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Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

Dimmer: a device that allows a person to control the brightness of a light

The most challenging, frustrating and rewarding stage of a project is that short frenzied period right before its completed, which for a restaurant would be its grand opening.

Sugarcane in DUMBO was no exception and every exception. The good news is, it looks lovely, is still open, and is a success. We can almost forget the wild ride it took to get there.

Restaurants are funny. The design process is generally smooth but fast. We develop a story with the lighting. We collaborate with the designers, owners and chef. We explain in detail the layers of light, the nuance of color temperature, the sources, and most importantly, the dimming protocol. But generally, in the weeks leading up to the opening, there are a lot of surprises, new requests, some amnesia, and sometimes admissions. For a large restaurant a dimming system is a necessity. But somehow, ten days before this restaurant was set to open, we learned the control system had been value engineered-out. But worse, the few dozen zones had been reduced to less than a dozen. And even worse, those dimmers wouldn’t be installed for the opening.

Don’t panic though. We didn’t.

When we say we are lighting designers and sometimes magicians, we mean it. And in this case, a wand would have really come in handy.

So here’s what we did.

We removed and replaced every lamp in the decorative pendants and sconces with 5, 10 and 15 watt light bulbs to reduce their brightness. We fully masked 30% of the architectural mono-points and re-aimed the remaining to light the table surfaces. We also added color and dimming filters to the focused downlights to warm the color temperature and reduce the light output.

In certain areas we simply turned the fixtures off and in others aimed the lighting towards the darker surfaces that would absorb the light.

We purchased glowing sculptural table lamps and placed them on the central banquettes. The custom decorative fixtures that were designed to hang over the banquets would not be installed for many more months.


And finally, we added colored gel filters to the accent lights over the bar to reduce the light output and give the illusion that the light coming through the bottles was casting the saturated colored light. We ended up keeping this in the end.

Candles were placed on every table of course, and for the opening, it worked. A week later the lighting zones were separated into the quantities we specified and individual dimmers were added. We labeled each dimmer with the levels for the varying scenes and re-lamped every decorative fixture with the original lamps. Filters were removed and the architectural mono-points were re-aimed and adjusted.

Not every project throws us curveballs like this. But projects like this make us better designers, project managers, and people.

“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in your mind.” -David G. Allen


Cetra Ruddy

Location, Brooklyn, New York

All images used with permission from Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill



Our Favorite Light Sources

Our Favorite Light Sources