Designing Bathroom Lighting(page 1 of 2)

Learn how to put the right amount of light in the right place


Even a tiny bathroom with proper lighting can make a big impact. And luxuriously large spaces that serve as spa retreats can impart an air of rest and relaxation by incorporating layers of light that illuminate “work” areas like the vanity and shower, and cast a glow on attractive features like artwork.

“Bathrooms are becoming these retreats—these sanctuaries,” says Randall Whitehead, lighting designer/author and president of Randall Whitehead Lighting Solutions, San Francisco, Calif.

The lighting in a bathroom should reflect this mood, while providing the illumination necessary for one to take care of life’s daily functions there.

Great Bathroom Lighting Design

Lighting the Space

For functional and visually pleasing lighting in a bathroom, work these strategies into your lighting plan:

Prevent vanity shadows. Remember when you were a kid and you could make a spooky face by shining a flashlight under your shin? That’s exactly the effect you do not want when applying makeup, shaving or fixing your hair at the bathroom vanity. Unfortunately, many people light the vanity space with a single light mounted above the mirror that shines down over the sink. The result: a scary face with dark shadows under your eyes, nose and chin. “That ages you,” Whitehead says simply. “It lights up your forehead and the rest of your face falls into shadow. And, the first thing in the morning, you do not want to look 10 years older!”

The best way to illuminate the vanity is to place two wall-mounted fixtures on either side of the mirror at eye level. This creates cross illumination. Whitehead recommends 100 watts of light per fixture in a master bath, and 40 watts per fixture in a powder room.

Fancy up the tub. Accent lighting, such as a mini chandelier hung over the tub, will dress up the space and offer a warm glow. “It adds a lot of elegance,” says Jeff Dross, director of education and industry trends for Kichler Lighting.

Light a footpath. Toekick lighting installed underneath base cabinets provides soft illumination at night. “This low-level light is hidden under countertops and cabinets and allows you to navigate the bathroom in the middle of the night without making your eyes tear,” Dross says.

Jazz up a mirror. Backlight a mirror by wrapping lighting around the back side. The result is a halo effect around the mirror. “It’s an easy way to light the bathroom without turning on general lighting,” Dross says. Keep in mind, this backlight is not a replacement for functional task lighting at the vanity.

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