contemporary bachelor pad bathroom designed by darci hether new york located in upper east side. the bathroom has marble features.
photography by emily gilbert photography

choosing the right lighting is an essential step in designing any room in your home.  the bathroom may not be the space that comes to mind first when people consider their lighting plan.  however, your bathroom is one of the essential places to focus your illuminating (pun intended) attention.


illuminate the bathroom lighting design possibilities.

one of my main tasks as a designer is to inform my clients how important lighting is in the function and allure of their bathroom design. most clients are unaware of what constitutes a well-lit space, and this is where my guidance kicks in. my first goal when considering the design of a bathroom is to express the correct amount of lumens (the amount of light) needed to light a bathroom properly.  afterward, i explain the different light sources i plan to layer into their space.


photography by emily gilbert photography

balance function and style with your lighting design.

choose fixtures that suit your design style.  if you have a contemporary, minimalist aesthetic then i suggest a sleek vertical strip on both sides of the mirror.  for a more traditional vibe, select a brass sconce or glitzy chandelier.

tip: do not be afraid to mix metals. the mixed metal trend is in full effect. be wary of picking metals that complement each other instead of clash. for example, you can pair a nickel faucet and a soft brass fixture to create a surprising yet stylish balance. matte and shiny finishes can live together to create a textured juxtaposition.


contemporary bathroom design by darci hether located on the upper east side in new york city.
photography by will ellis photography


spread light around with recessed features.

when considering a general bathroom lighting plan i suggest starting with the first layer of light – the ceiling fixture.  surface mounted or recessed cans are ideal for overhead and general illumination. strategically placed recessed lighting can also be used to highlight the unique features of your bathroom.

tip: a small recessed spotlight directed at a piece of decorative art or other focal points will create another layer of light in your bathroom.


don’t forget the bathtub and shower light.

you will want a seperate light for the shower or tub area.  as a safety precaution, the light should be placed over where you stand in the shower or sit in the tub.  alas, the lighting fixture in the shower cannot be overly decorative. remember: the light fixture should be wet zone approved.

tip: your shower or bathtub light fixtures should ideally be installed on a seperate switch from the vanity lighting with a dimmer. (only if possible)


contemporary marble bathroom with pedestal sink designed by darci hether new york on the upper east side in new york city.
photography by emily gilbert photography

mirror..mirror on the wall.  lighting the mirror is essential.

the mirror is where you see yourself first thing in the morning, so you will want the lighting to be as flattering as possible. we have all had the cringe-worthy dressing room experience. the one where the harsh light makes us second guess ever entering a fitting room again.  thankfully, this horror episode can be avoided in your bathroom by illumination at the mirror – a light source located in front of you. this will prevent a forehead highlight and pesky vanity shadows. a pleasing reflection will set the mood for the beginning and end of each day.

tip: i favor side-mounted sconces, they look so chic and work well with any sink or vanity design.


be mindful of color temperature when choosing bulbs for fixtures.

color temperature plays an often overlooked but critical role in bathroom lighting.  note: all wattages aren’t created equal. daylight is around 5000 kelvin, incandescent is 2700 and dimmed incandescent is 2400 kelvin.  i suggest shooting for 1,100 lumens or a 75w incandescent bulb from each fixture.

tip: you can dial back on the lumens in the powder room.  around 60w per fixture is the sweet spot since guests will likely just be checking their hairdo and making sure they do not have food in their teeth.

bonus tip: set the mood with dimmers.

i suggest installing dimmers for all of your lighting fixtures no matter if they are for task or mood lighting.  dimmers allow your eyes to adjust first thing in the morning and wind down at night. dimmers will also allow you to set an ambient tone and save energy by extending the life of your bulbs.

tip: take the ambiance to the next level with a few scented candles to accompany your bubble bath after a long hard work week.

hopefully, these tips will inspire you to illuminate your bathroom’s true potential.  shine on and share your lighting adventures in the comments below!

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