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High-Fashion Lights for a Low-Budget Price

Armed with some creative advice from lighting experts, a budget-minded bathroom makeover need not leave you in the dark.

Just by swapping out old light fixtures for decorative new sconces and a dramatic chandelier, and adding some accent lighting, you can update the personality, not to mention the functionality, of your bath. And with prices for high-fashion light fixtures starting at around $50, you can do it all on a modest budget. Now that's a bright idea.

CHANDELIER CHIC
"One of the hottest design trends we are seeing at Lowe's is placing chandeliers in the bathroom," says Wilson. Typically smaller and more delicate than those used elsewhere in the home, bath chandeliers can transform the look of a room while providing elegant, soft overhead illumination.

When combined with task and accent lighting, an appropriately sized chandelier will help create a "layered" lighting effect in the bath. In addition to suitable size — a chandelier must be hung above head-height — homeowners will want to select a style and finish that complements the style of the room. Wrought-iron is the natural choice for traditionally styled baths, while Tiffany-inspired models may better suit an Arts and Crafts bungalow.

According to Wilson, Lowe's carries a wide array of affordable, fashionable chandeliers. The delicately styled and ultra-popular Portfolio chandelier features three faux candles, crystal pendants and chains. It retails for just $45.

THE TASK AT HAND
If your bathroom doesn't already have them, Linda Whitcomb, owner of Village Kitchen & Bath in Hyannis, Mass., recommends installing a pair of wall sconces on either side of the bathroom mirror. Not only do sconces eliminate unwanted shadows cast on the face from overhead lighting, they provide another opportunity to dress up the bath.

"Beautiful sconces can add that decorative high-fashion look to the bathroom for not a lot of money," Whitcomb says. And they are much more attractive than the traditional three- and four-bulb chrome boxes mounted above the mirror.

Whitcomb is seeing a trend toward clean lines and graceful curves, but also notes that shabby chic is still alive and well when it comes to sconces. "Sconces with flowers and jewels and colored doodads are very popular," she says.

Whitcomb finds that World Imports Decorative Lighting has a wonderful collection of affordable sconces, some costing as little as $70 each.

ACCENT ON DRAMA
"Properly placed accent lighting can produce a tremendous amount of excitement in the bathroom," says Dan Grahl, owner of Naples Kitchen and Bath in Naples, Fla. Placed under vanities, above cabinets, even mounted beneath a translucent countertop, accent lighting introduces warmth and drama to a room. It can also make a small room appear larger.

Grahl prefers low-voltage, high-intensity xenon accent lighting to illuminate crown molding, down-light a sink or vanity, or add gentle illumination from beneath translucent countertops, such as glass, resin or stone. Xenon bulbs provide a clean, crisp white light while giving off less heat than halogen bulbs.

Companies such as Juno Lighting, available through numerous online retailers, offer slim, low-profile models that can be hidden above or below cabinets and either hardwired or plugged into a wall outlet. Prices run about $50 for a standard nine-inch-long unit.

DIMMERS, BULBS AND CANDLES — OH MY!
"The bathroom is and always has been a retreat," says Jennifer Wilson of Lowe's. One of the easiest ways to create that cherished spa-like atmosphere, she says, is to connect a dimmer switch to the bathroom light fixtures.

Dimmers allow the homeowner to enhance the bathroom's brightness in the morning when getting ready, and then decrease it later in the evening, perhaps while soaking in the tub. "Dimmers really do create a relaxing mood," Wilson says. And installing one is a snap.

In that same vein, replacing harsh white lights or unflattering fluorescents with warm-tone bulbs such as Sylvania's soft pink light bulbs will bring a warm, cozy feel to the bath. The slightly pink color tone is very complementary on skin, making it appear more natural.

"People often overlook candles as a great way of adding personality to the bath for minimal cost," adds Wilson. Companies like Bath and Body Works offer a wide range of candles that are made for the bath. Placed around the room, lighted candles bring a sense of calm and serenity in ways other lights can't. Use candles of varied heights and shapes for added effect. For safety's sake, keep candles a safe distance from flammable items.

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