Bathroom Lighting Ideas: Building Layers of Light

Lighting a bathroom can be a bit challenging. Bathrooms are no longer purely functional spaces where people do their business and leave in a hurry, but are expected to contribute to the overall look and feel of a home. A bathroom whose lighting is dim or uninspired does not make a good impression on a guest or even a member of the household.

Safety is also a consideration when it comes to lighting a bathroom. The light needs to be bright enough to prevent trips and falls, and lighting fixtures have to be protected from wetness, especially if they are found within a shower stall as many now are. Since personal hygiene such as shaving and the application of make-up take place in the bathroom, the light around the sink and the mirror needs to be very bright.

Layered Lights

It is a good idea to think of bathroom lighting in terms of layers of light that complement each other. These layers include task lighting, general lighting and accent lighting.

1. Task Lighting

When design professionals speak of task lighting in the bathroom they mean the lights around the mirror and above the sink. This is where the tasks of the day and the night are done. These tasks, with the debatable exception of brushing the teeth, need strong light to be done safely and well. Homeowners should avoid putting task lights above the mirror unless the mirror is very long. LED Lights are a great solution for this type of lighting. This is because lights above the mirror cast shadows that not only make performing personal hygiene ineffective but make the person look old and tired. The best type of task lights are wall sconces placed on either side of the mirror at eye level, because their light is even and doesn't cast shadows. If the mirror is nearly as long as the wall itself, lights above it are an option but so are lights that are actually fixed to the mirror.

Bathroom Lighting Ideas: Building Layers of LightBathroom LED Lights, $5.48 - $41.65 at

Task lights should deliver between 75 and 150 watts in a well-used bathroom. They can be a little dimmer in a powder room.

Task lights in the shower stall should be recessed and protected with a vapor-proof glass cover.

Lamps need to be avoided even if there's a large vanity that has room for them. When it comes to the bathroom, it is simply best not to use anything that has a cord that needs to be permanently plugged in.

2. General or Ambient Light

This type of light substitutes for natural light and is especially important for bathrooms without windows. Even a bathroom with windows that let in abundant sunlight during the day needs ambient light at night. This light is most often provided by a ceiling fixture or fixtures, whether it be a pendant light, a chandelier or a set of recessed lights.

3. Accent Lights

These lights are just for esthetic reasons. They are aimed at areas or objects in the bathroom that the homeowner wishes to highlight, like a beautiful vessel sink made of blue crackle glass or a painting or an old fashioned claw-foot bathtub. Accent lights can be recessed lights that are able to be aimed at the place or object the homeowner wants highlighted. LED bulbs are a perfect for an environmentally friendly alternative.

Candles in a bathroom add a touch of romance and sensuousness to the room. However, they should be kept away from anything flammable and never left unattended.


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