Lighten Up! Bathroom Lighting Ideas

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Aesthetics, Energy Efficiency & Practicality

Even though your bathroom is probably one of the smallest rooms in your house, it can be an incredibly beautiful and luxurious space-no matter your budget. Believe it or not, the most subtle lighting changes can overhaul the entire look and feel of your large, small, or medium-sized room.

All you need to begin is a basic understanding of how light works and what steps you need to take to achieve the results that you desire. Over time, you will feel more confident, experiment with different techniques, and find unique ways of finding the perfect lights for your bathroom.

First, you will need to develop a clear understanding of what you currently have in addition to your desired results. What kind of bathroom do you have now, and what do you like or dislike about it? Does your bathroom feel like a comfortable place in your home or does it feel uncomfortable like an elementary school restroom? Do you want a bathroom that is dim, bright, colorful, or all of the above? What do you want to change the most, and what do you want to keep the same?

The means by which you approach your lighting can help you become more practical with your space. By adjusting your lighting techniques, you can become energy efficient - cut electricity costs, and live more resourcefully. All the while, you will have a more beautiful bathroom. By adjusting your bathroom lighting, you can make dramatic changes with a relatively small investment. The decision to transform your bathroom's lighting will be inexpensive compared to other resource intensive remodeling projects such as floor renovation or a new color of paint. While you may decide that your best option is to invest in expensive lighting fixtures, you may realize that a dramatic change is as simple as changing a light bulb - literally. Revamp your bathroom's lighting as part of a larger remodeling endeavor, or create a smaller project for an in-between decorating gig.

Overhead Lighting

A bathroom needs to be as practical as it is aesthetically pleasing. When you're in the bathroom, you need to be able to see clearly, especially for the purposes of applying makeup and getting ready for your day. In an ideal bathroom, you will be able to balance lighting that's as comforting as it is practical. By varying your lighting options, it's possible to achieve every result that you want. There's no need to pick just one type of light when you can experiment with many.

In many bathrooms, overhead lighting can be harsh, aesthetically unappealing, and resource-intensive. While bright overhead lighting may be ideal for public restrooms or schools, it can detract from the comfortable look and feel of your space. Do you really want a bright and abrasive light shining in your face as you get ready for work in the morning? The answer to that question is probably no.

If you opt for overhead lighting, try a decorative hanging lantern, ceiling lamp, recessed lighting, or track lighting. Adjustable controls and bulbs will help you dim or brighten your lights according to your comfort level. After all, you will be most happy with a bathroom that suits your preferences.

If you are looking for an energy efficient overhead lighting option, consider purchasing fluorescent lights. While these lights are expensive, they last longer and will conserve electricity. Other options include solar or energy-star lights.

For a more natural approach to overhead lighting, consider a skylight.

Vanity Lighting

How much do you anticipate using your bathroom mirror? Probably a fair amount. The majority of us spend at least half an hour getting ready, looking over our hair and makeup to make sure that we put our best faces forward.

As a result, vanity lighting is among of the most important investments for your bathroom. With adjustable dimness, you can have vanity lights that are functional and aesthetically pleasing. Brighten your lights when you need to do your makeup, and dim the lights when you would prefer ambient effects. You can put your vanity lighting on top of your mirror or on the sides. Either way, one hundred watts of light for every foot-and-a-half width of mirror should provide you with enough light.

Scented Candles

For early evenings or on a dark afternoon, candles mix well with natural lights to produce a relaxing atmosphere for a bubble bath or impromptu makeover. You probably won't have enough light to get ready for your day, but at very least, you can easily convert your space into a place that's made for comfort. So take some time to relax - it's equally important to staying efficient and productive.

If you're a fan of candles, consider using candleholders to decorate your space. The best materials to use are metal and glass. Some candle holders are wall-mounted while others can remain free standing on a counter or shelf.

If you use candles, be careful not to overcrowd your space since fire can quickly become hazardous with a sudden movement or wrong turn. Avoid leaving your candles unattended, especially if you have kids or pets who may find their way into the bathroom.

Shower Lighting

You may want light right above your shower and tub, especially if the overall lighting in the room is somewhat blocked by high shower curtains and doors. These types of light must be custom-designed for wet areas and must be installed by an electrician. Typically, recessed lights will work well above a shower. You can find recessed lighting with adjustable brightness and dimness.

Natural Lighting

Make the most of your natural lighting to save money and create an aesthetically pleasing look and feel. Large, bay windows are ideal for maximizing lighting. If you are planning about remodeling your bathroom, consider getting skylights so that light can enter from above. Save money on electricity costs, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Sconces & Table Lamps

If you want to give your bathroom a softer feel, try a table lamp for a warm and comfortable ambiance. You can even wire your table lamp with your bathroom's electrical circuit so that you can flip it on with a light switch. Sconces are wall lights that can be mounted anywhere in your bathroom: along the top or side of a mirror or on at least one wall. These types of lights can produce an incredibly warm and comfortable atmosphere.

Choose energy-efficient ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light bulbs to cut your electricity costs. If your sconces and table lamps are not bright enough, try to add some balance to your bathroom with natural lighting from windows and skylights.

Last Updated: January 19, 2012
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About Ritika Puri Based in California, Ritika Puri has worn a number of professional hats ranging from blogger to quantitative researcher, martial arts instructor, and cartographer. No matter what she does, she loves to write and specializes in topics related to home improvement, personal finance, and business. She writes regularly for's Financial Edge section, and her work has appeared on SF Gate, Yahoo! Finance, and The Chicago Sun Times Online. She holds a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. in Demographic and Social Analysis from the University of California at Irvine.  

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