There area a lot of elements that go into great bathroom design. From the shade of your tiles to the size of your tub, it’s attention details, big and small, that really make a remodel shine. But it’s all too easy to forget about bathroom lighting – and it can be especially difficult to get it right when you can’t see how any given fixture will illuminate your space until it’s a done deal, wired to your wall and rigged to a light switch. But lighting choice can really make or break your decor – not enough light and your bathroom will not only feel gloomy and off-putting, but it’ll lose usability; too much light and everything will feel washed out and hospital like.
So how do you strike the perfect balance? The most important thing is to be sure to layer many multiple types of light. While many bathrooms have a single flush mount fixture or recessed florescent lighting, using only one bright light can illuminate your bathroom unevenly. For the best effect, you really want all parts of your bathroom to be lit, combining different types and brightnesses in different areas. This setup is basic, but has all the components you’ll need: multiple Square Flush Mounts for subtle all-over lighting, and Recessed Lights and matching Centra Wall Sconces for task lighting.
The latter is especially important in a main or master bath that sees daily use. For makeup application, shaving, or up-close freckle inspection, you need bright bathroom lighting positioned to cast light on your whole face and eliminate unsightly shadows. A simple bathroom bar-style light like this modern Four Light Fixture should be placed above your mirror, at least 78″ off the floor. Alternately (or additionally!) you can place matching Wall Sconces to either side of your mirror about 60″-66″ off the floor and 28″-30″ apart. This works especially well with smaller vanities, or rooms that use individual mirrors for each sink, and can create a wonderful sense of symmetry.
All told, the lights around your mirror should total at least 150 watts – whether that means two 75 watt sconces like these slim Brandywine Sconces placed to either side, several gentler lights, or one bright bar up top (one bar for each mirror, or one longer one to cover a larger mirror or two smaller ones). More is okay – after all, this is the part of your bathroom you really need to see – but any less and your reflection will be too dim and you’ll be more apt to miss a spot on your makeup or overlook a stain on your favorite tie. If your morning makeup routine is especially important, you might want to nix standard bathroom lighting and invest in a custom mirror with built in lights which tend to be more expensive, but shine directly on your face, preventing mirror glare and shadows.
That said, just having a light over your sink isn’t enough either. Even in a smaller bathroom (unless it’s very, VERY small or gets a lot of sunlight for most of the day), you should have at least one overhead light that casts a soft light over the entire room. Depending on your decor, this can be as simple as an unobtrusive round white flush mount light or simple pendant or as elaborate as a crystal chandelier. I love this bathroom because it coordinates this simple Stockholm Chandelier with a pair of Buckingham Sconces and, if you look closely, incorporates several white Recessed Lights throughout the room to keep it looking bright and clean.
Big rectangular florescent insets might seem like a good way to do this – and are certainly one of the more common forms of bathroom lighting – but conventional florescent tubes produce an off-colored lighting and don’t have the same natural look and feel as CFLs or incandescent bulbs. As well, the fixtures tend to be bulky, and the plastic covers are flimsy and fragile. Instead, I’d opt for can or recessed lighting every time – not only do they offer a better quality of light, they also afford better control over the quantity, and can be laid out to cover a more expansive area. The best part? They wont clash with your Sconces.
Also, be sure not to neglect your bathing space – the inside of a shower can be unforgivably (and quite inconveniently) dark, and adding one or two Wet Rated recessed lights can really make a huge difference in the quality of your shower – not to mention your ability to shave your legs! While you should take full advantage of natural light throughout the bathroom, for privacy’s sake you probably don’t have one in the shower, which can make this an especially important place to keep in mind during your bathroom remodel.
If you have a freestanding tub, especially a vintage style clawfoot tub, adding a simple crystal chandelier like is not only a great way to add light to your bubble bath or your bathtime reading, but also adds style and antique authenticity to your decor. A bathroom chandelier is a somewhat unexpected choice, and a simple wrought iron one like this one from the Sutton Collection is plain enough to be gaudy, but striking enough to be one of the main accents of the room.
Of course, there are times that bright white ’round-the-clock bathroom lighting isn’t what you have in mind for your design. Especially in a guest bathroom, you can throw many of these guidelines out the window simply because the day to day grooming necessities aren’t such a pressing issue. Instead of task lighting and ambient lighting, in a guest bath you can play with accent lights. This bathroom makes excellent use of Recessed Lights and cove lights or Under The Cabinet lights to highlight textures in the wood, vessel sink, towel rack, and mirror frame. This is also an excellent way to take a dim, windowless bathroom and turn it into something stunning – breaking the darkness with Mini Spot Lights (preferably on a dimmer switch) to give great, targeted mood lighting and use the lack of natural light as an asset rather than a drawback.
As well, you want to keep in mind that while the light is the most important thing, the fixtures themselves can go a long way towards enhancing and establishing the style of your bathroom. Even though most of this bathroom is done in a rather casual style, the matching crystal, candle-style Regal Chandelier and Wall Sconces stand out as especially elegant, and change the overall tone of the room.
So when you’re planning your next bathroom remodel, don’t skimp on the bathroom lighting – after all, what good is a beautiful bathroom if you cant see it! What’s your favorite type of light? Are you thinking of any specific style for your redesign? Let me know in the comments!