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Perfect Bathroom Lighting

After walking out of the house with yet another razor nick on the chin or eyeliner that doesn’t exactly line the eye, you’ve finally realized it is time to improve the lighting in the bathroom. With bathroom remodeling pulling ahead of kitchen remodeling in resale value, it is a good decision. Where do you start? Relax. With a little information and a few quick decisions you can be out of the door each morning, clean shaven and nicely coiffed.

Perfect Mirror Lighting

Experts agree that the best way to light a bathroom mirror is placing a light on each side, then supplementing the pair with light from above. Lighting from three directions eliminates shadows and illuminates the face perfectly so shaving is uneventful and makeup application is easy. In any new construction or remodel project, this should be the aim.

With that goal in view, preference can now come into play. A single sconce on each side works well and there is a wide variety to meet almost any aesthetic preference. You might also consider a linear light, mounted vertically. This works especially well if multiple people of varying heights share a mirror. The linear pieces will deliver ideal light whether the user is short or tall. Mini pendants, while installed on the ceiling can be positioned so the light falls in the exact same spot as the sconces. This opens yet another avenue of options.

Lights on each side of the mirror should be placed from 36” to 42” center-to-center, 66” to 72” from the floor. If there are two lavatory bowls in the bathroom, don’t cheat! Treat each sink individually. Light should be equidistant from the center of the mirror/sink. In an effort to save money, some people will place one light between the bowls. To do this correctly, the distance between the centerline of each light and each mirror should be exactly the same, from 18” to 21” in all four spots. Failure to position the lights equidistant will deliver uneven levels of luminance to the face. If the sinks are father away, add a fourth fixture. On longer vanities, this will actually look better and more balanced.

To add illumination from above, I like to use a recessed can in direct line with the sink drain. Find the center of the drain and place a dotted line to the ceiling. That should be the centerline of the recessed light.

Some Other Considerations

Clear glass and vintage light bulbs are nice, but they make it difficult to see because of their piercing light and the glare that creates. In a bathroom, seek out, etched glass, white glass, etched cased opal glass (white glass encased within a clear layer that has been etched) or a fabric shade covering the light bulbs. This softer delivery of light will make functionality better and easier to use.

Is the room big? You might need to add some ambient light to the mix. A group of recessed cans, some decorative flush or semi-flush pieces or even a chandelier will work here. Connect them to a separate switch.

Add some LED tape to a separate switch and place it under the vanity or at the toekick. Alternately, connect one or two step & aisle lights to the switch. Either will add some interest to the room, but more importantly serve as a functional nightlight for safer nighttime navigation.

Pretty simple, right? One light on each side of the mirror. Each light should be equidistant to the center of the mirror. One light above, placed at the centerline of the sink. Pay attention to glare for more comfortable use and you’re done! Of course, this method might not work for everyone. If that is your case, check back for the next blog entry, “Bathroom Lighting Alternatives.”

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