According to researchers, an average adult makes approximately 35,000 decisions every day. No wonder we’re tired! That might also have something to do with the reason so many homeowners put off remodeling: So. Many. Decisions! When it comes to your bathroom remodel, those decisions include choosing products, materials, and fixtures. By the time you get to the lighting, you’re ready to be done, so this very important detail can be overlooked.
Take a stroll down the lighting aisles of your local home improvement store, and you’ll be amazed at (and perhaps slightly frustrated by) the sheer volume of bathroom lighting options. In an effort to keep you from feeling completely overwhelmed, start with the four main considerations: type, function, temperature, and wattage.
BATHROOM LIGHTING TYPES AND FUNCTIONS
The “right” number of light fixtures for your space depends on the size of your bathroom. But regardless of how grand a space you have, the answer is never “one.” There’s no perfect place to put just one lamp in a bathroom; with only one light source at one angle, you’ll end up with annoying glares and shadows. Lighting designers suggest “layering” light.
This is the hardest working light in the bathroom. Task lighting helps you see what you’re doing, primarily at the sink: shaving, applying makeup, flossing, and so on. Lamps above the mirror tend to cast unflattering shadows, so consider opting for wall sconces, pendant lights, or vertical bath bars that can be installed on either side of the mirror. If your bathroom doesn’t have an overhead light, mount task lights higher on the walls so light gets distributed evenly throughout your bathroom.
Accent lights add depth and dimension to your space. If you have artwork in your bathroom, illuminate it with a recessed fixture. A recessed light in the shower can highlight tilework and make fixtures shine.
If your bathroom lacks natural light, ambient (or indirect) lighting is a great alternative. This type of lighting is especially helpful in bathrooms with tall ceilings to “fill” the room with illumination. Rope lights hidden behind molding or a mirror add a soft glow, and toe-kick lighting underneath base cabinets illuminate the bathroom just enough for middle-of-the-night trips. Back-lit mirrors and medicine cabinets are also great ambient lighting options, as they don’t cause any glare and can double as night lights.
It’s perfectly okay to choose lights strictly for decorative purposes. These lights provide visual interest and can add to your bathroom’s aesthetic. Want to evoke an industrial vibe? Add exposed Edison-style light bulbs. Looking to channel your inner movie star? Consider surrounding the mirror with round bulbs. If elegance is what you’re after, hang a stunning chandelier.
BATHROOM LIGHTING COLOR TEMPERATURE
Ever wonder why some stores’ dressing room mirrors seem to be more flattering than others? Chances are good it’s not actually the mirrors. It’s the lighting. The temperature of a light bulb, measured on the Kelvin scale, determines the color of light it produces and how flattering it is. Lighting experts recommend using warm white bulbs (technically called lamps) in the bathroom, with the sweet spot between 2700K and 3000K.
Warm, white light has a color temperature of 2000-3000K (or Kelvins). This type of light is ideal for creating a calm, cozy environment. It works best with ambient and decorative bathroom lighting.
Cool white light has a color temperature of 3100-4500K. This lighting is best for creating a bright, active ambiance and works best with task lighting.
Daylight has a color temperature between 4600 and 6500K. This light temperature creates a cool, invigorating vibe and works well with task and accent lighting.
BATHROOM LIGHTING WATTAGE
In the case of light bulbs, wattage is a measure of brightness: 100 watts provides more light than 30 watts. It’s best to use 75 to 100 watts in master or guest bathrooms. In powder rooms, 45 watts is sufficient. Since we require more light to see as we get older, brighter is better for mature adults.
Bathroom lighting designers recommend adding dimmers to your fixtures so you can adjust your wattage for different purposes. Getting ready for work? You may need all 100 watts to avoid shaving off an eyebrow. Looking forward to a bubble bath? Try a nice, relaxing 35 watts (and a candle or two).
BATHROOM LIGHTING PRO TIPS
- If you plan to install lights above your shower or tub, be sure they’re “wet rated.”
- Avoid using fabric shades in the bathroom, as they’ll develop water stains over time. Instead, opt for glass, plastic, or metal.
- Consider putting your lighting and fans on separate switches. Your different light layers should operate independently, as well, so you can better choose the look and feel of your space.
- A lamp’s Color Rendering Index (CRI) describes how accurate colors appear in its light. A CRI of 100, offered by incandescent and halogen lamps, mimics natural sunlight. That allows the most accurate and flattering interpretation of colors. You’ll want lamps with a CRI of at least 80 in your bathroom.
Re-Bath offers an assortment of wall lights and scones that can help you create the bathroom of your dreams. Need help making good lighting decisions? Our Design Consultants are experts at transforming bathrooms into a space you’ll love—within your budget. Find a Re-Bath near you to schedule a free, in-home consultation.