05 April 2017

An Informed Look at Bathroom Lighting

Sometimes overlooked until the last minute, this very important part of bathroom design requires careful thought. Inadequate lighting can make your everyday chores more difficult. However, a  boost of confidence is but one reward when that guy or gal in the mirror is cast in a flattering light each morning!

Let’s talk about some concepts that will help make your renovation a brilliant success.

Adding Light in Layers

First, we want to divide bathroom lighting into 4 categories: ambient, vanity, accent, and decorative. These categories are sometimes called “layers” as each serves a purpose, though their functions usually overlap. Don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple.


Ambient lighting could also be called general purpose lighting. A surface mounted fixture or a series of recessed lights are most common. You’ll want to ensure that no dark or shadowy areas detract from the cheery atmosphere.

You have an ever growing number of beautiful fixtures to choose from. Many designers now recommend pendant lights or even small chandeliers for bathrooms. These  disperse the light evenly and add a touch of elegance. You’ll get plenty of ideas not only on lighting but for all your fixtures by browsing through SmartStyle Bathrooms online showroom here.

For something out of the ordinary, you might consider cove lighting. A string of lights, like a tiny rope, hidden behind a crown moulding. The moulding is placed down from the ceiling a bit so the light spills over into the room. You can a choose from a wide variety of colours and brightness to perfectly complement the rest of the room. This could fall into the decorative category as it may not be the main source of light for the room.

Whatever the label, this will create a warm glow around the perimeter of the room and gives a classy, modern look.

Don’t forget the shower! In all too many homes, the shower area is not lit and unless there is plenty of ambient light, it will be a dark area. Just make sure any fixture slated for use in a shower enclosure is rated for the damp environment.


Vanity lighting is one of the key elements of successful bathroom design. Shaving, putting on makeup, hairstyling, and many other activities require plenty of light.

Vanity lights placed above the mirror may cast shadows over the face and make everything more tedious. Even multiple bulbs often don’t always solve the problem.

The new preferred method: a sconce on each side of the mirror, placed at about eye level will very nicely do the job. Because light comes from two directions, shadows are virtually eliminated. This method creates a flattering, even light over the face.

You could even add a matching fixture above the mirror if you wanted. This will give a more traditional look and make things a bit brighter as well. You will want to put lower wattage bulbs in the top fixture to avoid the shadowing problem stated above. Also, choose fixtures that won’t extend past or overhang onto the mirror, as that will cause a glaring reflection of the bulb.

Accent lighting and Decorative lighting add the finishing touches to a thoughtful design. A small recessed light can focus on and accentuate beautiful features in your bathroom. A picture or piece of artwork can be highlighted. Or perhaps the beautiful tile work or carefully chosen fixtures.

Cove lighting, mentioned above, is another common decorative lighting element. It works well as under counter lighting or to outline other features of the room.

You will want to coordinate fixtures, tile selection, wallpaper or other decorative elements so that they complement one another. A touch of style will make your bathroom transcend the ordinary and allow you to really make a statement.

Practical Considerations

The next step is to decide on some practical matters. For example, have you considered dimmers for your vanity lighting or what wattage the bulbs should be? You might enjoy reading this article in Forbes magazine that goes into depth on some of these details.

Not only can dimmers be used to create atmosphere, but can allow a very welcome adjustment for tired eyes late at night. When choosing bulbs, a crisp white is regarded as the best colour for vanity lighting as it accurately shows skin tones.

If you have ever been in a room where you had to try three or four switches to find the right one, you will appreciate the importance of switch placement. Make sure to place them so that they are in easy reach when needed. If done correctly, the use of each switch should be fairly obvious. Of course, it’s also a nice idea to have the exhaust fan and various lighting features on separate switches.

Putting It All Together


Incorporating all these points into your remodel is not easy. Try not to get discouraged, just take it a step at a time. Many others have successfully worked through their projects and you can too! Here is a way to look at the whole project broken down into three simple steps.

A little forethought and perhaps some help to refine your design will put you well on the way to creating an oasis in your home that you’ll be proud of for years to come.

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