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Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom Lighting

Make your bathroom into a sanctuary of relaxation by adding the right bathroom Lighting

Bathrooms are no longer just functional rooms with harsh light and cold tile, but have become warm, stylish, inviting retreats.

Just think: Thick towels, fragrant soaps, warm water, pampering yourself.....

The introduction of warmer materials and colors invite a softer, more sophisticated bathroom lighting plan. With a lot of effort and money being spent on beautiful materials and wonderful luxuries, you of course want to be able to see the beauty of your bathroom not only during the daytime. Keep in mind, that only the right lighting will be able to fully show the colors and textures of the beautiful stone, glass and wood that make your bathroom special.

Sadly enough bathroom lighting is probably given the least consideration of all the rooms in the house. You unfortunately see a lot of baths with inadequate lighting at the mirror. Often there’s just a single ceiling fixture that’s is struggling to do it all. 

A good lighting plan asks for layers of light: placing ample direct light where it is needed for showers, shaving, or putting on makeup, while other light sources enhance the overall mood of the room.

Task lighting around the vanity must be bright enough to do its job, but the addition of indirect accent pieces provide a glow that softens the more direct task lighting.

Good, functional bathroom lighting is needed for the area around the vanity mirror and sink. These light fixtures need to be gently flattering , yet bright enough so you can see to shave or apply makeup.
Wall sconces mounted on either side of the mirror or vertical strip lighting fixtures or are best for casting an even light across the face. In addition to adding a decorative touch to the bathroom and vanity area , wall sconces help evening out the light by eliminating shadows.

Larkspur Wall Sconce by Tech Lighting

The most common mistake people make is putting recessed ceiling fixtures directly over the mirror. These cast shadows on the face, making daily grooming rituals more difficult.

With the size and positioning of some vanity mirrors, sidelights can, however,  sometimes be a challenge.
This is where a fixture for over the mirror might be the only solution unless you opt for the elegant, but costly solution of mounting the wall sconces directly onto the mirror.
A vanity light fixture above the mirror should be placed 75 to 80 inches above the floor and ideally hold at least 150 watts, spread over a fixture that's at least 24 inches long so that the light will wash evenly over the person in front of the mirror.

The shower lighting is another area that often gets neglected.
In smaller bathrooms a  fixture may not be necessary in the shower stall itself, if it has a clear glass door . Otherwise a recessed downlight with a glass lens is a great addition to the shower. Recessed fixtures also work well over a freestanding tub .

In most bathrooms a surface-mounted ceiling light provides ambient light. 
Be creative: A pendant lamp or a charming mini-chandelier can take the place of the more inconspicuous recessed downlight and add sparkle or character to the bathroom. Another interesting option is cove lighting or other indirect concealed light sources, which can add a soft glow around the perimeter of the room.

A small recessed spotlight can be directed at a beautiful powder room basin or highlight the tilework and at the same time create another layer of light in the bathroom. 

Think about using dimmers in your bathroom. They can make you control the light level in your bathroom from a gentle night light to bright task lighting when needed.



Below you will find the recommendations for bathroom lighting by American Lighting Association.

Form + Function has been members of ALA for many years and all our sales associates take advantage of their very helpful courses.

Designing with Light in the Bathroom

In the bathroom, you need plenty of even, shadow-free lighting for shaving, grooming, and applying makeup. In small bathrooms, mirror lights will illuminate the entire room, but in larger bathrooms, an additional ceiling fixture is needed for general lighting. A recessed infrared heat lamp will give you added warmth on chilly mornings.

Good lighting for daily grooming tasks is a bathroom must. Decorative wall fixtures placed on each side of a small mirror will provide the even, shadow-free facial illumination necessary. For best results, mount fixtures at least 28" apart and 60" off the floor.

For small mirrors, decorative wall brackets on each side will illuminate both sides of your face evenly. You can also mount a wall bracket across the top of the mirror. Fixtures equipped with incandescent bulbs behind glass or plastic diffusers provide the most flattering light. If you opt for more energy-efficient fluorescents, choose warm white tones (see light sources). They come closest to the color of incandescents.

