as the shelves below, with additional Q-tran tape light concealed within the front edge of the shelf lip. 

Center of the showroom

Acuity’s Mark Lighting Slot 2 series and Acuity’s Juno R606L series track lights are placed in a random staccato pattern, yielding another layer of interest within the baffled ceiling system used to disguise the open space overhead.

Like guitar strings

The guitar display is dramatized by Ecosense’s Lumium Oxygen 1 series that floats across the ceiling like illuminated guitar strings, providing general lighting. Acuity’s Slimform downlights punctuate the strings.

Piano section

An abstract keyboard defines the ceiling space, concealing ductwork above. Representing the black keys are linear lights from Acuity’s Mark Lighting Slot 2 series, suspended just below the white baffles as position markers.

Drum room

In the drum room, an exaggerated hoop defines the ceiling space. Inside the reveal on the bottom, an LED creates a subtle glow. The balance of the space is illuminated with track lighting from Acuity’s R606L series.

Shape of a drum

A series of floating curved ceiling forms mimic the shape of a drum. Acuity’s Arc series trackheads were reused from the previous store for the accent lighting, suspended from a track hidden between the ceiling panels. A standoff continuous light rail system from Lumium washes instruments affixed to the slat wall. 

This article appeared in the September 2022 issue of Architectural SSL magazine.

About the Author

Vilma Barr

Vilma Barr is a contributing editor to U.S. and international professional journals and trade periodicals published in the U.S. and internationally in the fields of lighting and the built environment. She has served as author, co-author, and editor of design and business books.

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