Where To Place Light Fixtures In Bathroom


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Master bath in luxury home with windowed shower

Bathroom lighting is a crucial element that is practical and will also enhance the overall aesthetics of the room. In addition, proper lighting can create a calming ambiance in your bathroom which is pretty much a godsend if you plan to de-stress in the bathtub after a long day’s work. In this article, we will be discussing bathroom lighting placement and how to optimize your bathroom’s light fixtures to the desired effect. 

It is best to approach this on different levels when it comes to bathroom light fixture placement. There are three elements to consider: decorative lighting, task lighting, and ambient lighting. With all three combined, you will be able to optimize the illumination in your bathroom. 

To help you plan your bathroom light fixture placement, we will discuss the three vital elements of bathroom lighting that we stated above. Afterward, we will also be giving you tips to polish your bathroom lighting further to deliver the best possible results. 

Bathroom Lighting Types

As we stated earlier, the best bathroom lighting combines three vital layers to create the best ambiance possible. These are decorative lighting, task lighting, and ambient lighting. Therefore, we will be directing the proverbial spotlight on each type of bathroom lighting to help you understand their importance. 

Decorative Lighting

Blue colored bathroom with white furniture, great mirror with sconces and luxurious chandelier

As the name implies, decorative lighting creates a certain mood in the room. Bathroom decorative lighting can be in the form of a small chandelier, countertop lighting fixtures, and pendant lights. To take full advantage of decorative lighting, you need to place these on a bathroom area that you want the eyes to focus on.

Task Lighting

Task lighting aims to provide practicality and functionality to the bathroom. These lighting fixtures are crucial in bathrooms as they offer convenience for grooming and other bathroom activities. Vanity lighting and light sconces are examples of bathroom task lighting. When installing lighting for mirrors or make-up it’s important to also consider the bulbs for the best ambient lighting. 

However, vanity mirrors tend to come in different forms and sizes, so task lighting placement differs on a case-to-case basis. To help you decide where to place the task lighting fixtures, we suggest you put them about 75 to 80 inches from the floor and use around at least 150 watts to provide outstanding illumination. 

Ambient Lighting

Interior of stylish bathroom with gray and pink walls, grey tiled floor, comfortable bathtub and double sink on white countertop

Ambient lighting is the alternative to natural light in the bathroom. This type of lighting is the room’s primary illumination and is typically the ceiling-mounted light. You can opt for the standard light bulb or go with something a bit flashier, like a chandelier or pendant lamp. 

Shower Lighting

If you have a shower stall in your bathroom, you might want to consider shower lighting fixtures as well. Of course, shower lighting is not necessary if the shower stall utilizes clear glass doors, but if it doesn’t, installing additional lighting is something to consider. For shower lighting, we recommend using recessed lighting fixtures.

Vanity Lighting Tip

The goal of vanity lighting is to ensure that it won’t cast a shadow on your face. As such, it is best to install vanity lighting on both sides of the mirror, at least 36 to 40 inches apart. As for the height of the vanity lighting, it is best to place it at eye height – typically about 66 inches from the floor. Having the light fixture at this height guarantees even illumination across the face. 

Should You Use Warm or Cool Light for Bathrooms?

The choice will depend on what you prefer. Warm light has a yellow hue and is often attributed to having a relaxing and calming effect. Because of this particular property, we recommend you use warm light for decorative and ambient lighting. 

Cool lighting emulates sunlight and will exude a cool white, sometimes bluish, hue. Cool light is best suited for task lighting due to the excellent illumination.

Soft white (2,700-3,000 kelvin) is the best type of lighting for applying makeup as it results in a more natural-looking reflection from the mirror.

Small Bathroom Lighting Tips

Proper lighting a small bathroom is a bit trickier as you will only be working with somewhat limited space. Therefore, it is advisable to incorporate recessed lights, which will provide more than adequate illumination without taking up too much surface space. 

Also, due to the limited space, you might want to skip installing decorative lighting altogether. Instead, go with more unconventional lighting in the bathroom, such as installing strip lights on the cabinets and shelves. 

You will notice that small bathrooms tend to lean on ambient lighting the most as these are typically compact light sources. However, if you can get a bathroom mirror with built-in light, we highly suggest you go with that to optimize the wall space. 

Additional Consideration in Bathroom Lighting

While functionality and aesthetics will always be at the top of the list for bathroom lighting, safety should never take a backseat. Since bathrooms have high humidity and water is a constant element, it is best to take extra care when installing light fixtures as electricity and water are not the best of bedfellows. 

Check if all power outlets have ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). You can hire a licensed electrician to ensure that your bathroom meets all safety standards stated by the National Electric Code. 

We also highly advise that lighting fixtures be kept a certain distance from the shower and bathtub – at least 6 feet. Also, ensure that all lighting fixtures are shower-location rated and not just have a damp-location rating. 

Final Thoughts

Planning and installing bathroom light fixtures can be a daunting task for beginners. The aim is to create near-perfect illumination while keeping in mind the aesthetics of the interior space. Therefore, it is best to blend the three different bathroom lighting types to achieve that goal. Once you understand these lighting types, you can better formulate where and what lighting fixtures to implement in the bathroom.