Typically, bathroom lighting is much like the room being illuminated; very utilitarian. It is not unusual for a single ceiling light fixture or a row of exposed bulbs above a mirror to be the sole bathroom lighting. These lights typically cannot be adjusted for brightness or softness. Consequently, bathroom lighting is often too bright or too dim. Bathrooms today are increasingly becoming a place to relax and recharge with new and newly remodeled homes including larger and more functional bathrooms. It is not at all uncommon for bathrooms to include spa tubs and even steam showers. These rooms are increasingly becoming a sanctuary where the days are started and ended and these sanctuaries should have appropriate lighting as well. Perhaps the easiest way to upgrade the lighting in your bathroom is to install dimmers. Many high-end homes are installing dimmers on every light circuit now…and they are especially valuable in the bathroom.
When designing bathroom lighting, certain types of fixtures are required. First and foremost, fixtures must be water and steam resistant. Track lighting is not a practical bathroom lighting option. The exposed wiring inside the track is susceptible over time to the moisture generated in bathrooms. Much better options are sconces and recessed lighting where the wiring is inside the wall. When choosing lighting, it may help to break the bathroom down in to functional areas.
Sconces are the best choice here. It is not unusual for vanity lights to be located above the mirror. This provides bright light, but it casts subtle shadows under the chin, eyes and cheeks. Sconces mounted on either side of the mirror will eliminate these shadows. These shadows may not matter when shaving, but they can make a big difference when applying makeup.
Note: many older sink areas have built-in fluorescent fixtures above them. These should, quite simply, be replaced immediately with incandescent or halogen fixtures. The difference will be dramatic.
Spa Tubs and Showers
Most lighting designed for above-shower or above-tub use is sealed for code reasons. A wide variety of lighting that meets this code is available as recessed lighting, and this is a great choice for such applications. A long relaxing soak in the spa tub is difficult, however, when bright lights are shining directly down. Two or three recessed lights directly above the tub should be adequate to provide the light required for cleaning, reading or relaxing. Dedicated shower stalls will likely require only one or, for larger stalls, two recessed fixtures. Again, dimmers should be used to allow light to be adjusted appropriately.
Like most lighting, the need for upgrades and improvements is often overlooked from day to day. Well thought out lighting and the use of dimmers can change the harsh morning glare to a welcoming glow.