Good lighting may or may not be something you’d think is important for the bathroom, but lighting in general is key for any room. It can camouflage sore spots you’re not so crazy about, accentuate the parts you are, and create a distinct atmosphere reminiscent of the way you’ve designed it. Lighting also doesn’t mean you have to go cheap or splurge, but rather go about it strategically. A $10 piece can have more nuance if placed well than a $500 fixture situated poorly, and we’re here to show you all the tricks of bathroom lighting you’ve been missing.
1. Skip the Lighting Above the Vanity
Lighting above the vanity is probably one of the most well known places to put it — and it’s also one of the worst. Why? Let’s delve into a bit of basic physics and trigonometry: light moves in both straight lines and waves, but it’ll essentially move forward from its source unless something in its path disrupts it. Lighting above the vanity will travel down over your face, highlighting your forehead perfectly…and casting shadows over anything that’s underneath, like your eyes, nose and chin. This will not only make you look years older, but it’s also not a good form of lighting for things like shaving or putting on makeup. Tip: Recessed lighting in the ceiling also has the same negative effect, so skip that, too.
2. Go For Side Lighting Whenever Possible
For the exact reasons we talked about above, side lighting will eliminate shadows and help you see as clearly as possible. Think back to any time you tried anything on in a department store: the mirrors had lights on the sides, giving you a clear reflection in the mirror. Department stores, though, are known for their harsh lighting, so what you want to do to avoid that is use 75 watt incandescent bulbs on both sides for a softer look. Place them just a couple inches away from the vanity on both sides, with the bottom bulb around eye level. If you have people of different height using the bathroom — excluding children, because they grow — then place it around eye level for the shortest person. But if you have people of drastically varying heights, go a few inches above eye level of the shortest person.
3. Embrace Halogen Bulbs
Different types of bulbs serve different functions in different rooms: a kitchen needs as much bright, widespread light as possible, bedrooms and living rooms should feature more accent-type lighting, and bathrooms need a combination of the two. But the scales definitely tip in favor of bright, crisp, clear, white lighting in the bathroom and for that, you can’t beat halogen bulbs. They’re a little more expensive than regular bulbs, but only by a couple of dollars, and the effect is immediately transformative, noticeable, and elegant.
4. Mix it up with Dimmer Switches
Your bathroom is likely the first room you visit after you wake up, and the last thing you want is to be greeted by harsh lighting that yanks you into the day. Instead, using dimmer switches can gently ease you into your routine, giving you a chance to adjust to brighter and brighter lights until you’re fully awake. Plus, they save energy, leaving you with a pleasant surprise when the bill comes in the mail. The only thing to remember about dimmer switches is compatibility: incandescent or halogen lights need incandescent dimmers, low-voltage and fluorescent lights need their own special kind of dimmers. Make sure you mention this at the hardware store when looking at dimmers, otherwise you may have to make multiple trips back until you get the one that works.