DIY Network

Bathroom Lighting

Check out these important tips on lighting your bathroom from HomePortfolio's Alan Kauzlaric.

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Getting enough light where you want it can be accomplished by selecting lights that will work with where you decide to install them.

Light Placement
Ideal lighting for a mirror leaves no room for shadow and offers complete illumination of the face. While light strips are readily available, similar effects can be achieved in more aesthetically pleasing ways with a variety of fixture types and styles. Fixtures can be placed beside the mirror, above it, on it, or in the ceiling. Recessed lighting blends into the architecture and can be used on its own or to supplement more decorative fixtures that don't cast much light.

  • Beside the Mirror: Sconces or strips flanking the mirror afford the greatest light coverage and minimize shadows.

    Because the light is at the front and sides, there is little chance of creating shadows cast by the brow, nose, or chin. The most luminous portion of the fixture should align with your face. On average this will be approximately 60 inches above the floor, but be sure to experiment before you hang the fixture and to place it exactly where you need it.

  • Above the Mirror: While sconces can be fixed in several locations, many fixtures are appropriate only above the mirror. Such fixtures may have open diffusers or be completely enclosed. Some fixtures with open diffusers can be mounted with the open end of the glass either up or down for greater design flexibility.

  • On the Mirror: You may want to mount fixtures directly to a large plate mirror. Some coordination between the electrician, contractor, and glazers is necessary. Keep in mind that not all fixtures look good from behind — which is the part that will be reflected in the mirror — so you should ensure that the fixture has a finished appearance from all angles if it does not install completely flush with the mirror.

  • Recessed Lights: Unlike fixtures that are decorative elements themselves, recessed lighting blends into the architecture. When using recessed lighting at the mirror, place the fixtures as close to the plane of the mirror as possible. Use at least two fixtures and space them so that the light from one works with the light from the other. Recessed lighting may also be used to supplement decorative fixtures that don't cast much light.

Decorative Finishes and Glass

Decorative fixtures are available in various metal finishes, including nickel, brass, and chrome, to coordinate with faucets, pulls, and hardware. Other fixtures are primarily glass. Because colored glass colors the light, it should be avoided at the mirror. The trim is the part of the recessed fixture that we see. Trims are available in a number of colors and finishes.

Dimmer Switches and Bulb Types

Save on energy use and create a variety of effects with these options. Regardless of the fixture type or its placement, it is always a good idea to fit it with a dimmer switch. Dimmer switches allow you to alter the atmosphere of the room by varying from bright light to nightlight. They also save energy and increase lamp life. There are also many options for lamps, also called bulbs. You should seek out frosted lamps or diffusing filters for all fixtures. Clear lamps can cause glare and cast harsh shadows on the walls, ceiling, and fixture glass — and even you.

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