Bathroom lighting is important as it is the room that we start and end our day in.

One of the main problems with bathroom lighting is that it can throw shadows, which can make it very difficult to carry out grooming like shaving and applying makeup, and of course reading.

Most people think that adding a lot of floodlights is the answer as it makes the bathroom very bright but this often throws shadows on the face which make grooming somewhat difficult.

NYC Bathroom Showing Lighting from Both the Side and Above The vanity

Bathroom Lighting from Both the Side and Above The vanity


Lighting designers divide bathroom lighting into three basic categories: ambient, task, and accent. A lighting plan needs to address each of these categories to be successful.

You can use recessed floodlights in your bathroom for general room lighting but when it comes to your vanity you must use another type of light in addition to the recessed to combat the shadows.

Ideally the lighting fixtures will be mounted at eye level or just above, on either side of the mirror, shining on your face.

Bathroom Lighting Surrounding the Mirror

Bathroom with Lighting surrounding the mirror


Horizontal lighting strip above a vanity: A strip of horizontal vanity lights with tiny halogen bulbs guarantees you will have sufficient light.

Having only overhead bathroom lighting at the mirror makes applying makeup more difficult because it casts shadows under the eyes, nose, and chin. It is best to combine it with vertically mounted lights on both sides of the mirror to create shadow-free light for grooming. Natural light from a skylight is also a great option.

Theatrical light strips with globe-shaped incandescent bulbs: These are mounted vertically at the edges of the mirror and provide plenty of light for shaving or applying makeup. A dimmer control enables you to adjust the lighting level.

Bathroom Lighting from the Side

Bathroom with Vanity Side Lighting



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Interested in learning more?

Here is a detailed guide that will help you avoid common mistakes when lighting your bathroom.

It is written by Doug Walter, AIA, Senior Architect, Godden/Sudik Architects


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