Tips for Lighting a Bathroom
Recessed fixtures can be a valuable addition to a bathroom, when used correctly.
I like your “triad” rule for lighting a bathroom vanity. We were planning to fill the ceiling there with recessed downlights, but I also want to have wall-mounted lights to help with shaving and make-up. However, for the ceiling light, do you recommend we install the surface-mount fixture in addition to canisters, or should we dispense with the canisters completely in the vanity area and save them for the toilet, entranceway, etc.?

If you install a surface-mounted fixture in the ceiling, the recessed fixtures are unnecessary, except for wet-label-rated ones that could go over the tub/shower area. If it is a master bath or a powder room where you have a piece of art that you might like to illuminate, then adding a recessed adjustable fixture would be a valuable addition. A recessed fixture over the toilet is okay for light reading, although you have to kind of lean back so that your head doesn’t cast a shadow onto your Sports Illustrated.

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 for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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