Pointers for Choosing Perfect Vanity Light Fixtures
The right lighting is essential – especially in the bathroom, where we groom ourselves to make our appearance to the world each day. It’s the place where we start and end our days, so it’s critical to get the lighting right.
We all know how disastrous the impacts of bad lighting can be! Think about it: you are feeling pretty good about yourself while out shopping; then, as soon as you step into the cramped dressing room that’s dimly lit with a hazy fluorescent light, suddenly things don’t look so good.
The proper lighting can help you see better while shaving to avoid cuts and nicks, help you decide if the socks you’re holding are really both black (or if one is a sneaky Navy Blue), and even make sure that you’ve thoroughly cleaned up your child’s scraped knee after a skating disaster.
For more daily use, the right light in the best spots in your dressing area can help you to present your best self to the world before you leave your home.
And, lucky for you, we’re here to tell you exactly how to do it with nine suggestions!
This functional yet highly attractive bathroom in a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Transitional Country style home uses multiple light sources, including natural light from the window, to make sure you see yourself in the best light when getting ready to face the world (Plan #161-1119).
1. Height is Everything
Obviously, you don’t want to be hitting your head on overhanging light fixtures in your bathroom so you need to make sure they're not too low, but there is still more to consider when installing bathroom vanity lights.
You want to be sure that all light emitted from the mirror fixtures illuminates and flatters your face. Because of this, if you decide to install any lighting on the walls (which is always a great idea and highly recommended) in addition to the ceiling, then you should make sure that the fixtures hit at about eye level.
If you install more than one (or if it’s a longer fixture, like a light strip) be sure that the middle of the fixture is at eye level.
For an adult of average height, this is usually about 65 to 70 inches up from the floor.
The vertical lighting fixtures installed on each side of the mirrors in this two-vanity bathroom are installed so the middle of the fixture is at about eye level for most adults. This way, the light from the fixtures will properly illuminate the face – important especially for those applying makeup as part of their grooming procedure (Plan #161-1107).
2. Backlighting is Best
One of the best things you can do to help mitigate shadows and make getting ready in the morning easier to accomplish is to install a backlight.
This doesn’t mean physically backlighting your bathroom mirror (which is also a nice thing to consider doing), but rather to place light across from it. This way, you can better see your shoulders and hair while getting ready, no matter the time of day.
However, it’s important to adequately cover up the lighting in order to avoid a direct, harsh glare in the mirror. You can do this by adding a nice frosted pane or even a fabric accent to the fixture.
The large overhead fixture in this master bathroom in a 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath Meditteranean style home effectively acts as backlighting for the mirror in front of it. The mirror has two hanging lamps on either side of it, acting as combination overhead and side lighting (Plan #161-1122)
3. Dimmers are Essential
It’s so important to have the right bulbs for bathroom vanity lights.
You should choose the warmest light possible to really highlight the space. Experts tend to lean towards lights that are at least 150 watts (or the equivalent). However, for the best use of the space, make sure that the lights on the ceiling come with a dimmer.
For example, you might need harsher light for things like plucking your eyebrows or removing a splinter, but if you want to take a relaxing bubble bath or are getting ready very early in the morning, you will thank yourself for having the option to make the light softer and more accommodating.
Having a dimmer or dimmers in a bathroom allows you to go from bright light for getting ready for work in the morning to the soft, mellow light ideal for taking a relaxing bath at the end of a hard day at the office (photo credit Jared Rice on Unsplash).
4. Highlight the Correct Areas
Adding spotlights (sometimes called “downlighting” by those in the biz) is a nice addition to bathroom lighting; however, you need to make sure that you are emphasizing the correct areas of the room. It doesn’t really do you a lot of good to have a spotlight shining directly on the floor.
Think about it: what on the floor do you really need to see better?
Unless you plan to install a floor mirror specifically to examine your shoes each day, then you are better suited to use the bathroom light fixtures to highlight other areas of the room instead.
For example, spotlights can emphasize or add light to areas like countertops, opened drawers, or other areas of the bathroom that need a little extra illumination, like cabinets.
The recessed ceiling lighting in this master bathroom of a 3-bedroom, 3-bath Mid-Century Modern luxury home augments the light from the overhead mirror lighting. The room-length mirror reflects the light, making the room seem brighter than it otherwise would be (Plan #202-1025).
