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Bathroom Lighting: Balancing Form And Function

I think having lots of light is great in any room – there’s nothing quite so inviting and welcoming as a brightly lit space. But having adequate lighting is even more important in the bathroom. After all, our morning grooming time is probably the most time any of us spend looking at ourselves, so it’s important that we can see ourselves well to be able to put our best faces (literally!) forward. But purely functional bathroom lighting is rarely lovely, so striking the right balance between having lighting that looks good and lighting that helps YOU look good is incredibly important.

Don’t Skimp On Quantity

Arches 2-Light Bathroom Vanity Light From Elk Lighting
Arches 2-Light Bathroom Vanity Light From Elk Lighting

In most rooms, a single overhead light is usually all you need to achieve bare minimum functionality – one or two bulbs up top allow you to see, if not necessarily especially well after hours. But in a bathroom, there are some areas you need to be able to see better than others: namely, around your mirror. So while you should definitely have at least one other light in your bathroom, especially if it’s a big one, the lion’s share of your attention should be devoted to the lights surrounding your mirror. If you have a double vanity, the area above each sink should have it’s own light, as with this pair of Arches Lights from Elk Lighting.

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Fight The Shadows

Newburgh 3 Light Vanity Light And Matching Sconces From ELK Lighting
Newburgh 3 Light Vanity Light And Matching Sconces From ELK Lighting

There are two problems with lighting your grooming area: having not enough light, and having the wrong kind of light. Specifically, bad bathroom lighting casts shadows, or more aptly, causes your face to cast shadows on itself. This is one problem with old-Hollywood style bulb lights, which are plenty bright, but put overhead don’t always do the trick. Instead, I like to double up on bathroom lighting, combining an overhead vanity light like this Newburgh Light with matching Sconces on either side. This gives you quantity light from above, while adding a softer light from the sides that helps illuminate your face from all angles.

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Get Creative

Rondo Bathroom Vanity With Backlit Mirror From Iotti
Rondo Bathroom Vanity With Backlit Mirror From Iotti

One of the best ways to minimize shadows on your face and glare on the mirror, though, is to opt for something a little less conventional: lights that are actually embedded in the mirror itself. Backlit mirrors are a relatively recent innovation, but because they shine directly from within the mirror (in the case of this Rondo Mirror from Iotti, all around your face), you get the fullest amount of light and the most accurate reflection of any type of bathroom lighting.

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Punctuate Your Space

Corrina Bathroom Sconce From ELK Lighting
Corrina Bathroom Sconce From ELK Lighting

Of course, creating good quality layered bathroom lighting is about more than just illuminating your mirror. In a larger bathroom, chasing off the shadows can be a little more difficult – especially if your bathroom is in any shape that isn’t perfectly rectangular. One of my favorite ways to address this problem is to use more sconces, not just on either side of a mirror, but dotted evenly throughout your room. I think this looks especially elegant with corresponding spatial divisions. This Corrina Sconce, for example, could be place not only between two mirrors and on either side, but also in the center of matching panels throughout the bathroom.

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One Is Good But Two Is Better

Spanish Mosaic Alabaster Semi Flish Light From ELK Lighting
Spanish Mosaic Alabaster Semi Flish Light From ELK Lighting

If you don’t like the look of coordinated sconces (or, better yet, if you want to add another layer and dimension of lighting in addition to the sconces), dotting the ceiling of a larger bathroom with matching flush mount lighting fixtures is a great way both to add lighting and to create a coordinated style throughout your bathroom. These alabaster Spanish Mosaic Lights are simple but lovely, offering a warm inviting glow and a honeycomb pattern that’s echoed in the floor tile. Some would recommend opting for one larger fixture (and I can’t deny that I’m a fan of the bathroom chandelier), but especially if you have lower ceilings, going with multiple smaller fixtures is a better way to get the light you need where you need it.

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Keep It Coordinated

Quartz Stone Mosaic Wall Sconces And Pendant Light
Quartz Stone Mosaic Wall Sconces And Pendant Light

Finally, if you’re looking to add several multiple types of lighting to your bathroom – a bar over the mirror, a flush mount or pendant light, and wall sconces – one of the best things you can do to enhance your decor (as well as the quality and quantity of light in your bathroom) is to buy lighting fixtures from coordinated collections. Why? Because not only do these Quartz Mosaic Stone Sconces match the Mosaic Stone Pendant beautifully, but they help subtly draw your eye throughout the bathroom, making it look coordinated and harmonious (as well as well-lit!).

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What are your personal rules to good bathroom lighting? After all, not every bathroom can handle a chandelier, but we all need to be able to see to brush our teeth!