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What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?

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The right vanity lighting is crucial for keeping a bathroom functional and putting the best face on the room’s design.

The best bathroom vanity lighting must ensure against toe bumps as users get in and out of the bathroom, especially during those night trips, and also make any face in the vanity mirror look as close to what will be seen in daylight as possible.

The fixtures themselves should look good or at least be subtle enough not to affect the overall bathroom design in a negative way.

Achieving all those goals usually requires different types of lighting around a vanity. Most bathrooms will need the proper mirror lighting, as well as specific lighting for areas such as underneath the vanity cabinet or along the toe kick.

The various types of lighting combine to show off your decorative elements without annoying shadows or hot spots.

Certain fixtures can also become decorative elements, especially those used around the mirror. Therefore, always make sure the illumination they receive allows the room to shine. Now, let’s help you light your bathroom vanity.

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Is Warm White or Cool White Better for Bathroom Vanity Lighting?

What Is The Best Way To Light A Vanity?
Courtesy: Noobibaba

When choosing your bathroom vanity lighting, it is important to remember that this is majorly task lighting. Therefore, choose the right color temperature to ensure your grooming tasks are well facilitated.

Whether you prefer wall sconces, tubes, or mirror lighting, there will come in Warm White, Cool White, and Daylight color temperature.

For vanity lighting, we recommend sticking with ‘daylight’ or ‘cool white’ LEDs or light courses, especially for even makeup application during the day. This is because they mimic daylight from the sun, and will also help you take better selfies may I add!

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Kalu Interiors

So, if you’re looking for the best way to light your vanity mirror out there, especially for better makeup application and a cleaner look in your bathroom space, stick with ‘daylight’ lighting for your vanity and you won’t go wrong.

Is CRI 80 Good Enough For Vanity Lighting?

For tasks like applying makeup, you also want to consider the CRI (color rendering index) or color accuracy of your bathroom lighting more than the visible color of the lighting.

The CRI is basically the ability of a light source to reveal colors of objects in contrast to a natural light source, such as the natural light filtering in through your windows.

Every light source is placed on the color rendering index chart with a scale from 0 to 100, depending on how accurately it can produce light that matches a naturally referenced light source, such as sunlight.

Bulbs at the higher end of the scale produce a more accurate color rendering of the objects around them. Therefore, for the best results, we recommend a CRI of 80 or higher if possible for vanity lighting, especially around the mirror.

Are LED Lights Good For The Vanity?

LED lights have gained much popularity in homes because of their energy efficiency. Good thing, they produce a score of about 80 to 90 on the CRI chart. The result is a brighter room, but with a much more natural, accurate output of light.

That makes LEDs better suited to indoor environments, including your bathroom, unlike fluorescent lighting which can create an unnatural look. Yes, go for LED lights for your bathroom vanity lighting, considering the lights mimic natural sunlight the best.

How to Light a Bathroom Vanity Correctly

Whether your vanity is in the bathroom or powder room, the available space or design preferences will dictate where to place the vanity lighting fixtures.

Also, the type of vanity you have will determine the lighting. That is, a longer vanity will call for more fixtures for the lighting to be enough while a smaller vanity may need fewer fixtures.

Remember, your vanity lighting is just one part of the bathroom lighting. For a beautiful space, consider lighting the bathroom in layers. Use chandeliers for general lighting, and add wall sconces for your vanity to create a warm and friendly ambiance.

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Try these tips to properly light your bathroom vanity:

1. Light On Both Sides of the Vanity Mirror

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Ca Pietra

The most common placement for vanity lights is on either side of the mirror. You could:

  • Install wall sconces on either side of the mirror,
What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Spa Ambiente
  • Hang pendant lights from the ceiling on either side or,
  • If the room is small (think a powder room), mount sconces on the sidewalls, close to the back wall. 
What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Kohler

The key is to place them so they are even with your head and face, depending on the height of the users.

So, you don’t have to center them beside the mirror; they may be aligned with the top of the mirror or even the lower half of it. There is nothing wrong with this. 

To create a nice, diffused light, you can consider fitting your wall sconces with elegant shades that look lovely but, more importantly, prevent any hot spots in the field of view.

Also, take into consideration the number of mirrors, sinks, and the distance between each.