5. Floor Lighting is Flattering
While it’s quite silly to highlight the floor as a feature of the bathroom, the lower half of the space can actually be quite useful in creating ambient light.
This softer light can also be useful in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning, when you don’t want to hurt your eyes with a harsh, sudden adjustment to the full lighting of the bathroom.
Whether you choose your lights to be motion sensitive or switch activated, it’s a great idea to install them underneath the vanity or on any steps leading into the bathroom.
The floor lighting under the vanity cabinet of this master bathroom in a 2-bedroom, 2.5-bath Contemporary Ranch style home serves as a fascinating accent in the decor of the room. It can also serve as a stylish nightlight if you so choose (Plan #161-1104).
6. Diffuse, Diffuse, Diffuse
When shopping for a bathroom mirror with lights, it’s important to “spread the love.” This means spreading light evenly throughout the bathroom, instead of concentrating in in one area.
The key word here is evenly!
It’s important to pay extra attention to symmetry when you are lighting a bathroom. Let’s say, for example, you install a lighting fixture on only one side of the mirror; suddenly, half of your face will be in shadow every time you try to shave or put on your makeup. There’s no need to make grooming yourself this difficult – just put in two lights.
Another thing to consider: let’s all take a lesson from those dingy dressing rooms. One of the reasons we look so terrible in department store mirrors is because the harsh light shines down from directly above us.
This kind of light casts shadows in all the wrong places. This is definitely not the kind of light you want while you’re getting ready. Instead, consider placing the overhead lighting in your bathroom slightly back from where you plan on standing most of the time (e.g. right in front of the vanity).
The light in this bathroom is sufficiently diffuse because it comes from multiple sources: 1) the overhead lights high over the mirrors and back from the front of the vanilty, 2) the two corner windows, which allow rich natural light from outside to flood the space, 3) recessed lighting, and 4) a decorative hanging pendant light – both visible in the reflection of the shower glass (photo credit: Jose Soriano on Unsplash).
Being trendy is fun, but being functional is even better. When you're designing and installing your bathroom light fixtures, it’s important to think about the long-term use of the room.
This is because you don’t want to redo your bathroom as trends come and go, or when you discover that the bathroom mirror with lights that you picked out doesn’t really give you enough light to get ready each day.
To avoid this, it’s important to watch your bulb type.
If you don’t want there to be a terrible glare in your bathroom at all times, then you should try to avoid clear glass shades on your lighting fixtures, or even just exposed bulbs, unless the bulbs are oversize globes expressly designed to be exposed in a fixture.
Lights with clear shades, though potentially striking inthe right decor, can be extremely harsh and make it difficult to see what you’re doing, leading to garish make up, mismatched socks, or a patchy beard.
8. Cover Up Correctly
To avoid the problem of exposed bulbs, you’ll want to choose stylish shades for your vanity lights. It’s important to remember, however, that it’s easy to go wrong here as well.
For example, many homeowners might think that a solid metal shade is a stylish choice for bathroom lighting. And, while these metal lamps might work well for outdoor lighting, or mood lighting in more social areas, in the bathroom you’ll simply be left fumbling in the dark because of the way that they restrict the light.
Instead, try using frosted glass or fabric lampshades to cover bulbs in a bathroom setting. They tend to evenly distribute the light throughout the room in a both a flattering and functional manner.
9. Let the Natural Light In
Something many homeowners might overlook is the use of natural light in the bathroom. After all, when getting ready for the day, it is in our best interests to see ourselves in the very same light we’ll be bathed in as soon as we step out the door.
Some of the best bathroom light fixtures are skylights, large windows, or multiple smaller port windows in a row. If your bathroom is on the north or south side of your home, you can use your vanity lights to highlight the indirect sunshine, giving the room an extra bright, extra cheerful, and open feeling.
The generously sized window by this soaking tub in a spa like setting allows natural light to flood the space. Miniblinds allow you to adust the light and privacy levels (photo credit: Chastity Cortijo on Unsplash).
Because we use the space for so many different things, bathroom lighting fixtures should create a space that is both functional and flattering. And with these tips, this task should be easy to achieve!