Mirror, mirror, on the wall: Who’s the fairest of them all? While you may not live in a fairy tale, your mirror should speak to you. And the only way it will speak the truth is if you have the right bathroom vanity lighting around it. If
Bathroom Vanity Lighting: The Background Story
Your bathroom can be filled with light – either from natural or artificial sources. Natural light might come from a skylight in the ceiling or a big picture window by the tub. But most of the illumination in a bathroom comes from a ceiling light or vanity lights.
Vanity lights are designed to provide ambient lighting, task lighting that’s much more direct or varied lighting that evenly spreads the light up and down. These fixtures are usually installed above your bathroom mirror or beside it, creating a nice frame around your focal point.
That said, there are some standard rules that apply when installing your vanity lights. The American Lighting Association recommends hanging your above-mirror fixture about 78 inches off the floor. And if you’re mounting lights on either side of the mirror, make sure they’re at least 60 inches off the floor and 30 inches apart from one another. With those measurements in mind, you can start picking out your favorite pieces.
Bathroom Vanity Lighting: Choose Your Crown Jewels
When shopping for bathroom light fixtures, you’ll be faced with many unique options to fit your home’s décor. You can narrow down the selection by filtering through the different types of vanity lighting, the materials, the finishes and even the kinds of light bulbs you want. In general, this is what you can expect to find:
Types of vanity lighting
Bathroom sconces usually frame the mirror on the side or from the top. They can come as individual units, as pairs or as multi-bulb fixtures. Sconces are often covered in lamp shades of varying shapes, sizes, and colors.
Usually used as backlighting or accent lighting, LED strips are better suited for setting a mood than for daily grooming. These fixtures can be built into a mirror, medicine cabinet or even under your vanity, where they create a dramatic effect.
You can always place lights directly on your mirror. This is when bulbs or LED strips are attached to the perimeter of your mirror. These are great for task lighting.
Recessed lighting (aka pot lights) can provide a lot of light. However, they do not provide the proper lighting on their own since they are shining down from the ceiling. This can cause shadows on one’s face. Recessed lights should be complemented by other fixtures. After choosing recessed lights, be mindful of their placement. They are usually placed close to the wall, so that they shine out toward you.
Certain pendants can provide direct lighting when hung over the bathroom vanity. Just like sconces, you can choose a single pendant or choose a set of matching pendants to spread light over a long vanity. Usually, a set of two or three is enough for double sinks.
Chandeliers can be perfect in a bathroom, but they don’t offer a lot of direct light. A master bath or main-floor powder room, for instance, would be an excellent setting for a show-stopping chandelier, or even to add a touch of luxury above your bathtub.
Light Shade Options
You’ll mostly find vanity light shades made of heat-proof glass, which may be clear, alabaster, frosted, hammered, opal etched or colored. Of course, some stylish sconces are made with metal shades to accent a farmhouse design or industrial loft. Like lamps, vanity light shades come in several shapes, including bell-shaped, cylindrical, square or rectangular.
Finishes for Your Fixtures
In most cases, you’ll want to choose a finish for your light fixture that matches the other accents in your bathroom. If you have a chrome faucet, for example, keep the design cohesive with a chrome light fixture. Some of the most popular bathroom light finishes include:
- Brushed nickel
- Stainless steel
- Oil-rubbed bronze
Bulbs to consider
The common bathroom bulb is a halogen. Halogen bulbs are great at rendering skin tones, which means you get an accurate reflection of yourself. This goes far when you’re applying makeup, shaving, tweezing or flossing. Look for halogen bulbs that have a color temperature between 2700 and 3000 Kelvins.
Light emitting diode (LED) bulbs use less power, last thousands of hours and produce less heat than other types of bulbs, making them an eco-friendly alternative. They also provide come in a variety of color temperatures so they can give the perfect light for a bathroom.
Though not a popular choice, compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs can mimic daylight temperatures, especially when you choose CFLs in the same range as halogens – 2700 to 3000 Kelvins. They typically are not dimmable.
A dimmer is not a bulb, but it does control the level of intensity that comes from a light bulb. Being able to adjust your vanity lighting will help you create the space you need at any given moment. If you have the option to install a dimmer switch, don’t think twice about it. Just make sure the dimmer is compatible with your specific halogen or LED light fixture.
7 Bathroom Fixtures That Will Catch Your Eye
This is one sconce that can easily adapt to your design needs. The elongated fixture is so sleek and simple that it blends right in with modern, contemporary or minimalist bathrooms. You can hang your Loft sconce vertically or horizontally. Either way, it emits a brilliant LED light that is more than enough for the average bathroom.
The Prospect Park vanity light is a pure example of an opal etched glass shade, which is nicely contrasted by the two-tone base. In one fixture, you get a mix of glimmering chrome and muted satin nickel. But it’s the cylindrical design that really makes this double sconce feel right at home in a traditional design.
Does your bathroom mirror not have a frame? Give it an edge with the Veneto Luce Modular vanity light. The multi-light fixture offers a ton of texture thanks to its lacey glass shades. Hang it so light directs down over your sink, and the shades will look like icicles on your wall.
Like a window pane, the Payne vanity fixture features sections of light. The twin light bath bar is a contemporary favorite, because it can be dressed up in polished nickel or toned down in dark-plated bronze. And don’t be fooled by its size. The 19-inch straight-lined sconce shines light from all angles.
The third light’s a charm when it comes to the Taylor etched-glass bathroom fixture. It’s not only the perfect size for any single-sink vanity, but it has the kind of classic refinement that lasts a lifetime. Choose the brushed nickel finish if you have a lighter vanity. Otherwise, the buckeye bronze is the best match for a dark-framed mirror.
With its bell-shaped glass shade and elegant oval base, the Shelly wall sconce is an attractive accent for any foyer, hallway or bedside table. But you’ll want to save this one for your bathroom vanity. A side-by-side pair of these opal glass sconces will instantly dress up your dressing space.
Think of the Finn sconce as an LED strip. It frames your frameless mirror with its clean, straight lines and diffuses light like a wide-angled lens. The key difference is that this fixture adds more than just a dramatic illumination. It actually adds weight to your walls and creates a cohesive design.
Live Happily Ever After
Whether you admit it or not, the bathroom is a place you like to retreat to have a long day.
You’ve picked out the mirror, the tile, the tub and even your towels. But as you’re dreaming up the perfect bathroom, don’t forget the vanity lights. When you pick a stylish fixture with the right amount of illumination, your bathroom fairy tale will come to life.