How to Choose Your Bathroom Vanity Lighting
Sconces, or wall-mounted light fixtures, are a popular choice for bathroom vanities for several reasons. They can be beautiful and highly functional, and generally they don’t take up a lot of space.
In a main bathroom, where one will sometimes be using the mirror for tasks such as shaving, applying makeup or putting in contact lenses, it’s important to have fixtures that light not just the space, but the face.
Remember, good bathroom task lighting will light you primarily, rather than the wall or the mirror.
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Together, a pair of sconces will evenly light the face from the sides, avoiding harsh shadows that can leave part of your visage in the dark.
That being said, the fact that they can cap off the look of a beautiful bathroom mirror is a great bonus.
For more even-ness, fixtures like these with multiple bulbs will generate light from multiple angles to better eliminate shadows.
The American Lighting Assn. recommends mounting them 65 to 70 inches from the floor as a general rule. The association also recommends placing the fixtures 28 to 30 inches apart, but that depends on the size of the room, among other factors.
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- You need your vanity to be an evenly lit workstation for your morning routine.
- You want to fill the space to the sides of your mirror with an extra decorative touch.
- You have a single narrow mirror or multiple mirrors with spaces between.
- You can’t install lights in the ceiling (in a condo with concrete ceilings, for example).
- Your renovation will already involve opening a wall but not the ceiling, making sconces more convenient to install than a ceiling fixture.
Don’t have a lot of wall width to work with? To allow for the maximum width for a mirror, you can position a sconce above the mirror instead of squeezing one in on each side.
This keeps the lighting symmetrical, although having it come from overhead may cause some shadows on your face.
Often fixtures that are seemingly meant to be installed vertically can be rotated to run horizontally instead, giving you even more options when you shop. This is not always the case, so check the installation instructions before buying.
This is especially true for a double vanity, where people will not be standing in the center but rather to one side. A series of lights above the mirror will more evenly light you in this case, regardless of where you stand.
The American Lighting Assn. says the ideal height for installing fixtures above a mirror is about 78 inches.
- You don’t have room on one or both sides of the mirror to fit a pair of sconces.
- You have a very wide mirror with no breaks in between.
- You have a tall space and want to dramatically accentuate the height by adding a focal point up high.
So far we’ve talked a lot about functional task lighting, but sometimes light has a different function: just being beautiful.
In spaces other than the main bathroom, such as a powder room, the lighting may not need to be perfectly even and bright. In such a case, sometimes a single light that makes a dramatic statement is preferable.
Browse tube pendant lights
Asymmetrical or off-center arrangements, bold mini-chandeliers or lights that cast dramatic shadows can all give a space a sense of personality and drama.
Mixing basic wall fixtures with a more elaborate ceiling fixture will reduce the chance of the two styles competing or clashing.
- You don’t need perfectly even lighting for tasks in a non-primary bathroom
- You want to make a big impact in a powder room.
While pendant lights can be quite dramatic, they can also be functional as well. A series of pendant lights can function similar to sconces if hung low enough, or being hung higher to sit above the mirror, or somewhere in between. After all, since they don’t attach to the wall they can be hung at whatever point on the wall you choose.
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Pendants can be very useful when you cannot install lights on the wall, either because an architectural feature like a window or post is in the way, or because the wall is already finished (say, with beautiful tile) and you don’t want to open it up just to add a new light.
In a tighter space you can hang the sconces in front of the mirror to allow for a wider mirror. But, if the fixtures are too close together they’ll be too in-your-face to see the mirror properly. Therefore, you should make sure you have at least a good 30 inches between them regardless.
- You want to have it all: a wide, uninterrupted mirror and multiple functional lights.
- You have a tricky wall that can’t house sconces.
- You already have power supplied for lights in the ceiling and don’t want to open the walls unnecessarily.
Recessed downlights, commonly known as pot lights, are often the first thing people look to when planning a bathroom renovation. This is especially true when renovating a space to sell, as pot lights are aesthetically neutral and generally acceptable to any potential homeowner.
However, pot lights are often burdened with lighting a whole room, when in fact they should only be one part of a full lighting scheme.
For the richest light scheme, it’s best to combine downlights with pendants or sconces to bring in light from additional angles. However, using just ceiling lights can create a particular breezy, modern atmosphere, with nothing interrupting the crisp vertical surfaces, so it ultimately comes down to the look you prefer.
- You want to sell your home and want to make a safe decor choice.
- You like a wide-open, modern scheme with walls free of pendants and sconces.
- You want a rich lighting scheme that includes multiple light sources working together.
While most of the lighting types we’ve looked at have existed for ages, the use of modern LED strips to create mysterious glowing light virtually anywhere is a more recent development, with technology that just keeps getting better and better.
- You like the space-age look of glowing LED light emanating from a mysterious source.
- You want to achieve ultimate brightness by adding a mirror light to an already rich scheme.
- You have a cool wall treatment you want to highlight with a wall washer.
- You have a medicine cabinet for necessary storage and want to make sure the room still feels bright and open.