Is There a Place for Saturated Color Lighting at Retail? Rothy's Thinks So.

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colorful, theatrical lighting at Rothy's shoe store.

During the day I had passed by Rothy’s shoe store, located in the Upper Fillmore shopping district of San Francisco, many times. They manufacture a line of fashionable shoes made from recycled plastic — water bottles specifically. One night, as I was passing through, long after the store had closed, I noticed this storefront from across the street, glowing with rich tones of magenta and orange.  It was just so different from all the other retail spaces around it. I thought it was a brilliant way of making this space stand out and become memorable.

During the day, Rothy’s is illuminated in a more traditional way, which one would expect.  But what they’re doing at night is creating a theatrical experience.  You just can’t help but be drawn in.  For me, it was like a fantasy jewel box. I wanted to know more. I immediately looked up the store on my phone to find out more about them.  How’s that for successful subliminal advertising?

Rothy's Color Lighting at Night

Upon closer inspection I noticed that the front window display had just a hint of whiter light, a 3000 Kelvin LED source with a high CRI. It was like a visual sorbet, cleansing my visual palette after being mesmerized by the deep rich colors. In the ceiling you can see a series of slots which recessed into the ceiling. They contain adjustable LED track heads with color-changing capabilities, allowing the same fixtures to be used both during the day and at night, with very different… and exciting results.  

This is the same type of technology that is now being used in theaters and for musical stage productions. In the old days, theatrical incandescent ellipsoidal and fresnel fixtures were fitted with gels (filters) to project color. Each color had to have its own fixture, so that meant lots more fixtures and a lot more use of electrical power. Now, low wattage/high intensity LED theatrical fixtures can offer a full range of colors from a single unit.  For me, it’s thrilling to see this technology being used outside of a theater venue. 

Rothy's Colorful Night Lighitng

Maybe now’s the time to embrace color, since it has the ability be easily changed. For this store, the sales staff just has two settings to think about — Day and Night. It could even be on a control system that switches between modes automatically. Why not create a Cirque du Soleil magical experience?

As I was walking away, I noticed a lot of nose and handprints on the window. That meant I was not the only one that was enthralled be this taste of the rainbow.

Randall Whitehead headshot

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website www.randallwhitehead.com for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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