Layer the Lighting in Your Zen Bathroom

Achieve balance and symmetry by choosing a variety of lighting sources for your Zen-inspired bathroom.


Bathroom with dim lighting, floating vanity, pendant lighting, siliver sink and faucte, and plant decor.

Photo by: Design by Velvet Hammerschmidt

Design by Velvet Hammerschmidt

If you need a respite from your busy life, consider transforming your bathroom into a personal refuge. Follow this simple seven-step path to create an authentic, Zen-inspired design.

Light affects our moods, making us cheerful or contemplative; the lack of sunlight can even make us depressed. As with all aspects of a Zen bathroom your goal is to achieve graceful balance, in this case between types of lighting and light and shadow.

Base your lighting plan on natural light from a window or even from a room adjacent to the bath. Use window treatments that offer privacy and create diffused light, such as stained glass, window films and rice paper shades.

Choosing a variety of interior lighting sources creates a layered lighting scheme, which lets you achieve balance and flexibility. Hang canister or pendant lights over the sink so you have a place shave or put on your makeup. Placing sconces on either side of the mirror will light your entire face without shadows so you can do those delicate tasks with ease. Install indirect lights to quiet the room when you want to soak in the tub. Dimmers will help you achieve the right balance between natural and electrical light.

Architect Michael Morris of Morris Sato Studio in New York City prefers to use as little direct light as possible. "In traditional Japanese architecture," he says, "the moon's reflection was often viewed in a still pond from a palace balcony or platform." While it's not likely that you'll have a reflecting pool outside your bathroom, you can still create serenity with reflected light.

One way to do this is to up-light cabinets and create a halo on the ceiling; you can also add sconces to reflect light on walls. If you eschew direct light but still need task lighting, designer Jodi Fitzpatrick of Renata Resources in Fresno, Calif., suggests installing a lighted retractable makeup mirror in a cabinet or medicine cabinet. To add drama, highlight a solitary piece of art or a single, perfect vase with a spotlight.

Not sure what fixtures to choose? There are a host of Zen-inspired lighting fixtures on the market. Designer Merrie Fredericks of Design Concepts Plus in Newtown Square, Penn., says that lighting from the Craftsman period also works well with Zen design.

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