Tyrone Sconce by Robert Abbey
Flank the bathroom mirror with lights
General ceiling lights in the bathroom will suffice for ambient light, but aren’t ideal for beauty and grooming tasks. In fact, lighting from above can create shadows, splotches and lines across your face while shaving, putting on makeup, flossing, etc. A bath bar, vanity light or pair of sconces placed on each side of the mirror will provide the best lighting for detailed tasks.
If you have a large mirror that can’t accommodate a light on each side, a horizontal vanity light above the mirror is your best bet. Look for a vanity light that includes a shade for each bulb to minimize unflattering shadows.
Placement Tip: For vanity lighting on the sides of a mirror, mount the fixtures at least 28 inches apart and around 60 inches off of the floor to ensure the brightest parts of the lights are in line with your face. For a light above the mirror, mount it about 78 inches off of the floor.
Span Bath Bar by Tech Lighting
Model your bathroom lighting after daylight
There’s nothing quite like natural light, right? The true color of our face, hair, makeup and clothes is best represented in the daylight, so this is the quality of light you’ll want to mimic in the bathroom. First, go for bathroom lighting fixtures with white shades—frost, clear or otherwise.
Second, use light bulbs that render colors appropriately for the room. Determining that depends on the bulb type:
- Incandescent bulbs: These bulbs should have a “white” color indicated (warm white or cool white) or have a color temperature is between 2700K and 3000K.
- Compact Fluorescent bulbs: Contrary to popular belief, CFL bulbs can be a good choice for bathrooms—as long as their CRI (Color Rendering Index) is 90 or above. This indicates that they are close to displaying colors the way that daylight does. The ideal color temperature for CFLs is also between 2700K and 3000K.
- LEDs: Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs have become viable options for bathroom lighting. Like the others, a CRI of 90 or above and color temperature of 2700K to 3000K are recommended. Pay close attention to the brightness for LEDs, indicated in lumens. See our guide to lumens for more on picking the just-right bulb for the light you want to achieve.
Antasia Bathroom Wall Sconce by Hubbardton Forge
Layer your lighting
Bathrooms need to move from bright light for morning rituals to a soft mood light if you’re taking a soak in the tub. Luckily, there are several creative ways to easily move from one atmosphere to another.
Install a light dimmer for example to control the intensity of your vanity lights. These days, there are dimmers available for incandescent, fluorescent and LED lighting (we love the contemporary dimming controls from Legrand Adorne).
If you have the space, choose a decorative fixture for your ceiling light. Small chandeliers and semi flush ceiling lights can set a relaxed and romantic mood when the other bathroom lights are turned off.
You could even add a small lamp if there’s extra room on your bathroom counter.