Lighting Style Guide: Lighting In Your Bathroom

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In the last of the series about lighting in the most popular rooms in your home, lighting expert and blogger Emily Widle from Pegasus Associates Lighting talks about a room where you have your most private moments, but also a place where you put on your public face: your bathroom.

And of course when it comes to lighting in this, there are a few important details to take into account, an important one being moisture levels, and another being choosing the right wattage in your bulbs.  Emily?


The bathroom is one area you do not want to skimp on as far as bright light.  The general rule is that it’s better to “over-light” the bathroom and then use dimmers to control the amount of light you need at any given moment.

Vanity: Between makeup application and shaving, it’s especially important to have adequate light at the mirror above the sinks.  If the light above your mirror is not enough to illuminate your face, add a vanity fixture such as a wall sconce to each side that will complement the ceiling lights.  Make sure to choose the correct wattage: 150 watts of incandescent light or 40 watts of fluorescent light are recommended per sink. 

The vanity fixtures should be located about 5.5 feet above the floor and about 1.5 feet to either side of the sink.  Neodymium light bulbs (a type of incandescent bulb with a slight bluish tint) are highly recommended to use in the vanity fixtures.  The light quality of neodymium bulbs closely resembles sunlight.  If neodymium bulbs are not available, be sure to choose another type of dimmable bulb.

Another option for lighting around the mirror is a backlit vanity mirror – a solution for anyone with limited wall space in terms of lighting fixtures.  Backlit vanity mirrors will minimize the shadows on your face to create even illumination.

Shower/Bathtub: This is an area that’s often overlooked in bathroom lighting.  One or two recessed lighting shower trims (to prevent moisture from passing into the fixture) are perfect for this area.

General lighting: Recessed lighting, over cabinet lighting, cove lighting, and wall sconces are all great options for general lighting in the bathroom.  In addition, many exhaust fans have built-in lights.  Running an exhaust fan during and after a bath can help eliminate moisture buildup. 

As far as recommended light sources, the best options are dimmable bulbs (incandescent, xenon, halogen).  If you do incorporate fluorescent lighting in the bathroom at all, make sure the light has a very low color temperature (3000K or less) and a very high color rendering index (85 or more).


Thanks for all the great lighting tips, Emily, in this installment and in the whole series about lighting in living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms!

In case you’re not already doing it, everyone, consider following Pegasus Associates Lighting on Twitter and ‘liking’ the Pegasus Associates Lighting Facebook page.



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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.