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How to Light Your Bathroom Right

Article By: Tiffany Carboni

The bathroom is one of the only rooms in a multibodied household where we’re expected and encouraged to lock ourselves inside. With that kind of permission, it makes sense to use this private space as a luxurious sanctuary. Make the most of your haven by giving it the proper lighting.

I spoke with two lighting experts about how best to transform a bathroom into a relaxing, functional refuge with light. Here’s their advice. 

The four types of light needed for the best bathroom atmosphere are task, accent, decorative and sparkle. 

Task Lighting

This is the light by which you can best see yourself. “Proper task lighting at the mirror is important,” says lighting designer Randall Whitehead.

He recommends using a pair of sconces mounted at eye level on either side of the mirror to provide shadowless illumination. This creates the best scenario for makeup application, shaving, tooth care and so on.

 

 

 

 

Tip: Avoid adding a light above the mirror. That includes recessed lighting in the ceiling. “That would throw a strong light onto your forehead and cast deep shadows below your eyes, nose and chin,” Whitehead says. “Not only is this light ineffective for shaving or applying makeup, it can visually age you by 10 years. People should look their best when they look at their reflection.”

Proper lighting in the bathroom will make you feel better about yourself and promote confidence throughout your day.

 

Wattage for task lighting. “In the master or guest bathrooms, use fixtures that provide 75 to 100 watts’ worth of illumination,” Whitehead recommends. “You can get these wattage equivalents in a 24- to 26-watt compact fluorescent or 20- to 25-watt LED.” 

Tip: Putting task lighting on a dimmer will allow your eyes to adjust first thing in the morning; it will also help you wind down at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Task lighting wattage in the powder room. Task lights in powder rooms can have much less wattage (think 45-watt range), as this is not a space where anyone will be performing the morning ritual. Lower wattage provides a softer, relaxing ambience for guests. 

Find a color temperature that makes the room feel inviting and illuminates guests in the most attractive way.

 

Accent Lighting

If you enjoy art in your bathroom, accent lighting will show it off best. Recessed directional lights provide focused illumination for each piece of art — or, in this case, for an alcove dedicated to a sculptural bouquet of flowers. 

Decorative Lighting

This adds visual sparkle. Whitehead advises using a single pendant in a square-shaped bathroom for just the right touch.

 

In a grand rectangular bathroom, he recommends using two to three fixtures installed along the ceiling plane for adequate illumination. 

Candles also offer wonderful sparkle and set a distinctly relaxing, romantic tone. Just make sure you keep them well away from any flammable objects, such as towels and hair, and never leave them unattended.

 

Ambient Light

This acts as fill light. “In bathrooms with taller ceilings, a cove or cantilever details, ambient lighting fixtures can be installed along the perimeter of the space,” Whitehead says. “Architectural details such as these can hide the fixture and create indirect lighting.” 

A pendant fixture with a translucent shade can be a source of both decorative and ambient light.

 

Putting It All Together

Interior designer Katie Anderson transformed the dark bathroom shown here in many ways, but one of the most significant — and most universally useful — was bringing in light.

Before, there weren’t enough light sources or appropriate fixtures to layer light,” Anderson says. “Moreover, there wasn’t any natural light.”

Her mission: devise a lighting plan that would illuminate the shower, tub and sink areas evenly. Here’s what she did. 

AFTER: Sconces on large mirrors at the sink vanities now offer functional task lighting. Recessed cans on dimmers provide ambient light for whatever mood is desired. Dimmers are especially useful in the tub area, where relaxation and romance are priorities. Wall sconces offer additional ambient and decorative light. 

Large mirrors, both at the vanity and over the tub, effectively reflect all of these layered light sources for the best effect. 

Whitehead suggests putting the fan and lighting on separate switches. “I don’t want the fan to go on automatically every time I go in to wash my hands,” he says. Putting each light source — or a logical combination of light sources — on different switches allows you to choose what you want lit when.

Tip: If you use recessed cans over the sink, make sure they are on a different switch than your task lighting, as Anderson did.

Universal Design for Kitchens

A Few Simple Changes Can Enhance the Functionality for Any User

Unlike universal kitchens designed years ago, universal design today doesn’t mean boring design, but quite the opposite. It is important to note that universal design practices are broader than that of barrier-free design, and are in fact universal. Almost without exception, features or flexibility added to a product to accommodate individuals with temporarily or permanently reduced abilities in some areas have proven to be beneficial to users in general. In many cases, more people without a disability will find features useful than the number of people in the original target audience.

A curb cutout is a good example. First, they were implemented for people in wheelchairs; however, they are used much more often by people on bicycles, baby strollers, pushing grocery carts or wheeled luggage than by people in wheelchairs.

If you’ve been designing kitchens with your clients’ needs in mind, you’re probably utilizing universal design. Your clients most likely have specific needs for their families. When designing a universal kitchen, you have to keep in mind the capabilities of each person utilizing the space. In most situations, we are dealing with families with small children, parents and in some cases, even grandparents, so we will take this scenario into consideration. Following are some simple ways to incorporate universal design into a kitchen.

Photo: KraftMaid | Passport Series

Surfaces: make sure they’re firm and stable. If there are overhangs on countertops such as snack bars, make sure they are supported well enough for anyone that might use it as an aid for getting up from their chair.

