Bathroom Lighting Tips 4 Things You Need To Know Modern Bathroom

December 7, 2018 5:55 am by sandiego
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Bathroom Lighting Tips 4 Things You Need To Know Modern Bathroom

• Accent lights: Directional recessed lighting can be angled to illuminate artwork or impressive design elements in your bathroom. Hanging light fixtures such as chandeliers can lead the eye toward a beautiful claw-foot tub or other features; while enhancing the general ambient bathroom lighting.

Some of the hottest styles include under-cabinet, floor-level lighting that sets off bathroom floor designs as well as providing low levels of light for middle-of-the-night bathroom visits. 

Now that the type of light that is needed in a bathroom has been determined, it is important to identify the appropriate areas that need to be illuminated and what light fixtures will sufficiently illuminate the space.

Asymmetrical lighting is another mistake. Placing a fixture on just one side of your mirror will create uneven illumination and make grooming difficult. Lastly, clear bulbs with filaments are popular these days, but they cast a shadow on everything. Go for something opaque or frosted instead.

Ambient lighting is most often achieved through ceiling lighting. A flush mount ceiling light with a frosted diffuser is perfect for providing just enough warm, ambient light to illuminate the whole bathroom.

For a mirror to be used to its full potential, it needs to be illuminated in all the right places. The vanity area of a bathroom is used for many daily functions, so it is important that the light is bright and that there aren’t obtrusive shadows. The ideal arrangement would be a mounted vanity light above the mirror accompanied by a wall light on either side. That way, when you’re using the mirror, your face will be fully illuminated from all angles.

What areas should be the focus of your lighting in the bathroom?

(Updated version of a post originally published in January 2016.)

Considering just how vital it is, it’s odd that bathroom lighting does not seem to get the attention it deserves. From bad overhead lighting to shades that create shadows or glare, the bathroom is almost always an area of the home prone to lighting mistakes. Below, we round up our best tips and advice to give your bath–and its lighting–its proper due.

Instead of thinking of each of these bathroom lighting elements as independent items, try to imagine them as layers of lighting. Each lighting element should complement and enhance the others, while also standing alone beautifully. 

For shower or tub lighting, you have to think about water and safety, so look for ceiling-mounted or recessed lighting that’s “wet-location listed,” which means certified as safe in wet conditions and fully covered in glass. I like the Telsa 3.5-in. High Output LED Shower Trim and the square Model LED371 3-in. Downlight Shower Trim. They have a neat, tailored look that’s nice. I tend to use LEDs for strip lighting, and the InvisiLED Pro 24V LED Tape Light is great. You can put this below a cabinet or in a recessed niche in a shower to create a soft glow. The Tesla 2-in. High Output LED 0 to 30 Degree adjustable Reflector Trim is ideal for illuminating wall art.

Buyer’s Guides, Resources + FAQs Bathroom Lighting Buyer’s Guide

Remember that different parts of the bathroom may benefit from different light temperatures depending on room size, decor colors and natural light from windows. 2. What Is the Color Rendering Index of Your Bathroom Lighting? To take the color and temperature concept of bathroom lighting a little further, it’s a good idea to understand the Color Rendering Index (CRI).

This number can indicate how accurate colors look under certain lighting sources.

Or you can forego the separate installation of lighting and mirror by combining the two together. Lighted mirrors put the lights just where you need them without the need to measure or take up more wall space.

No longer a small, simple room that is used briefly, the modern bathroom has transformed into a larger, luxurious retreat that serves as a place to relax and unwind as much as it serves daily rituals. But for your bathroom to rightly fulfill its many uses, it is very important to install the correct lighting.

GDS: With ceiling fixtures, I prefer those that give off diffused light that isn’t overly directional. The iO ceiling light, for example, offers overall illumination and the light comes out of the sides as well as the bottom.

GDS: In addition to LEDs, I love an MR-16 bulb. It works with low-voltage recessed fixtures and gives off crisp, clear light—up to 75 watts—but it’s dimmable, so it’s really versatile.

You also should avoid light pointing directly down on your head because it will be harsh and unflattering. Instead, position your ceiling light over the walkway area so you’re lit from behind rather than directly in front of the vanity.

Apart from their possible duties flanking a mirror, elsewhere in a bathroom, wall lights add a soft fill light that enhances ambient light and balances out bright task lighting. A single wall sconce is perfect for lighting a dark corner or highlighting a piece of art. A second option is to create a symmetrical installation by framing a door or window with a wall sconce mounted on both sides. For best results, mount wall lights at eye-level, or 5-6 feet off the ground.

GDS: People often think one fixture is fine here, but you usually need two. Equal lighting at both ends of a tub is best. With a shower that’s 3×3 ft. or 3×4 ft. you can get away with one fixture, but if it’s larger you’ll need more. And unlike the vanity area, for safety you should place lighting directly over where you stand in the shower.

