Bathroom Lighting Design for Maximum Form and Function

Bathrooms have evolved into rooms that are luxurious and spa-like.  They are the only rooms in the house where it is expected that we lock the doors for privacy…bathrooms are a sanctuary of sorts. Lighting plays an important role in today’s bathroom designs ensuring a functional, yet warm and relaxing space.

Here are ways to make a dull bathroom light up with the proper use of task, accent, decorative and ambient lighting.

Task Lighting

Task Lighting illuminates the area you most use so that you can best see yourself. “Proper task lighting at the mirror is important,” says lighting designer Randall Whitehead. Whitehead advises using a pair of sconces mounted at eye level on either side of the mirror to provide illumination without shadows. Task lighting gives you the necessary illumination to apply makeup, shave, and brush your teeth. Whitehead recommends using fixtures that provide 75 to 100 watts’ worth of illumination in the guest and master bathroom. “You can get these wattage equivalents in a 24- to 26-watt compact fluorescent or 20- to 25-watt LED.” Task lighting in a powder room should have less wattage, such as 45 watts, because this space is used less and the lower wattage provides a softer, relaxing mood for guests.
Thinking of replacing your mirror?  Add lighted mirrors that provide built-in task lighting. And don’t forget to add a dimmer switch to the lighting.  The dimmer switch can be set to give your eyes a chance to adjust first thing in the morning and to help you wind down at night.

 Accent Lighting
Accent lighting provides directional light to illuminate a niche, piece of art, or beautiful tile mosaic in your bathroom. Think about what you want to highlight in your bathroom and use recessed directional lights to provide the focused illumination.  Accent lighting in bathrooms, if used wisely, can turn ho-hum into simply stunning.

Decorative Lighting

Decorative Lighting gives off visual vivacity. Whitehead advises using a single pendant in a square-shaped bathroom for just the right touch. In a grand rectangular bathroom, he recommends using two to three fixtures installed along the ceiling plane for adequate illumination.

Don’t forget the candles when setting the mood in a bathroom. Candles are romantic and create a peaceful presence.  As always, make sure to place candles away from flammable objects and do not leave them unattended.

Ambient Light

Ambient light fills the space.  “In bathrooms with taller ceilings, a cove or cantilever details, ambient lighting fixtures can be installed along the perimeter of the space,” Whitehead says. “Architectural details such as these can hide the fixture and create indirect lighting.”
You can use a pendant light fixture that has no shade or a transparent shade to deliver decorative as well as ambient light. A great way to tie together form and function.

Lighting in bathrooms should be chosen very carefully.  Take stock of your task lighting and ask, “Does the current lighting help me to see adequately, or do I have to squint or move about to see what I’m doing?”  If it is the latter, it’s time for a task lighting update.  Add ambient lighting to fill dark spaces in your bathroom and if you can, choose a light fixture that provides both ambient and decorative lighting.  Highlight a special feature in your bathroom with accent lighting. It is also important to include natural light to help you decide the best light fixture options.  For example, a large mirror over a vanity set across from a window will reflect the natural light, helping to create a spacious feel.  In addition, the mirror will reflect all of the bathroom’s layered light sources.

Take your bathroom from the ordinary to the extraordinary using a combination of task, accent, ambient and decorative lighting.  Your bathroom haven awaits!

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