Strangely, when it comes to interior lighting, bathrooms are probably given the least consideration of all the rooms in the house.
Whether you are building or remodelling your bathroom, you will want to make the most out of your available natural light (if you have a window), but you will also need to think carefully about what kind of artificial lighting you need to suit your bathroom.
A good bathroom lighting plan is comprised of a series of layers – placing ample light where it is needed for showers, shaving, or putting on makeup, for instance, while other light sources enhance the overall mood of the room.
Vanity lighting gets top consideration because these fixtures work the best to illuminate daily bathroom activities like shaving and putting on make-up.
The most common mistake people make is putting recessed ceiling fixtures directly over the mirror. These cast shadows on the face, making daily grooming rituals more difficult. The best type of vanity lighting is either side lights or an adjustable-angle lamp over the mirror.
To eliminate shadows under the chin, eyes, and cheeks, fixtures should be mounted on either side of the vanity mirror (or on the mirror’s surface, if it’s large), 36 to 40 inches apart. The centre of each fixture should be roughly at eye level, or about 66 inches above the floor. This will guarantee even illumination across the face.
The shower is a secondary area of task lighting. In smaller bathrooms, if the stall has a clear glass door, a dedicated fixture may not be necessary. Otherwise a recessed light with a glass lens (plastic will yellow) will work. Similar recessed fixtures work well over a freestanding tub or the toilet.
Ambient light fills in for natural light. It is most often supplied by a central fixture, usually a surface-mounted ceiling light. Consider a pendant lamp or chandelier instead. Another option is “cove lighting” – rope lights hidden behind a moulding dropped several inches below ceiling height – which adds a soft glow around the perimeter of the room.
A small recessed spotlight directed at a piece of decorative art or a nice tile work creates another layer of light in the bathroom. Similarly, a recessed shower fixture can be angled (most can be tilted up to 35 degrees at installation) to highlight fixtures and make them sparkle.
Dimmer switches give you the ultimate control over the room’s lighting. Today’s dimmers work for every kind of light source, though you need to know what to ask for. A 120-volt incandescent or halogen light source will need an incandescent dimmer, while low-voltage and fluorescent fixtures require their own compatible dimmers.
Occasionally, dimmed bulbs will buzz as the filament vibrates. Switching to a lower-watt bulb (which has a smaller filament) should reduce or even eliminate the noise.