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Even though there are general design tips for lighting a bathroom–such as the ideal height to mount a wall sconce or how to balance the light in the room by using a combination of different types of light–it is important that you consult a local contractor or electrician to make sure all local codes and regulations are observed.

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1. What’s the Color and Temperature of Your Bathroom Lighting? Have you ever noticed how the clothes you try on in the department store never quite look the same in your bathroom mirror? Don’t blame the mirrors; it’s probably your bathroom lighting.

“Plain” white light can have a multitude of shades, colors and temperatures that impact how your clothes and makeup look. You’ll almost instinctively notice that every light bulb or lamp has a “temperature” or color tint to it that makes it cooler or warmer.


Task lighting is bright, directional light designed to provide more localized light for an activity—say, personal grooming around your bathroom vanity. A common installation is a vanity light mounted horizontally above the mirror, and that will likely serve you for most everyday tasks. But for shadow-free lighting on your face for make-up application, shaving or brushing teeth, two wall sconces mounted alongside the mirror are your best bet.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) designed this 0-100 scale (100 having the best color rendering), based on how well lights display pastel colors. This scale assumes that lights closer to 100 CRI that bring out the best in pastels will also work well with richer colors.

Try for at least 80 CRI in your bathroom lights. 

For additional design solutions for the bath, or to find the best fixture for your own space, we’re here to help. Call our bathroom lighting experts at 866 842 6209.

• Decorative lights: These bathroom lighting ideas stand out as design elements on their own. Chandeliers, sconces and other “eye candy” lights can brighten your bathroom and add decorative touches that highlight your unique style. 

Ambient lighting, also known as general lighting, illuminates the whole room. This type of light provides enough illumination to safely navigate through the space, read the labels in a first-aid kit and bathe kiddos in the tub. When used with a dimmer, ambient light can also transform into warm, soft illumination to offset the bright glow that results from task lighting.

An easy way to add accent lighting to a bathroom is through the addition of wall sconces. Positioned next to a door, a piece of art or mounted on a blank wall, a wall sconce will provide soft, diffused light to counterbalance ambient and task lighting.

Note: The CRI is fairly accurate with most standard bathroom lighting options, but can be a little off with LED lamps. NIST and other lighting experts are trying to come up with a scale that accurately measures color rendering for LED lights as well as other lighting sources.

3. What Wattage Is Best for Bathroom Lighting? We’ve covered the color, temperature and color-rendering factors of your bathroom lighting; now let’s discuss brightness, which is measured in wattage.

There are several factors that will impact how bright you want the lights in your bathroom to be — 75-100 watts go well in guest and master bathrooms. However, for half-baths or powder rooms, 45-60 watts is fine.

Keep in mind that as you age, or if the users of the bathroom are seniors, staying around 100 watts will aid with vision and safety. 

In addition, the Stiletto Bath Lights are nice, sleek fixtures you could mount as vertical or horizontal sconces. I also like the simple and modern Elf1 and Elf2 Bath Lights. And it would be beautiful to place a series of Latitude 5650 Wall Sconces around the room with the Latitude Bath Bar above the sink.

As the finishing touch to a bathroom lighting arrangement, accent lighting balances out the overall brightness of the room. Enhancing ambient lighting and softening task lighting, accent lighting provides a subtle glow that creates depth and highlights different parts of the bathroom.

Bathrooms are not one-fixture rooms; a bathroom is a space that needs layers of light from multiple sources. A combination of the three basic types of light–ambient, task and accent–are essential to address the different tasks that happen in a bathroom.

However, there is not always room for a light fixture to be mounted on every side of a mirror. If you’re working with limited space and must choose one, opt for a single vanity light horizontally above the mirror. To ensure that your face is fully illuminated, the vanity light should ideally be at least 36 inches in length and 78 inches high on the wall.

A ceiling light is a successful way to provide the necessary general light that is needed in a bathroom. The previously mentioned flush mount light is a great option, as is an arrangement of hardly noticeable recessed lights throughout. Both will casting general light downwards while blending in subtly with any design.

If you’re remodeling your bathroom into the luxurious home spa you’ve always wanted, you’ve probably poured over tubs, tiles and faucets. Don’t forget light fixtures, though — bathroom lighting has a huge impact on your bathroom’s overall design.

The right lighting can turn your bathroom from the place where you brush your teeth into a sanctuary of luxury. First, consider the following four essentials of bathroom lighting.

• Task lights: Essential to any bathroom lighting scheme, task lights usually go around vanity areas in the vicinity of the sink so you can put on makeup, shave, brush your teeth, etc. We recommend installing task lighting on either side of your mirror instead of above the mirror.

Lights above the mirror tend to create glare and shadows you want to avoid. Though lighting on the sides casts an even glow for your morning routine. Consider vertical bathroom lighting bars, pendants or sconce light fixtures.


