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Bathroom Lighting Buying Guide
How to Buy a Bathroom Light: Avoid the
Good task lighting can make or break a
bathroom. If done poorly, your bathroom lighting can produce shadows,
glare and can create an unpleasant appearance. As with most lighting,
bathroom lighting is best layered to give several lighting levels. It is
good to have general lighting that produces light to maneuver through
the room, task lighting for the daily functions, and ambient lighting
for a pleasant atmosphere.
A continuing trend for bathrooms is remodeling existing rooms to improve
function and value of the house. Remodeling your current space can have
several benefits, such as creating a space that is custom for your
needs, create a spa like atmosphere where you can relax and unwind, as
well as improving the space for daily functions. Regardless of your
reason to improve the bathroom, good lighting plays a key role in a good
Pro Designer Bathroom Lighting Tips
Basically, this type of lighting provides general lighting for the whole
bathroom. Sometimes the light is combined with a fan and function trumps
style. A ceiling fixture will provide enough lighting to maneuver
through the room, assuring that you will be able to see everything in
it, and contribute to your safety.
- Try to surround the face with light, so you eliminate shadows under the chin, eyes, cheeks, and forehead.
Normally the light should be centered over the basin at about 66” above the floor, and always if possible on the wall not the ceiling.
If two sinks are being used each should have its own light, do not attempt to share a light if possible.
Definitely do not rely on recessed lighting, the shadows will be horrendous.
- Pick a ceiling light that is bright enough for the entire room. Ceiling lights provide general "ambient" lighting, but are not designed
- Place ceiling lights where they may give light to as much of the room as possible.
Larger bathrooms may need more than one ceiling light
- Design Tip - Place 2 wall sconces mounted at eye level to either side of the mirror
- Mini Pendants can be hung from the ceiling instead if there is not enough room alongside the mirror for wall mounted lighting
- Mini Pendants should be hung 12” to 18” from the wall on the ceiling and the height should be adjusted to eye level
Flush Mount or Semi Flush in the Bathroom
• Bath Ceiling lights can be flush or for higher ceiling semi-flush
• Flush mounts are installed on the ceiling and generally do not hang far
down, good for low ceilings and sealed. It is easy to find a flush
mount with a damp rating where moisture is a concern
• Semi flush mounts hang further from the ceiling than flush mounts, good
for high ceilings. Semi flushes are generally more stylish, but
maybe harder to find a fixture with a damp rating
Task lighting in bathrooms are typically placed around the sink/vanity
area to produce focused lighting for your daily tasks; shaving, applying
make-up, etc. To ensure proper task lighting multiple lighting is needed
to give cross-lighting to the space and remove shadowing. Think of how a
flashlight placed under the face provides scary shadowing. The same can
occur with one overhead vanity light, heavy shadows would appear under
the eyes and face. That is why we recommend that additional side lights
are placed on either side of the mirror. Wall sconces and pendants are
being used frequently to avoid shadowing. With both a vanity light and
side lighting, these multiple lights will cross over each other lighting
the entire area, removing shadows, and illuminates the entire space
evenly. Wall Sconces or mini pendants are good side lights to consider
to remove the unsightly shadowing effect.
Vanity lights usually are placed above the mirror. The purpose of this
type of lighting is to provide lighting for daily tasks. Vanity lights
provide either direct or indirect lighting which can be changed by
mounting the fixture upward or downward.
What Size Vanity?
• The most common vanity lights have 2-4 light bulbs, but can have as
many as 5-6 light bulbs
Multiple light vanity’s provide cross-lighting to help remove shadows
• Vanity lights should be about 75% of the mirror’s width, for larger
mirror or where there are more than one sink more than one vanity light
can be used
Downward Lighting vs. Upward Lighting
• Downward lighting is good for task lighting because it casts the light
directly down on the area needed. Downward lighting can be useful in the
vanity area as long as there are other lights to provide enough
• Upward lighting is indirect lighting that reflects off the ceiling and
bounces back into the space. This light is softer and creates less
shadowing and glare. It works well when the ceiling and bathroom are
light in color to reflect the light. Most Vanity Bath Lights are
designed to face up or down.
• 60 to 100 watts incandescent or equivalent should be used to properly
light the space
• Consider a DIMMER, especially in the Master Bath, to avoid glaring
light at night, which disturbs circadian rhythms.
Bathroom Light Bulb Secrets
- Color qualities and light distribution are very important in vanity lighting, to further reduce shadows, glare, and to afford the best possible natural look.
- Insist on a bulb that can be DIMMED. Especially for Master Bathrooms. Halogen requires diffusion from the fixture to reduce glare. 75 watt Incandescent produces warm light at low levels.
- CFL fluorescent rate in the area of 80 to 90 on the CRI scale which the Color Rendering scale considers closest to natural daylight.
- Consider LED bulbs, especially cool is architectural leds behid mirrors or in coves.
Wall Sconces or Mini Pendants make Excellent
Using side lights to help cross-illuminate the task area can add a
decorative touch to the bathroom as well as making you look better. Wall
Sconces or Mini Pendants are good choices for this type of lighting
because they eliminate shadow from wrinkles.
Knowing the different lighting options would be useless if you
don’t consider your bathroom style and fixtures.
• Go over different designs and styles of light fixture that would match
the overall design of your bathroom.
• Look for fixtures that match the finish of your bathroom sink faucet,
and other hardware in the bathroom
• Current trends is a brushed finish, polished and chrome finishes are
not as popular and might be harder to match later on
• Use frosted or white shades and light bulbs instead of clear glass to
soften the light and reduce glare
So, when you are designing your home, don’t forget to include your
bathroom. Besides, you spend a lot of time there. You owe it to yourself
to make it a place that offers comfort and convenience by purchasing all
the right lighting fixtures for it.
Steve Brielmaier – Lighting and Lamp Design
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