For a symmetrical look, you want to light dual mirrors using three fixtures so that each mirror is lit from both sides.

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Kohler

However, if the distance between each mirror is too wide, then each mirror can have two fixtures beside it. And if it’s just one mirror, then lighting on both sides is just perfect!

2. Minimize Light Reflection with Top Lights

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Kohler

Where it’s impractical to install lights along the sides of a vanity mirror, you still need to use lights specifically for the mirror area. Many times, this involves adding a strip of lights over the top of the mirror.

These lights were carefully positioned high enough so there are no bright spot reflections for anyone looking in the mirror.

When installing vanity mirror lighting, especially at the top, ensure it never overhangs the mirror. That is, your lighting fixture isn’t extended past the mirror to avoid down lighting, which will cast shadows on the face.

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Kohler
What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Kohler

When using one overhead fixture per sink, you want to have an equal distance off the center of the sink. This will give even illumination to both sides of the face.

Otherwise, it can create more shadows and uneven lighting on the face and make it harder to see.

QUE: Should Vanity Lights Face Up or Down?

Vanity lights are a form of task lighting that helps you while grooming or applying makeup. Therefore, they tend to point toward the user’s face.

That’s why we recommend vanity lights, especially, those installed at the top to face down to cast a much more focused, clear light to the face. Just ensure the light is diffused by using a shade or pointing it at an angle to avoid any harshness.

3. Tube Lights Also Serve Well

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?

You can use over-mirror tube lights for dispersed illumination, easy installation, and a simple, streamlined look.

The appearance of the fixture fits especially well in a contemporary bathroom such as this one. If you decide to choose this type of vanity light, it’s wise to use one that runs the entire width of the mirror for maximum light spread.

4. Balance Vanity Lighting For Long Vanities

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?

Long vanities with undivided mirrors on the wall require creative lighting to make the image in the mirror as true to life as possible.

Here, strong sidelights are used to project light across the mirror, but highlights positioned over the vanity offer fill lighting.

When coordinating two or more sets of lights like this, put the lights on a dimmer switch whenever possible. That will let you adjust the lighting to the level of illumination that works best for you.

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Studio McGee

In the above bathroom, the sidelights on the wall are balanced by the sunlight coming in through the clerestory windows above the vanity. An easier option this is!

5. Fill On One Side Only

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Spa Ambiente

In the cases of large bathrooms with large windows, sunlight acts as the key light illuminating one side of the face. Therefore, it is important to use a fill light that illuminates the other side.

That means you can position just one light source on one side of the vanity in order to eliminate the shadows on your face altogether.

Lighting Tip…

Control Vanity Lighting

Put strong vanity lights— and all lights in the bathroom, if you can—on a dimmer switch.

The bright lights on either side of this framed vanity mirror leave the image in the mirror crystal clear, but they sometimes may be too bright for users’ comfort.

In those instances, dim the lights to create a lovely mood or simply to suit an individual’s preference.

6. Use a Lighted or Backlit Mirror

The easiest way to light a bathroom vanity is to install a lighted or backlit mirror.

While a backlit mirror will have the lights situated behind them thus giving the impression of floating away from the wall behind them, a lighted mirror usually refers to an illuminated mirror with LED lights that shine from the front rather than the back.

Backlit mirrors offer a beautiful glow behind them that frames them, creating a refined ambiance with an attractive appeal.

Lighted mirrors, on the other hand, offer excellent lighting and are very practical for bathrooms that are not connected to the outside world and do not have any windows.

7. Accent with Under-Cabinet or Toekick Lighting

Under-cabinet lighting or toe kick lighting, depending on your type of vanity, brings much drama and personality.

They are meant to be neatly tucked away, so as not to interrupt sightlines or overpower any element of your bathroom décor.

We recommend installing lighting strips or tape lights underneath the vanity, precisely along its length. Puck lights can also be mounted underneath your cabinets with screws or adhesives.

For a much more seamless design, your vanity manufacturer can integrate lights underneath for a custom fit and build them into the belly of your bathroom vanity cabinets. 

What Is The Best Way To Light A Bathroom Vanity?
Courtesy: Tall Tree Construction

Now you’re ready to light your bathroom vanity! Let’s us know how it goes!