Theatrical lighting strips around your bathroom mirror will give you the same excellent lighting the stars enjoy in their Broadway dressing rooms.

These softly glowing strips of globe-shaped incandescent bulbs provide plenty of light for close work like shaving or applying makeup. A dimmer control allows you to adjust the lighting to a desired level.

Tub and shower enclosures can be adequately lighted by placing an enclosed damp-location recessed downlight in the ceiling. These downlights are also recommended over whirlpool baths or in saunas.

Lighting in the shower stall or over the tub should be bright enough for cleaning, shaving and reading shampoo labels. Choose recessed down lights designed for use in wet areas. Shielded fixtures will protect reclining bathers' eyes from glare. An adjustable

Mirror lighting needs to be bright but not glaring, accurate yet flattering, and for public/commercial spaces low maintenance and low power. There are three considerations for mirror lighting; fixture placement, lamp (or bulb) type, and fixture style.

Placement. The best mirror lighting surrounds the face with light. This provides light from all sides that minimizes shadows under the chin, eyes, cheeks, and forehead. This does not mean that you have to use 'Hollywood' style lights (strips that use the round light bulbs). A wall sconce on either side of the mirror can work nicely. Normally you want the center of the fixture at about 66" above the finished floor and at least 30" apart (these specs will vary according to the particulars of the room and fixture). If the mirror is a whole wall mirror you can mount the fixtures right on the mirror. Avoid using ceiling mounted fixtures as the sole source unless the room is very small with light colored walls. Large bathrooms often need additional lighting besides the mirror lighting. Definitely don't rely on recessed cans for mirror lighting, the shadows can be horrendous! If a recessed type must be used, consider constructing a luminous soffit with two 4' fluorescent tubes. The most common placement for mirror lighting is on the wall above the mirror. Though this is not ideal it avoids most conflicts with mirror size, medicine cabinet doors, and room dimensions. However the fixture needs to be long enough to light the sides of the face.

Lamp type. Color qualities, light distribution, and maintenance costs are all heavily dependent on the type of lamp the fixture uses. It is very important to choose the lamp you want to use first and then find a fixture that will hold it properly.

The two main color properties the specifier should know about are color temperature and color rendering. Color temperature refers to whether the light source appears cool (bluish) or warm (yellowish) or neutral and is expressed in degrees Kelvin or K. Most light sources used for mirror lighting range from 2700K (incandescent) to 4200K (cool white). Daylight is considered to be 6500K and sunlight 5000K (these values change depending on season, latitude and time of day). Skin tones look most flattering in medium to warm color temperatures (<3500K) though some people prefer the cooler colors. Color rendering (expressed as CRI) is another key color quality. CRI is a scale from 0 to 100, the higher the CRI the better. Incandescent and Daylight are 100, cool white and warm white are around 60, T-8 and compact fluorescents are about 80. Light distribution is another key element in effective mirror lighting. Even, shadowless light is easiest on the eyes, and fluorescent sources (particularly the large tubes) are well suited to this task. Spot lights, clear bulbs or small halogens require lots of shielding or diffusion from the fixture for glare control. This will tend to reduce the light level necessitating the use of higher wattages. Maintenance costs include power consumption, lamp cost, and frequency of lamp replacement. Many public/commercial lavatories are illuminated 12 - 24 hours a day and over time these costs far exceed the cost of the fixture itself. In a private residence the maintenance costs may not build as rapidly but they can be significant if the bathroom gets more than 3 hours of use per day. For example, at $.05kwh @12hr/day, 2- 100W incandescent fixtures cost $53 per year to operate but 2 - 32watt fluorescents cost $15 per year.

Fixture Style. When selecting a fixture style choose one that has a translucent lens. If the lens is clear the fixture may be glaring. If it is opaque (metal, ceramic, etc.) it will not pass enough light directly to your face. Be sure that the lens will not change the color of the light (some glass is rather green). Check that the fixture meets your maintenance requirements for relamping, cleaning, and spare parts. Most 'vanity' fixtures are linear and many of them can be mounted horizontally above or vertically on the sides of the mirror. If you choose to use wall sconces in small rooms select ones that are narrow as these will fit best.

by Eric Strandberg, The Lighting Design Lab

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