How to Properly Light a Bathroom
Our resident lighting expert reflects on the best way to bring a healthy glow to the marriage of two essential powder room partners: mirrors and lighting.
 
Fixtures mounted vertically on either side of the sink offer the most even illumination for your face.
Randall, our master bath mirror runs the entire length above the double-bowl (72-inch) countertop and under a light strip with those big, round incandescent bulbs. We want to replace that strip with a decorative fixture but realize this will give less light. Since I can access the open attic above, I was thinking of putting in some recessed halogen lights for additional task lighting. What do you think?
First, if you’re going to install recessed fixtures, use them only to highlight other walls—not over the sink area. This will create harsh shadows on the face and make it hard to apply makeup or shave. Use a recessed adjustable low voltage fixture and put it on a low voltage dimmer. This will have the smallest aperture and the most flexibility. Option 1: The best thing to do would be to install three light fixtures, mounted horizontally on the mirror at 5 feet, 6 inches from the floor and 1 foot, 6 inches on either side of the sinks (approximately 3 feet apart from each other). This spacing can be modified a bit, based on how far apart the two sinks are from each other. If the sinks are very far apart, you’ll need two pairs of sconces for even cross-illumination at each sink. Put them on a dimmer, so you can have less light when brushing your teeth and more light when doing heavy-duty beauty treatments, like spackling. This solution would require replacing the existing mirror, though. Option 2: Hang pendant fixtures from the ceiling, so they are 5 feet, 6 inches from the floor and spaced evenly between the sinks. Use two or three pairs of pendants based on the sink spacing. These, too, should be on a dimmer. This scenario would not require replacing the existing mirror. Option 3: The bare-bulb light strip you have is quite glarey. You could replace it with a fixture that has a frosted glass casing to provide more diffuse light. You could use two 3-foot units to create a run of 72 inches. Put them on a dimmer, too. It would not require replacing the existing mirror. This is the least effective of the options, but one you could do yourself.
Randall Whitehead lighting designer
Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website www.randallwhitehead.com for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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MY new vanity is 5 ft. Long

MY new vanity is 5 ft. Long and the mirror I am using is also 5 ft. and I must use a fixture over the mirror. Should it be a four light fixture or a 5 light fixture?

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