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Home / How to Light Bathrooms

How to Light Bathrooms


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How can one overlook lighting for a bathroom, a place for washing and grooming as well as rest and retreat? With the different levels of activities in different spots of the bathroom ranging from putting on makeup in front of the vanity mirror, shaving over the sink, soaking in the tub, and rinsing in the shower, particular lighting will be needed for each of these places and tasks.  To get started about how to light a bathroom, define these three major elements: bathroom lighting placement, bathroom light bulb, and bathroom light fixture and style.



How to place bathroom lighting

Whether you are looking to light for tasking, accenting, or ambiance, proper placement of your light will be crucial to achieving your desired effects in the bathroom.



Bathroom Lighting Placement for Tasking



bathroom wall sconce

bathroom wall sconce

To many, the most important area to pay special attention for lighting is around the mirror where detailed activities is performed such as putting on makeup and shaving. Proper placement for these activities will surround the face with flattering light, prevent unwanted shadows, making it easy for the person to accomplish his or her tasks. A great way to achieve this to have vertical lamps in wall sconces on both sides of the mirror.  The general lighting placement guideline is to put the center of the lighting fixture 66" above the ground and 30" apart from one another.



However, sometimes this method is unpractical because of the way the mirror is set up, therefore, installing lights above the mirror can be a remedy. Sometimes installing lights above the mirror can often cast shadows, so it's important to place a lamp fixture and bulb that spreads light evenly.  The general guidelines for installing lighting above the mirror is to have it placed 75 - 80 inches above the floor and spread evenly over a fixture at about 24 inches long. Testing is always recommended before taking out the tool box.



Bathroom Lighting Placement for Ambiance

To light for ambiance, cove lighting has been a successful way to add an overall soft glow and warmth around the room while hiding the lighting source, achieving a seamless lighting solution.  Cove lighting is an indirect light built into a ledge or valence placed on the ceiling. Other great choices for ambient lighting are placing pendant lamps and chandeliers in an area that will provide the best light source for the bathroom's general area while acting as the bathroom's centerpiece.



transitional pendant lamp
Transitional Style Pendant Lamp
pendant light in bathroom
                                                                                     Pendant lamp applied in a bathroom

Bathroom Lighting Placement for Accent

If you need accent lighting to showcase something in the bathroom such as a piece of art or intricate tiling, a small recessed light aimed at the target can achieve amazing results. This type of light is flexible and does a great job at directing light in a particular direction.



How to pick bathroom light bulb

Before selecting your light fixture or style, decide what kind of light, or more specifically, what kind of bulb(s) will be used. This is because the bulb determines two major lighting issues: color qualities and light distribution.  Out of excitement, some first jump to selecting the lamp fixture and then the bulb - however, it should be the other way around. Picking your light bulb should be done before selecting the light fixture.



Out of all the different kinds of light bulbs, which one should you pick?



The two elements in selecting a bulb are its color temperature and color rendering. Color temperature refers to whether the light appears cool (more bluish) or warm (more red or yellow). Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K) with the lower temperatures (less than 3500K) appearing warmer while the higher temperatures (more than 3500K) appear cooler.   Skin tends to look more flattering with warmer lights, however, there are some who prefer the cooler lights.  Color rendering (CRI) is a measurement of a light source's ability to stay true to color and ranges from 0 to 100.  The higher the CRI the better.  If you prefer a warmer color, look for a light bulb with a lower color temperature. If you prefer a cooler color, look for a light bulb with a higher color temperature. If you would prefer to have a light bulb that casts a light that makes objects appear more true, look for a higher CRI.



While the bathroom is a place used for retreat and relaxation, it is also a place for grooming, putting on makeup, and tasking. Thus, light distribution plays an important role in the bathroom.  Ideally, the light in a bathroom should not cast shadows, be flattering while staying true to the object or person's physical qualities. The light bulb, its lamp fixture, and the placement of the light play an important role in effective light distribution.



vanity mirrors with built in lights bathroom application Modern vanity mirror with built in lights applied in a bathroom


How to Pick Bathroom Fixture and Style

Now that you've figured out the placement and light bulb for your restroom, the fun part is to pick a bathroom light fixture that fits in with the rest of your bathroom's style while staying compatible with the other two points in this article - placement and light bulb. For example, if you plan on placing your light using a halogen bulb above a mirror, make sure that the light fixture that you choose can physically fit within that space and has the technical capabilities of housing that particular light bulb and looks as though it belongs in your bathroom.  There are several kinds of bathroom lighting fixtures from contemporary bathroom lighting, vanity lighting, crystal bathroom lighting.  While the lighting fixture's technical specifications may be subject to your bathroom's own specs, choosing the style is up to your particular taste.  You may want to ask the opinion of your friends and family for the right one for your bathroom.

Examples of vanity lighting



vertical vanity lamp
Vertical vanity light


Round vanity mirror built in light
Round vanity mirror with built in light


glass vanity lights