Are You in the Dark About Your Bathroom Lighting?


tile detail
3D Limestone Tile – Lighting enhances the details

The lighting in your bathroom is just as important as the lighting in any other room of your home. The 3 layers of lighting  approach should also be applied in the bathroom.

Most bathrooms only have general light but if you think of the tasks accomplished in a bathroom one light fixture is not sufficient.   Bathrooms require practical and functional lighting solutions for the tasks being performed i.e. shaving, applying makeup, showering.   So here are some tips:

Task Lighting

  • For the vanity area,
    • place wall sconces on either side of the mirror to provide light from all sides and minimize shadows under the chin, eyes, cheeks, and forehead.  This is the preferred placement for light fixtures.  Install fixtures 60″ – 66″ from the floor to the center of the fixture and 30″ – 36″ apart.
    • If you do not have sufficient space for sconces, place a light over head at 75″ – 80″ above the floor.
    •  Ideally, if you can place a light overhead (i.e. a recessed light) and also on the sides, this provides a more even distribution of light.
    • A lighted mirror is also another option.
  • In the shower and over a freestanding tub, install recessed lighting with glass lenses. The lens is required for safety and plastic yellows over time.  Just as a reminder, as bathrooms are damp locations if you are locating a light fixture over a bathtub, or in a shower be sure that those fixtures are wet location rated.
  • A recessed fixture works well over the toilet.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient light provides general illumination for the bathroom. You can use a pendant lamp, chandelier or interesting flush mounts to add some visual appeal.

Accent Lighting

A recessed fixture can be angled over a bathtub or in a shower to highlight tile work or fixtures and make them sparkle.

Lighting Controls

Light switches are typically used to control lighting.  Take it a step further and put your lighting on dimmers and/or motion sensor.

  • Dimmers allow you to easily change the look and feel of the bathroom and give you more options to control the different layers of  light.  Think about coming home from a long exhausting day and wanting to melt the day away.  Go ahead and dim the lights to a soothing level, put on some soft music and relax and soak in the tub – ahhh!
  • Motion sensors are a good option if you have kids.  For example, put your general lighting on a motion sensor so that your kids and guests can navigate without having to reach for switches.

Lighting Color Temperature and Color Rendering

Additionally, color temperature (measured in kelvins (K)) and color rendering are both important in a bathroom.

  • Color Temperature shows the warmth or coolness of a lamp’s color appearance, not the heat it gives off.  Color temperature for a bathroom should be warm and flattering. Color temperature between 2700K and 3500K from your light source is recommended for the bathroom.   Avoid selecting color temperatures above 3500K for your bathroom lighting as they give off a “blue” hue which is not ideal. A warmer light also gives skin an appealing tone.
  • Color Rendering Index (CRI)  indicates how colors appear. CRI ranges from 0 to 100.  In a bathroom you want a more natural and realistic color so a CRI of 85+ is best.  The higher the CRI the more natural the color rendering.

You can find both CRI and Color Temperature values on most of today’s light bulb packaging.  Some packages will have CRI listed as color accuracy and color temperature listed as light color.

Lighting layout is important so if you are overwhelmed, contact an interior designer or lighting professional. In addition, always consult a certified electrician before tackling even the simplest lighting project – safety first!.

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