If you’re remodeling your bathroom into the luxurious home spa you’ve always wanted, you’ve probably poured over tubs, tiles and faucets. Don't forget light fixtures, though — bathroom lighting has a huge impact on your bathroom’s overall design. The right lighting can turn your bathroom from the place where you brush your teeth into a sanctuary of luxury. First, consider the following four essentials of bathroom lighting.
Have you ever noticed how the clothes you try on in the department store never quite look the same in your bathroom mirror? Don't blame the mirrors; it's probably your bathroom lighting. "Plain" white light can have a multitude of shades, colors and temperatures that impact how your clothes and makeup look. You’ll almost instinctively notice that every light bulb or lamp has a “temperature” or color tint to it that makes it cooler or warmer.
Bathroom lighting experts often recommend sticking to the warm white light, as shown in the color/temperature breakdown below. (Hint: Try warm white 2700-3000 kelvins (K) for the most flattering bathroom lighting).
• Daylight: 4600-6500K
• Cool white light: 3100-4500K
• Warm white light: 2000-3000K
Remember that different parts of the bathroom may benefit from different light temperatures depending on room size, decor colors and natural light from windows.
2. What Is the Color Rendering Index of Your Bathroom Lighting?
To take the color and temperature concept of bathroom lighting a little further, it’s a good idea to understand the Color Rendering Index (CRI). This number can indicate how accurate colors look under certain lighting sources.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) designed this 0-100 scale (100 having the best color rendering), based on how well lights display pastel colors. This scale assumes that lights closer to 100 CRI that bring out the best in pastels will also work well with richer colors. Try for at least 80 CRI in your bathroom lights.
Note: The CRI is fairly accurate with most standard bathroom lighting options, but can be a little off with LED lamps. NIST and other lighting experts are trying to come up with a scale that accurately measures color rendering for LED lights as well as other lighting sources.
3. What Wattage Is Best for Bathroom Lighting?
We’ve covered the color, temperature and color-rendering factors of your bathroom lighting; now let’s discuss brightness, which is measured in wattage. There are several factors that will impact how bright you want the lights in your bathroom to be — 75-100 watts go well in guest and master bathrooms. However, for half-baths or powder rooms, 45-60 watts is fine. Keep in mind that as you age, or if the users of the bathroom are seniors, staying around 100 watts will aid with vision and safety.
If you want to have more bathroom lighting options in the wattage and brightness department, consider installing dimmers. That way, you can use all 100 watts to wake yourself in the morning and apply makeup or shave without cutting yourself. Later that evening, you can dim to 35 watts for a relaxing bedtime bath.
4. How Many Lights Do I Need in the Bathroom?
Each light in your bathroom should serve your ability to see what you need to see, as well as providing the right ambiance and design effects. You’ll need to consider your bathroom’s size, ceiling height and how your bathroom lighting can diminish glare and unflattering shadows. There are also different types of bathroom lighting to consider:
• Task lights: Essential to any bathroom lighting scheme, task lights usually go around vanity areas in the vicinity of the sink so you can put on makeup, shave, brush your teeth, etc. We recommend installing task lighting on either side of your mirror instead of above the mirror. Lights above the mirror tend to create glare and shadows you want to avoid. Though lighting on the sides casts an even glow for your morning routine. Consider vertical bathroom lighting bars, pendants or sconce light fixtures.
• Ambient lights: These are the lights that cast general illumination across the bathroom. You can accomplish this with rows of recessed lighting; ceiling-facing light fixtures that reflect light across the entire bathroom; and decorative central light fixtures that radiate light in all directions.
• Accent lights: Directional recessed lighting can be angled to illuminate artwork or impressive design elements in your bathroom. Hanging light fixtures such as chandeliers can lead the eye toward a beautiful claw-foot tub or other features; while enhancing the general ambient bathroom lighting. Some of the hottest styles include under-cabinet, floor-level lighting that sets off bathroom floor designs as well as providing low levels of light for middle-of-the-night bathroom visits.
• Decorative lights: These bathroom lighting ideas stand out as design elements on their own. Chandeliers, sconces and other “eye candy” lights can brighten your bathroom and add decorative touches that highlight your unique style.
What Wattage Is Best for Bathroom Lighting?
When it comes to wattage for bathroom lights, consider following this rule of thumb: Use a minimum of two 60-watt incandescent bulbs. This should give you about 800 lumens each. If there is only one light fixture in the space, you could choose a 75-watt bulb and use a dimmer, giving you more control of the light level. Moreover, if you have a small powder room, consider choosing bathroom light wattage that’s around 45 to 60 watts.
Instead of thinking of each of these bathroom lighting elements as independent items, try to imagine them as layers of lighting. Each lighting element should complement and enhance the others, while also standing alone beautifully.