Too often lighting a bathroom is low on the list of priorities relative to other rooms in the house. But with bathrooms becoming larger and more elaborate, proper lighting is essential to making the most of the space. San Francisco–based designer Geoffrey De Sousa, the co–founder of the DeSousa Hughes showroom who has designed residences throughout the Bay Area, Palm Springs, and Boston, offers his expert bathroom lighting ideas.

Geoffrey De Sousa: Your bath should be bright and clean, so ample overhead and task lighting are key. But bathrooms are now a room in the house where people are spending a lot more time, so you’ll also want the ability to create an atmosphere that’s relaxing and spa–like. Having flexibility to adjust the lighting is really important, which is why I put dimmers here just like I do throughout the house.

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If you want to have more bathroom lighting options in the wattage and brightness department, consider installing dimmers. That way, you can use all 100 watts to wake yourself in the morning and apply makeup or shave without cutting yourself.

Later that evening, you can dim to 35 watts for a relaxing bedtime bath. 4. How Many Lights Do I Need in the Bathroom? Each light in your bathroom should serve your ability to see what you need to see, as well as providing the right ambiance and design effects.

You’ll need to consider your bathroom’s size, ceiling height and how your bathroom lighting can diminish glare and unflattering shadows. There are also different types of bathroom lighting to consider: 

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When installing fixtures in proximity to water sources, it is important to check your local codes, as specific lighting safety requirements can vary by jurisdiction.

For tall or round mirrors, or for personal design preferences, simply mount a wall sconce along either side of the mirror. The wall sconces should be mounted 60 inches from the ground and 28 inches apart to provide the proper distribution of task lighting.

The placement of ceiling lighting in a bathroom is also key. The center of the room is perfect for casting light around the whole space. Definitely avoid putting a ceiling light directly above the vanity—the result will be splotchy illumination, unwanted shadows and potentially a glare from the light bouncing off of the mirror.


GDS: First, ceiling–mounted or recessed lighting overhead for general illumination. You’ll also want to light the vanity area with some excellent task lighting, which can be a fixture above the mirror or sconces on either side. And you need to light the shower and tub area. You might also consider strip lighting under wall–mounted cabinets, which makes them appear to float in space, as well as illumination for wall art.

Most, but not all, bathroom light fixtures come either damp rated or wet rated and are designed to be used in a room that is subject to dampness and exposure to moisture.

From mirrors to vanities to baths, Modern Bathroom can help you create the oasis you want. We encourage you to browse our products and contact us with any questions.

GDS: I would avoid fabric shades on fixtures, particularly if you have a Jacuzzi tub. And cast bronze and brass are more delicate so they tend to corrode sooner. Brushed chrome, nickel, and stainless finishes do better.

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The different types of light needed in the bathroom The most important areas of a bathroom to illuminate The different ratings of bathroom lights Different Types of Bath Lighting 

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GDS: Not enough of it. Another problem is when people install too many recessed fixtures so the ceiling looks like a sea of black holes.

In areas directly exposed to water, like the area around a shower or bathtub, bathroom lights should be listed for wet locations. This means that, even if the light fixture is splashed or comes in contact with water, the water will not damage or build up in the electrical area of the lamp.

A light fixture in an area that is not directly exposed to water but is occasionally exposed to moisture and condensation (such as next to a sink) should be UL or ETL listed for damp locations.

Bathroom lighting experts often recommend sticking to the warm white light, as shown in the color/temperature breakdown below. (Hint: Try warm white 2700-3000 kelvins (K) for the most flattering bathroom lighting). 

• Ambient lights: These are the lights that cast general illumination across the bathroom. You can accomplish this with rows of recessed lighting; ceiling-facing light fixtures that reflect light across the entire bathroom; and decorative central light fixtures that radiate light in all directions.


GDS: Not only are LEDs energy–saving and convenient because you don’t have to replace the bulbs for years, but they are minimal in appearance so you can get a more clean–lined, modern look in the bathroom. Plus, today’s LEDs have more wattage and the light quality is a lot warmer than before, which means you have a more cohesive look when combining them with incandescent bulbs.

When deciding on the type of lightbulb to use in your task lighting fixture, it is important to pay attention to the bulb’s Kelvins, also known as the color temperature. In the bath, the best color temperature to shoot for is 4100K or higher, also sometimes referred to as cool white. This is the closest to daylight, which offers the most accurate depiction of color. Therefore, it’s ideal for tasks like putting on makeup.

For vanity lighting I like the Metro Vanity Light. I have this in my Palm Springs home in the master and guest bath. I mounted it horizontally over a long mirror and it can also be mounted vertically as long sconces one either side. It has four very bright halogen bulbs so it gives off an enormous amount of light, but it’s dimmable as well.

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