Guidelines for Proper Bathroom Lighting for Function and Beauty

Proper bathroom lighting eases the transition from asleep to awake, and it makes your grooming routines visually stress less, while creating the perfect environment to unwind after a long day. The proper lighting fixture style and placement help define the space while still adding essential functions.

The above bathroom is designed by Designer Premier Designer, Joe

Proper Bathroom Lighting has Three layers of Illumination

To create the proper bathroom lighting, you need to think in terms of layers. To guarantee ample lighting, you need a range of light sources that deliver illumination in three ways: ambient, task, and accent.

Bathroom Lighting


Ambient lighting is frequently called general lighting. It is the foundation of lighting in a room and typically serves as the primary source. Separately from basic lighting functionality, ambient lighting develops the sense of warmth and complexity of space. It is typically dimmable to acclimate day and nighttime settings. It is essential in spaces like stairs for safety and kitchens for a consistent level of light. Lighting fixtures such as chandeliers, track lights, recessed lights, and wall or ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures are examples of ambient lighting.

Bathroom Lighting


Accent lighting brings added visual interest to a room by highlighting specific objects like art, and architectural features that stand out, such as intricate tile work or a beautiful glass bowl sink (as shown in the photo below). It may be a design component that is the centerpiece of the space such as a spectacular chandelier, or striking pendants.


Bathroom Lighting


Task lighting in the bathroom is critical for beauty and grooming tasks as it illuminates smaller areas where more intense light is needed. Task light should be three times as bright as general lighting.

Bathroom Lighting

What is the Proper Bathroom Lighting for Function?


Placing lights on each side of a mirror will deliver the best light for meticulous tasks. Examples of lighting styles are Bath barsvanity lights, or a pair of vertical sconces.

Lighting from above may produce shadows and lines across your face. This poor quality of light makes the process of putting on make-up and shaving more it more challenging.

Bathroom Lighting

To fully illuminate your face when your mirror is above the sink:

  •  Plan for 75 watts of incandescent lighting on each side.
  • Mount the fixtures a little to the left and the right of the mirror and as close to your face as possible.
  • The light bulb should sit just above eye level.
  • Note: If your mirror stretches the width of the vanity, it is possible to have your fixtures mounted directly on the mirror (as shown below), although this will require an expert installer and will cost more.
Bathroom Lighting
Bathroom designed by Designer Premier Designer, Paula

Another option is to hang the lights directly above the mirror, positioned in the ceiling close to the face – as shown below.

Bathroom Lighting
Bathroom designed by Designer Premier Designer, Pam

Incorporating the light into the mirror is a beautiful, high-level design option. See the example below.

Bathroom Lighting
Bathroom designed by Designer Premier Designer, Joe

Maximize the Effectiveness of Overhead Lighting

As we mentioned, side lighting is best for minimizing shadows; however, if it’s not possible. In this case, place a fixture, such as a horizontal bar with multiple lights, above your vanity mirror.

  • The fixture should be the equivalent of 150 watts of incandescent lighting.
  • It should extend enough to spread light evenly over your face.
  • Mount it a minimum of 78 inches from the ground and be sure it clears the mirror unless the fixture shades are designed to drop down over the mirror.
Bathroom Lighting
Bathroom designed by Designer Premier Designer, Lindsay

Hungry for more? Here are some great sources for additional information

How to Light Your Bedroom for Better Sleep

Tips and tricks on Creating the Best Possible Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom Codes and Design Best Practices

In conclusion, when selecting proper bathroom lighting, you will need to consider both function and beauty. Some people may find this challenging and that is why we offer to consult services to make this process painless for you. If you would like to speak to us about helping with the redesign of a space, proper lighting, and materials, etc., we would love to help. Call Marina at 303.916.9515.



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