Vanity Lighting

Get all the information you'll need on vanity lighting, and prepare to create an attractive and luminous lighting scheme for your bathroom vanity.

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By: Sean McEvoy

Vanity lighting is an essential consideration when designing a bath space. Since the bathroom vanity is often the place you'll start your day, you want the lighting scheme to banish dark shadows and help create a bright and welcoming mood in the bathroom.

Illuminating Ideas for Beautiful Bathroom Lighting

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Fine Finish

For the master bath of a designer showhouse in Florida, designers Nicholas Skidmore and Andrew Mormile specified an aged brass finish for all the lighting. They say, "We chose the fixtures from Hudson Valley Lighting for their classic-meets-modern style; the warm finish adds ambience and depth." 

Photo By: Nickolas Sargent

Balancing Indoors and Out

In a rich, warm space that uses beautiful, natural wood, designers Paula Ables and Hailey Roberts paid careful attention to the link between indoors and out. We love bringing the outside in when designing bathrooms," says Ables. "Using natural light in this spa-style space was important to the client; we added general lighting around the room to maintain a steady glow."

Shipshape

Choosing the right lighting fixtures is essential when creating a room with a particular theme. In designer Tineke Triggs' own home, her sons' bathroom has a nautical look. Accordingly, "the sconces are typical of lighting you would see at a lighthouse or on a ship," says Triggs.

Form Meets Function

When planning bathroom lighting, be sure to consider all the different activities that take place in the space. "I like to give the client options for lighting: overhead, eye-level, and a lit makeup mirror for close-ups," says designer Patty Malone. Also consider specialized lighting around or over the bathtub — ideally, on a dimmer, so you control the light levels (and mood) when enjoying a good soak.

Unique Addition

For a truly personal look, consider asking your designer about a custom-designed lighting fixture like the one designer Tommy Chambers included in this luxurious master bath. Another option: Purchasing an antique or vintage fixture, then having it rewired by an electrician.

Layers of Light

There's more to designing an attractive and effective bathroom lighting plan than installing a couple of sconces on the wall. Instead — particularly for a large space — think of light in terms of layers: soft, overall illumination; more focused lighting for grooming areas; and a focal-point fixture for drama and ambience. Designer Kevin Kemper describes the lighting for this master bath: "Here we incorporated overhead recessed lighting, dual wall sconce lighting for each sink area for even facial lighting, and accent lighting in the niche behind the vanity to add depth and a pop of light. There are landscaping lights outside the bathroom window highlighting the plantings and the deco block wall, visually extending the depth of the room. The chandelier complements the midcentury modern style of the house."

Photo By: Patrick Ketchum (760) 409-3970

Trick of the Light

Making visual sense of an awkward space is a common design challenge; lighting can be an important tool in directing the focus away from the architecture, as designer Tineke Triggs shows here. "The three hanging pendants were chosen to create balance in an asymmetrical powder room," she says. "The lights are the first thing you notice when entering the bathroom, which brings the eye up to them and then down to the sink."

Glow On

It's called "mood lighting" for a reason: A soft glow creates an atmosphere of calm and luxury, which is exactly what Kelly Hoppen intended in this master suite. "The en suite master bathroom, with its pristine white walls, is a tranquil haven," she says. LED lighting strips recessed behind the wall panel above the tub lend a soft outline of light to the architecture, while keeping the overall mood quiet and relaxing.

Creative Solution

An unusual vanity design can add character to a master bath — and pose a lighting challenge. "To make this master bath open and airy we used a shared vanity that is really a great piece of furniture with lots of storage on both sides. It's an unexpected way to share the space without having a real separation or divider," says architect Colleen Mahoney. "The table lamps are a great way to get adequate light and the standing mirrors solve the problem of not having a large shared wall mirror."

Photo By: Cindy Charles

Perfect Placement

Including a well-considered mix of lighting can not only make the bath more visually appealing but easier to use, as well. Like many designers, Ann Stockard incorporated a variety of types of lighting in her plan for this master suite. "We included recessed can lights throughout the space, as well as pendants that were hung at two different heights to create a design feature while providing adequate light at the vanity," she says.

Bathroom vanity lighting is available in a wide variety of styles, from ultra-modern to antique. You'll likely want to match the vanity lighting to the overall style of your bathroom, since light fixtures that are a radical style departure can be a bit jarring visually. To do this, consider fixtures like sconces for a more traditional design, or sleek, tubular fixtures for a more modern approach.

Another consideration to keep in mind when choosing vanity lighting is how much light your bathroom requires. Some bath spaces are dim affairs that require serious wattage to brighten them up—in this case, make sure you choose fixtures that can accommodate the high-watt bulbs required to do the job. On the other hand, if your bathroom is already light and airy because of abundant natural light, the vanity lighting can be more decorative and likely doesn't need to be as bright.

Bathroom Lighting Tips

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