Dish Storage: the bottom shelf typically is the only shelf accessible to average-sized women, and it can also be too high to get a stack of dishes in and out of easily. Utilizing base cabinet drawers as dish storage will make dishes more accessible to people in wheelchairs, shorter people, elderly and for children. When possible, bring wall cabinets down to countertop height to allow more wall storage for dishes. 

Dishwashers: when able, raise the dishwasher 6 to 12 inches from the floor by adding a drawer below or by using two dishwasher drawers mounted side-by-side or on either side of the sink. 

Cabinet Pulls: there are several different options you can use for this application. The touch-latch option for doors and drawers on full overlay or European door styles make the doors longer than the cabinets to create a lip where you could put your hand behind the door to pull open. Knobs and pulls remain good options as long as they are not petite and smooth. Look for larger pieces with plenty of room for your fingers. 

Appliances: some refrigerators are extremely difficult and take way too much strength to open. If designing for somebody with little upper body strength, I would avoid large appliances with heavy doors. Microwave and refrigerator drawers would be better options. 

Light Switches: switches with large flat panels will work best.

Lighting: create well-lit space using combinations of under-cabinet lighting, general lighting, task lighting and decorative lighting. A dimmer switch on each fixture will allow adjustment for every user.

Counter Edges: A countertop that is a contrasting color from surrounding cabinets and the backsplash or countertop, with a contrasting front edge, makes for a visual aid to determine where one surface ends and one begins. 

Wall Ovens: Mount double ovens side-by-side rather than stacked, and mount them at about 30 inches above the floor. 

Faucets: choose faucets that have levers you could operate with a fist, or better yet, faucets with touch control options. Avoid faucets with controls that take a lot of finger strength or dexterity to operate.

Flooring: slip-resistant and non-reflective floors, distressed wood and slate are two examples of universal flooring.

Counter Heights: consider a table height for children, people in wheelchairs, and for those that find sitting and working easier. Create a standard countertop height for an average user, taller heights for taller people and for people that have difficulty bending over. The taller counter height can be anything higher than 36 inches and should be determined by the user.

Bathroom Remodeling Tips

A single bathroom remodeling tip could inspire fresh thinking for your entire remodeling project. Trends area always being updated, so it’s useful to know what’s new in home bathroom design. You’ll find bathroom remodeling advise and inspiration here.

Express Yourself

Choosing Colors: A fresh coat of paint is an easy way to give your room an instant face-lift. Single color schemes make small rooms larger and a neutral palette can expand your space more. Or, add drama with colors like deep reds, eggplant, ochre, and dark blues or greens. 

The Personal Touch: Collections and objects that express your personality or your family history will make your home interesting to your guests and more enjoyable for you. 

Imported Ideas: Consider letting a favorite hotel or restaurant, or an outdoor spot that you enjoy, provide the inspiration for your bedroom, dining room or bath. 

Planting Style: One beautiful plant can be a strong design statement. Your style sense will determine whether a dramatic green plant or a bright floral bouquet is best for you.

Dynamic Design

The Right Finish: Now more than ever, you have choices for kitchen and bath fixtures. While matte or polished chrome are always popular, homeowners are choosing darker finishes such as oil-rubbed bronze and wrought iron. Consider the look and feel you wish to create when deciding. 

Bright Ideas: Halogen downlights and scones provide whiter light and fresh designs. Visit the lighting section of your home improvement center to get a better idea of these styles.

Quick ‘n Easy: Multi-purpose rooms need to switch moods easily. Today’s high-tech dimmers let you fine-tune your lights – even dim or raise them with a remote. 

Mix It Up: Today’s larger kitchen has room for variety. Mix-and-match styles and wood types for an eclectic feel that adds a unique look, from baseboard to hanging cabinets.

Packs a Punch

High-Performance Shower: Today’s shower design offers unprecedented opportunities for adding deluxe features – massaging vertical spas, rain shower showerheads and luxurious materials such as glass, tile and stone. 

Organized Kitchen: Specialized storage systems, appliances and fixtures speed meal preparation and keep entertaining organized. Choose open shelving for quick access. Locate a faucet next to the range to fill big pots quickly and conveniently.

Design Focus: A single, dramatic focal point for a room you’re remodeling makes the improvements more obvious. Try a special piece of furniture, an interesting piece of art or one wall that’s boldly colored.

Double Duty: Lighting is a sculpture as well as illumination. Choose light fixtures in shapes that are pleasing to look at – whether they’re switched on or off.

Works for Me

Getaway Baths: The bath can be a relaxing, serene environment. Add massaging or rain showerheads, a deep Zen soaking tub and even music and candles to enhance the revitalizing experience. 

Counter Space: If your bathroom is being shared by the family, counter space is critical. Consider a vanity with cabinets for extra storage and organization.

Ageless Amenities: Features usually associated with older homeowners – easier access, brighter lighting and convenient handholds – are helpful at any age. Adding them with your remodel could improve your home’s resale value.

Bed and Breakfast: Adding a morning bar to a master bedroom with an elaborate, built-in countertop and sink is a great way to add luxury and functionality.

Practical Approach

Finding Your Design: Start a scrapbook of design ideas you find in magazines and online. This will help you establish a foundation for your remodeling project. 

Sketch Your Layout: This will help you understand how you would like your new room to look and help you change the little things that you don’t care for in your current design.

Set a Budget: By outlining how much you can spend on each phase of the project you will be able to see if you can splurge on the extras; like a contractor or if you need to cut and do it yourself.

Set a Timeline: This will help you keep on track and allow you to achieve your remodeling goals.