Bath lighting
Photograph Courtesy Restoration Hardware
When it comes to interior lighting, bathrooms are probably given the least consideration of all the rooms in the house. The average client I meet doesn't think to invest there — save it for the living room or kitchen, they say. I see a lot of baths with inadequate lighting at the mirror. Often there's just a single ceiling fixture that's supposed to do it all.

But as the bathroom increasingly becomes a place to relax and recharge, complete with steam shower and spa tub, the lighting requires extra thought. And when it's done right, the payoff is great. After all, this is the room where you start and end your day.

A good lighting plan is a series of layers — placing ample light where it is needed for showers, shaving, or putting on makeup, for instance, while other light sources enhance the overall mood of the room.

Decoding the Layers of Light

Task Lighting
Vanity lighting gets top consideration because these fixtures work the hardest to illuminate the head and face for grooming. The most common mistake people make is putting recessed ceiling fixtures directly over the mirror. These cast shadows on the face, making daily grooming rituals more difficult.

Vertical fixtures or sconces mounted on either side of the mirror are best for casting an even light across the face.

But given the size and positioning of some vanity mirrors, sidelights can be impractical (mounting them directly to the mirror is always an option, but at greater planning and cost). Only then do I suggest a fixture for over the mirror. It should be placed 75 to 80 inches above the floor and, like all vanity lighting, contain at least 150 watts — ideally spread over a fixture that's at least 24 inches long so that the light will wash evenly over the hair and face.

The shower is a secondary area of task lighting. In smaller bathrooms, if the stall has a clear glass door, a dedicated fixture may not be necessary. Otherwise, I recommend a recessed light with a glass lens (plastic will yellow). Similar recessed fixtures work well over a freestanding tub or the toilet.

Ask TOH users about Bathroom Lighting

Contribute to This Story Below