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Bathroom Lighting Alternatives

Whether it is cost, space or wall configuration, sometimes you cannot enjoy perfect, three-direction lighting at the bathroom mirror. That’s when alternatives come into play.

Vanity Lights/Strips

Vanity lights deliver light from only one direction, above. That means there will be shadows on the face. Those can be ameliorated by using the widest option that will fit in the space. Over a 20” mirror, for example, a 24” unit will deliver some light from each end, thereby reducing a portion of the shadows. Do not go overboard! The light and the mirror should be of a similar width.

Some of the new LED linear strips emit evenly distributed light across the full length of the unit. This is different than the individual 2-light, 3-light or 4-light styles. They should be considered as well.

A light strip over the mirror may be needed and may be the only thing that works in many applications, but remember, it will not deliver the same quality of light as two fixtures flanking the mirror. (See previous blog post.)

Lighted Mirrors

With the advent of LED, there is an explosion of mirrors that feature integrated light. Visually, many look great. Functionally, just as many deliver glare-inducing light that irritates more than assists. These are growing in popularity. Some believe they are set to overtake conventional lighting fixtures. If you are drawn to this type of bathroom option, consider one which includes indirect light.

Indirect light is the easiest light for our eyes. It removed glare and provides an unobtrusive delivery of illumination. Many of the mirrors present light from behind the mirror surface, not poking through the mirror face. Indirect light surrounding the perimeter of the mirror will provide even light, much like that which is delivered by sconces and a recessed can. This can be a very good option.

Avoid those which feature a visible light on the forward facing surface of the mirror.

With a lighted mirror, some additional ambient light may be needed. If recessed cans are included as that solution, one over each sink will be helpful. A smaller vanity light over the mirror could also be considered.

A Few Other Suggestions

Seniors are especially vulnerable to glare. A vanity light over the mirror provides more glare than almost any lighting fixture in the home. If the bathroom will be used by an older adult, work hard to employee a light on each side rather than over the top.

Over the mirror vanity strips should be installed 72” to 80” from the floor, regardless of ceiling height.

The glass position up or down, is a common question. I suggest you hang it according to your aesthetic preference. There will be a bit more delivered light with the diffusers in a downward direction, but that is accompanied with more glare, unless the diffuser has a closed bottom. The metal support structure will block a touch of the glare when hung with shade in an “upward” direction, but that will reduce the amount of delivered light. Let artistic taste guide you here.

Keep the mirror width and the length of the vanity lights similar. Mirrors and vanity lights are available in nominal 18”, 24”, 30” and 36” sizes. Stay reasonably close, a few inches longer or shorter will appear proportional. A tiny mirror and a long light will look odd. The reverse will appear equally out of balance. Seek continuity of width for the best results.

Even if “perfect” light is not an option, pretty darned good light can be employed. You just need to follow a few simple guidelines.

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