Omni Hotel: Music City Marvel

Omni Nashville-Grenald Waldron Associates

This year’s ALA Conference – held at the Omni Nashville Hotel – has a unique bonus: it connect to the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum as well as the recently renovated Convention Center featuring an award-winning lighting design.

GWA Lighting, Narberth PA

Photography by Ryan Linton

The core philosophy at renowned lighting design firm GWA Lighting (Grenald Waldron Associates) is to create a lighting design that not only expresses architectural form, but has a profound impact on how people emotionally respond and behave within that environment. Understandably, the GWA team came to mind when the Omni hotel plus Convention Center and Country Music Hall of Fame Expansion project in downtown Nashville was proposed. The goal was to offer seamless integration of these key adjacent properties.

Opened exactly one year ago, the 21-story Omni Nashville Hotel coordinates with the expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on four levels, creating a one-of-a-kind experience for both locals and visitors. The hotel accommodates 800 guest rooms/suites and offers more than 80,000 square feet of meeting and event space. There are two restaurants: Bob’s Steak & Chop House, and Kitchen Notes, a 3-meal restaurant with a special focus on southern regional cuisine.  Barlines is the hotel’s entertainment venue offering live music seven days a week, an outdoor seating area, plus a dedicated lunch and dinner menu.

Lighting By GWA Lighting: Omni Nashville Hotel bar
Track lighting provides the ambient lighting for Barlines entertainment bar, which is further highlighted by LED tape light on the shelving.

This music-centric tourist attraction in Nashville – which must appeal to industry professionals as well as casual music lovers – isn’t kitschy. Instead, the lighting design carefully accentuates the rhythm of the interiors and highlights the subtle musical features throughout the buildings. The lighting that the GWA team provided offered the desired fluidity and motion in each location, plus served as the main sculptural element. 

Besides dovetailing with the quality and elegance of a four-star hotel, the lighting design had to adhere to LEED Silver Certification and hotel design standards requiring incandescent lighting. The restrictive budget for the fixtures and controls was an added challenge.

Omni Nashville Hotel Redesigned By GWA Lighting
The unique LED lighting fixtures in this pre-function space were designed to resemble the flow of music notes along sheet music.

Among the lighting solutions that the GWA team employed was washing vertical surfaces to provide brightness; adding decorative fixtures to provide sparkle and visual hierarchy within each area; strategically placing accent and wall-washers to reinforce the architectural form and define each space; installing a computer-based dimming system throughout the public spaces to allow both local and building-wide control; and specifying warm light sources to welcome and comfort guests.

The project, which primarily utilizes incandescent solutions, is 15-percent below lumen power density (LPD). This low LPD was achieved by putting light where needed and not where it isn’t. Additional energy savings are realized through the building’s control system that raises and lowers the lighting for different times of day and uses.

A Vibrant Exterior

To draw attention and welcome visitors to the area, the designers devised a three-story podium that provides a warm glow with fluorescent and ceramic metal halide fixtures. Narrow floodlights uplight the structural elements to emphasize the verticality, while linear color-changing LED fixtures connect the top with the podium. LED strips integrated into the penthouses crown the building and emphasize its aesthetic.

For the rooftop pool deck, the team created a relaxed feel that encourages people to gather around the pool and, of course, the pool bar. Uplights add interest to the wall behind the lounge chairs, while floodlights illuminate the pool deck.

See the Music

Once inside the hotel, savvy guests notice the lobby’s signature element is the ceiling designed to symbolize a guitar. The “frets,” in combination with LED pendants create a rhythm within the lobby that ends at the chandelier within the guitar’s sound hole. Adjustable downlights add sparkle, while LED and fluorescent coves accentuate the guitar shape.

To add a sense of coziness to vast public spaces, oversized halogen floor lamps and halogen lighting focused on seating areas provide scale and intimacy for guests. Adjustable multi-head luminaires mean fewer holes in the ceiling as visual distraction and provide flexibility in creating various seating arrangements. LED pendants helped to keep the wattage use low.

Even often-neglected spaces such as hallways were given full lighting treatment. For example, in

the corridor that connects the hotel with the existing Country Music Hall of Fame, lighting is used to showcase the music memorabilia in the display cases along one wall — and the lines of lighting above these cases were designed to evoke music notes.

The GWA team installed pendants throughout the pre-function corridors to emphasize several popular destinations while assisting guests and visitors in find their way around and encouraging their movement through the spaces. A smaller, pre-function corridor is highlighted by decorative LED fixtures with varying portions illuminated to recall the movement of notes along sheet music. These, combined with accent lights and downlights, provide focus, organization, and visual interest. 

Dining With Downtown Flair

In devising the lighting scheme for Barlines (the hotel’s entertainment bar), the lighting designers envisioned an upscale “Honky Tonk” experience that would bring the vibrancy of Nashville’s nightlife to hotel guests. The bar is highlighted with LED tape light that is integrated into the shelves, providing vertical brightness and accentuating the front of the bar.


When it came to providing ambiance for Bob’s Steak & Chop House, the specified lighting emphasizes the five-star restaurant’s club-like feel with its leather upholstery and deep rich colors. Unobtrusive halogen fixtures were installed to illuminate the tabletops and artwork.

Bobs Steak-Chop House Omni Nashville Hotel
Bob’s Steak & Chop House features rich, dark colors for a club-like feel. The dining tables are washed in light to create dramatic focal points.

The environment that the lighting team wanted to achieve for Kitchen Notes, the hotel’s three-meal restaurant with Southern hospitality, was accomplished with light levels that convey a comfortable, homey vibe. Supplementing the downlights are incandescent pendants, sconces, and ambient fixtures that directionally emit soft light while halogen sources accent specific areas. 

Overall, the GWA team achieved its goal of creating a lighting plan that gives visitors and guests a seamless visual experience that links the Omni Nashville Hotel with the adjacent Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum the Convention Center. Their design plan recently received Honorable Mention in the Professional Commercial category for the 37th Annual SOURCE Awards sponsored by Eaton’s Cooper Lighting division.


Project: Omni Convention Center and Country Music Hall of Fame Expansion, Nashville, Tenn.

Architectural Lighting: GWA Lighting, Narberth, Pa.

Design Team: Mark Harris, IALD, IES; Anne Flaherty, Electrical EIT; and Ryan Linton, IES

Photography:  Ryan Linton

Lighting Products: Halo, Metalux, Portfolio, Neo-Ray, Lumière, Ametrix, RSA, io, Invue — all from Eaton’s Cooper Lighting division

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