LIGHTING GUIDE FOR BATHROOMS
Bringing Decorative Lighting into Bathrooms
Unlike lighting in other rooms in a home, bathroom design and lighting (even decorative) have their own set of challenges. Layered lighting is both an art and a science that design professionals work hard to perfect. When you begin to think about renovating or remodeling a bathroom, you will initially consider the kind of bathroom and where lighting will be located. If you are completely remodeling the master bathroom or doing a minor washroom upgrade, you will need to understand what lighting pros know about bathroom lighting. Lighting is typically a primary step in remodeling a room because it aids in setting the tone, determining the functionality needed, and selecting a design style essential to the rest of the room’s décor.
There are a couple of essential points to consider before finalizing the design. For example, a powder room may have a flush-mount and/or bathroom vanity lights, while a master bathroom may have a ceiling light fixture such as a chandelier, flush-mount, or pendant light along with multiple bathroom vanity lights. This all depends on the size of the bathroom fixtures, such as a vanity, pedestal or wall sink, mirror or medicine chest, bathtub, shower, etc. The placement of these items will impact where electrical boxes are located.
How much light is needed?
While considering the lighting the bathroom or powder room will need, you should consider the three types of lighting that will guarantee proper illumination in your space. The lighting types are ambient, task, and accent lighting.
For a tiny washroom, a low-watt ambient light might be all you require, but for a large master bathroom, you would require more than one lighting type to achieve the proper lighting in all areas of the space.
Below are the basic rules on the types of lighting, bathroom design styles, power level recommendations, as well as light temperatures and colors you will need to take into consideration before you begin with your renovation.
Types of Lighting
Ambient lighting illuminates and brightens the entire room and is most frequently found in natural Light sources from windows and skylights as well as ceiling lights such as flush-mount or semi-flush mount lighting, chandeliers, or pendant lights. You can achieve a simple update on the lighting by replacing the existing lights with more elegant and stylish fixtures that are available in the marketplace. Make a statement in a large master bathroom with a sophisticated chandelier over a soaking tub or a small crystal flush-mount in a small bathroom or powder room.
Decorative fixture choices are strictly personal. The only thing that one needs to be careful about is the building code. Pendants and chandeliers can be hung over bathtubs only in those spaces that have the proper ceiling height. If you would like to hang a pendant or chandelier over a bathtub, it must be suspended, so the bottom of the light fixture is at least eight (8) feet from the highest point of the bathtub, and this distance is maintained for the surrounding three (3) feet of the bathtub as well. This would satisfy the building code for this type of lighting installation.
For general lighting, such as ambient, a more sustainable and longer-lasting option would be an LED light source. LED light sources are a great energy-saving way to light a room. The light colors available on the market today can replace the soft, warm glow of the traditional incandescent light by using a 2700K color LED source or a 3000K that is a brighter, more white light output that is still warm in color.
Task Lighting is used when you need to light a specific area of the room, such as the vanity, which will allow ample light to achieve detailed tasks such as shaving or makeup application. Wall sconces or bathroom vanity lights are the best choice. You can make an elegant statement using small pendant lights that can hang on either side of the mirror.
With an average-sized medicine chest or mirror, you should hang lights at eye level or 65 inches from the floor and 2”-3” from the sides of the mirror. Try to avoid light fixtures that use clear glass or clear bulbs as they produce too much glare. To get the most functional lighting in a bathroom, you would want to choose fixtures that have gently diffused light through semi-opaque shades that will block the light from shining toward you; it will shine on your client’s face and not the general areas of the room.
For a single bath vanity or bar type light over the mirror, you will hang at 80 inches from the floor for optimal height and 2”-3” from the top of the mirror or medicine chest. For the best aesthetic proportions, the light fixture should be somewhat smaller in width than the mirror. If you have a double vanity with double mirrors, add wall sconces to either side in addition to the lights above for optimal task lighting.
Bathroom light bars supply ideal lighting for the sides of the mirrors as well. Select those lights that can be installed vertically and install them 80 to 85 inches from the floor.
LED light sources are a great energy-saving and sustainable way to light a room. The light colors available on the market today can replace the soft, warm glow of the traditional incandescent light by using a 2700K color LED source or a 3000K that is a brighter, more white light output that is still warm in color. If you are using incandescent bulbs, 60-watt light bulbs are the best wattage for task lighting for the master bathroom vanity or 40-watt light bulbs in a powder room.
Accent lighting is extra light that brightens up small or darker areas of a room. You can achieve accent lighting in the master bathroom, guest bathroom, or powder room by placing a mini table lamp on a chest or installing wall sconces on walls other than around the main vanity area producing a more welcoming environment.
The use of dimmers should be considered and are an excellent way to adjust the needed light output in all areas of the bathroom or powder room.
Whatever type of bathroom light fixture you select should be certified by a safety organization such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) that sets industry-wide standards on lighting products. You would look for damp rated certification for a full bath with a shower that will cause humidity; however, if you are placing the light inside the shower, you would want a light fixture with a wet rated certification. You can use dry, wet, or damp certification for a half bath or powder room where high humidity would not be a factor.