Tips for Selecting Bathroom Lighting

The bathroom is where most of us begin and end much of our daily routine – bathing, grooming, unwinding with a hot shower. It’s often a respite from the hubbub of the day, a place for rejuvenation. Those transformative activities require a thoughtful and thorough lighting schematic, not just popping a couple of fixtures on the wall and calling it good. Consider these tips when selecting your bathroom lighting.

It is essential to layer the lighting – ambient, task, and accent – for optimal function. It’s also an opportunity to employ some creative lighting solutions and infuse your space with your unique personality. Vanities need shadow-free task lighting (and great mirrors!) for shaving and make-up application. General lighting needs to be strong throughout the space. Accent lighting – like a stunning chandelier or wall sconce – adds style and can highlight the bath’s special features and décor.

Recessed lights work well for general ambient lighting but don’t provide adequate light for things like shaving or makeup application. Those tasks require even, shadow-free light that overhead can lights or even a flush or semi-flush ceiling fixture simply can’t provide. For illuminating your vanity area, you have several choices.

Vanity Bars

Vanity bars or bath bars are a popular choice for bathrooms. After all, it’s why they were designed. Generally available with two to five lights, these fixtures are common workhorses that provide enough candlepower and some style! From simple utility fixtures to bars loaded with crystals, details, and other decorative effects, there’s something for everyone with this type of fixture. 

Usually, these fixtures are placed above a mirror and centered on the plumbing. Height-wise, about 72 inches above the floor is ideal. If you have one sink, center it right over the faucet. The width of the fixture you choose should depend on the width of the vanity and also the size of the room. A four-light fixture may overpower a small powder room even if there’s room for it. Three-light bath bars remain the most popular.

If you have two sinks, you could opt for two matching bars (one over each basin) or one large fixture that spans both. Keep scale in mind.  Ask a lighting professional for assistance if you’re unsure what would look best.  

Many vanity bath bars are reversible, meaning they can be used with the diffusers pointing up or down, offering more versatility from both a design and illumination perspective. Mounting them with the exposed bulb pointing up toward the ceiling reduces glare while pointing them down gives you more light. 


If you have enough room so a pair (or more!) of sconces could be mounted at least two to three feet apart, sconces are a lovely way to illuminate your vanity area. They create nearly shadow-free light when placed on either side of a mirror, and are available in a wide variety of styles and finishes.



They’re all the rage for kitchens lately, and pendants are everywhere. There’s no reason they can’t work well in a bathroom! From Bohemian to transitional to old-school traditional, pendant styles are nearly boundless. Much like sconces, they provide even lighting when placed on either side of the mirror or mirrors.

Speaking of mirrors, they are extremely important in a bath. Quality matters since it will be exposed to condensation and humidity often. Lighted mirrors – where LED lighting components are integrated into the mirror itself – are another option for additional vanity lighting.


Code, Color & Control

If you’re dreaming of a showstopper fixture above your tub, you’re not alone! Chandeliers or pendants work well for that, and you can soak away in spa-like luxury. (Be sure to check with your electrician about local codes regarding placement of electrical fixtures near water.)

Another tip: Since the bath is used for everything from beard trimming or perfecting the perfect smokey eye, a quick visit to use the facilities, or a therapeutic soak in the tub, be sure your lighting works for all of those activities – and at all times of day. 

As mentioned before, layering is key but also consider using different color temperature bulbs or LEDs and also employ dimmer switches. Being able to adjust the lighting easily for different times of day and uses will take your bathroom from great to stellar!

Whether your goal is spa-like tranquility, a rustic retreat, classic elegance, or something else which suits your style, Mahlander’s offers abundant choices to light your bathroom – and the know-how to help you make the perfect choices for your project.

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March 2024 Maximalist Blog Main Image

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