bathroom lighting

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Layering the Bathroom

bathroom lightingThe bathroom—it’s the first place you’ll go when you wake up in the morning and the last place you’ll be before going to bed. It’s also a place of peace and tranquility while you begin your day with a hot steamy shower, and a place of relaxation during your nice hot bubble bath after your busy day. The bathroom is not only a functional place, but an environment that will affect your overall mood. Besides the general cleanliness of your bathroom, bathroom lighting will have the greatest effect on how you feel about the space. Bathroom lighting can dramatically change your mood by creating a sense of balance. Because of the amount of tasks you’ll be performing in the bathroom, it should be a place of comfort and ease. Proper illumination is an important aspect of comfort in a bathroom and helps create the right atmosphere for the space. Bathroom lighting is often the most overlooked lighting in the house. However, contrary to what people normally think, bathroom lighting is just as important as kitchen, living room, or bedroom lighting.

The only way to truly get enough light in your bathroom space is by layering the light. Bathrooms require three types of light to properly be illuminated: ambient lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting. All three are crucial to the overall brightness of the space. Layering the light in your bathroom will allow an appropriate amount of light. Spaces that don’t have layered bathroom lighting are often uncomfortably dim, despite the fact that there may be a bright light. Incorporating different layers of bathroom lighting will not only ensure the room isn’t overly dim, but also ensure that the room isn’t overwhelmingly bright.

Task Lighting

Task lights are the most important form of illumination in a bathroom space. Although bathroom lighting seems insignificant compared to the rest of the house, think of the amount of tasks we perform in the bathroom. We brush our teeth, style our hair, take showers, apply makeup, and shave—just to mention a few of the important ones. Bathrooms are created for tasks, so proper bathroom lighting is crucial for these tasks.

bathroom lightingThe first area of focus for task lighting is the sink and mirror. Task lights for the sink are usually overhead vanity fixtures that are installed above a mirror. They shine light downward onto the sink and countertop. However, the downside of overhead vanity lights is that they often cast shadows on one’s face. This can make tasks such as applying makeup or shaving more difficult. An easy fix to problematic shadows are wall sconces on either side of the mirror. These vertical fixtures will create an even balance of light across your face. According to Susan Arnold, in This Old House magazine, overhead vanity lights should be installed between 75 and 80 inches from the floor for optimal light benefit. The fixture should also be no less than 150 watts and should be at least 24 inches long.

Another area to consider installing task lighting is the shower or bath area. Many bathrooms don’t need task lighting in the shower area, but some bathrooms would greatly benefit from shower lights. If your bathroom is on the small side or if you have a clear glass shower door, additional task lighting is probably not necessary. However, if you have a large bathroom, extra bathroom lighting is probably needed in the shower. Recessed lighting with a clear lens is the best option for the shower.

Ambient Lighting

bathroom lightingAmbient lighting is just a fancy word for general lighting—the overall light of the space. Ambient lights are crucial because they are a replacement for natural light. They also bounce light off the ceiling. Ambient lights soften the shadows in the space and make for a much more relaxed atmosphere. It is what softens the mood in the bathroom. Instead of having a single harsh light, ambient light softens the effect and calms the space. Ambient lights balance the harsh light that task lights emit.

Some common forms of ambient lights are overhead fixtures such as ceiling mounts, chandeliers, or pendant lights. Ceiling mounted bathroom lighting is the most traditional form of ambient light for a bathroom, and will certainly never go out of style. However, contrary to what some home owners believe, chandeliers can be used as bathroom lighting. Just make sure it is a small chandelier, and that the rest of the bathroom is big enough to house the fixture. Pendants also have a great effect by hanging from the ceiling; they also come in many different styles, shades, and colors.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting seems very minor, but it can make a big difference in the aura of your space. Accents are the third layer of bathroom lighting every space should incorporate. If there are any art pieces in your bathroom or any areas of architectural interest, you may choose to accentuate these areas with accent lights. Some common forms of accent bathroom lighting are wall sconces, pendant lights, spot lights, or track lights. In particular, spot lights are great for directing light to a very specific area of the space. Track lights are an emerging modern lighting method. They allow you to direct light to several areas, but also allows you to rotate and slide the fixtures to your liking.

Decorative Lights

bathroom lightingDecorative lights are like jewelry for your bathroom. They are obviously not crucial for a bathroom space; however, this may be something you may want to consider if your budget and space will allow it. Decorative lights can follow any theme, any color, and any style. Some common forms of decorative bathroom lighting are pendant lights and small chandeliers. However, decorative lights can also double for ambient, task, or accent lighting. So if you’re looking for a decorative light but don’t want to overwhelm your space with too many fixtures, find a light that is functional and decorative. The decoration will dramatically change the mood of the space.

Look for anything unique. Try working with the style of the bathroom. If you have a "beachy" look going on, try finding bathroom lighting that can play off of that theme. Another option for decorative bathroom lighting is playing into your home's architecture. Lights that follow the style of a home’s architecture or era will never go out of style. If you can't afford to update all the bathroom lighting, this is probably the least "needed", but it will beautify your bathroom, and give it the finishing touch.

Final Bathroom Lighting Tips:

  • The trick to effective bathroom lighting is layering. Try to get as many of these bathroom lighting ideas as you can to achieve sufficient lighting.
  • A dimmer might be helpful to install to your task light in the bathroom. If you have to get up in the middle of the night, you might not want the bathroom lighting on “full blast”. However, when you're doing your makeup, the brightest light possible is probably most ideal.
  • Invite the natural light in. Install some blinds on the windows. Keep the blinds window open during the day, so that you can benefit from the outside light. No artificial bathroom lighting fixtures can ever out shine the sun's rays. Say “hi” to Mr. Sun!
  • Stay away from LED and fluorescent lights as bathroom lighting. They create an uncomfortable and unflattering light that you won’t appreciate when you look in the mirror.
  • Be creative. A bathroom is a place that you can experiment with cool lights and colors. It's one of the only places you don't have to worry about clashing with the rest of the home. Be unique and impress guests with your beautiful bathroom lighting.
  • If you’re trying to sell a home, bathroom lighting is one of the most important things a buyer will look at. And, bathroom lighting is one of the easiest ways you can keep an updated look in the space.

Bathroom lighting can make a significant difference in your home. The most important thing to consider for bathroom lighting is to layer the light. Incorporate task lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting in any way you can. Take advantage of the opportunity to be creative.

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