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Wall washing is an important lighting design style that is often overlooked, yet they add much character to your space.
While the downlights give off ambient light in the center of a room, wall washers highlight edges to create a space that feels bigger and more beautiful.
Take a look at any stylish spa bathroom in a luxurious resort and you will see the walls lit to produce an open, welcoming atmosphere.
For sure, wall washers can completely change the appearance of any bathroom, from white lighting to open up a space to color options that bring any night to life.
What is Wall Washing in Lighting?
Wall washing is a technique of lighting design where light is used to bathe a wall uniformly. As a form of accent lighting, it adds visual appeal to your space.
To create a wall wash effect, lights need to be mounted at or above ceiling height, and far enough away from the wall (at about 2 to 3 feet away) so the beam angle can spread out at a wider beam angle and ‘wash’ up a more vertical surface.
The light should also be angled in such a way that the beam hits the wall at eye level or towards the center of the wall feature or artwork you want to highlight in the bathroom.
Wall washers tend to be directional fixtures that allow light to be uniformly pointed toward the wall. We recommend using multi-directional fixtures such as bathroom track lights or eye-ball can lights for wall washing.
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When wall washing is uniformly spread out over a bathroom wall from top to bottom, the result is a wall that appears clear and bright, even dramatic, and any architecture is emphasized. More so, the bathroom as a whole looks more spacious.
NOTE: Wall washing is best used on walls with a smooth, flat surface when you want to focus attention on wall hangings rather than the wall. If your walls have imperfections you want to hide, wall washing will help ‘wash’ them out and limit shadows.
Wall Washing Vs Wall Grazing
Wall grazing is another form of accent lighting that turns the bathroom wall itself into the focal point of the room.
It is also a form of wall washing but differs in such a way that the light fixture is placed very close to the wall and is aimed to force the beam of light to hit the wall at a narrow-angle.
Therefore, this angle (with lights mounted less than 2 feet away from a wall) draws the eye to the texture of the wall by creating shadows.
Moving the lights closer to the walls changes the angle deepening the shadows while moving them further from the wall diminishes the shadows.
If you’d like to showcase a feature wall in your bathroom with a rugged stony look, wall grazing would be ideal, because a grazing lighting technique highlights its unique texture and accentuates the details of such a rugged wall.
You can place the lights at the bottom or the top of the wall, depending on the effect you want to create.
NOTE: When you want to add visual variety to your bathroom, bring that dramatic look, and showcase your textured walls, wall grazing is the best way to go.
Just watch out that wall grazing does not exaggerate the shadows too much by adjusting the distance between the walls.
Also, if your walls have a lot of hangings or ledges, avoid wall grazing as this technique can create excessive shadows and extended darkness which can be visually unsettling.
Plus, if your walls are poorly designed or constructed, wall grazing will only accentuate this poor quality rather than make up for what it lacks.
Where Should Wall Grazing Lights Be Placed?
Wall grazing lights are becoming increasingly popular as a secondary bathroom lighting source. The real beauty of this type of lighting is that its main function is to highlight your walls.
Here are different ways to use wall grazing lights in your bathroom:
1. Installing wall-mounted lamps with up and downlights
An example is in using wall washer sconces that sit flush to the wall with a shade that will be open on the top, bottom, sides, or all of the above.
This creates a lighting effect that projects on the wall as opposed to outward into the room.
Wall washing upwards or both up and down can create the illusion of longer walls which makes them great for 8-10 feet ceilings.
2. Accentuate a textured wall
3. Light Back to the Bathroom Wall
Where ceiling or floor-mounted luminaires are not an option, or where a large bathroom has no windows, wall luminaires can be mounted in rows and patterns to help the flow of a large and long bathroom space.
The lighting should be pointed back onto the wall to create brightness without glare. This is a perfect spa bathroom look.
4. Light from Slots & Coves onto Walls
These lines of light create unique glows in the bathroom space that goes a long way to enhance the geometry of the space.
These lines of light also do a good job of mimicking the clean light we receive from daylight openings like skylights.
5. Graze the Ceiling
When Should You Use Wall Wash Lights?
Wall-wash lighting is an excellent way to improve the ambiance of any bathroom and serve different purposes.
In the bathroom, wall wash lights can be used to:
- Make the bathroom look bright and softly lit. In fact, wall washing can make a narrow or small bathroom appear larger.
- Make your space welcoming without adding shadows or uneven lighting, even if the space is small.
- Ensure that wall decorations such as paintings or wall mirrors are extra accentuated on an empty wall and therefore catch the eye.
NOTE: Walls can become visually chaotic with too many applied pieces of light. When not used with restraint, these defined pieces of light can give your bathroom an “over-done” appearance. Therefore, use wall washing or wall grazing tastefully, as necessary.
Ideas For Interior Wall Wash Lighting In The Bathroom
When designing your wall wash lighting in the bathroom, remember not to light your bathroom windows or mirrors because the image of the lamps and fixtures may be reflected.
Also, paint your bathroom walls white in wall washing because dark surfaces reflect far less light than white surfaces, so more light should be directed onto them if they are to be perceived as being wall washed.
Again, distinct pools of light add visual interest and contrast, but can become overwhelming or visually “noisy.” So, your lighting designer must be tasteful when installing these lights for you.
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If you’re looking to introduce this form of accent lighting in the bathroom, you may be asking where to place wall washing lights.
Here are a few ideas for interior wall wash lighting in the bathroom:
1. Linear Toplighting Using a Skylight
2. Use Directional Downlights To Wash Towards the Wall
Using directional lights in the form of track lights or recessed downlights near the bathroom walls creates a soft, subtle yet bright lighting effect.
3. Showcase your bathroom artwork
Wall washing is a great idea for showcasing your decorative wall hangings or statement bathroom mirror. An LED strip above the mirror would be ideal.
Whereas wall grazing would draw attention to the wall behind the art, wall washing distributes the light to help the viewer focus on the art.
4. Uniformly light a graphic wall without a luminous line in the ceiling
This keeps the attention on the wall, not the luminaire.
5. Illuminate a living green wall from floor to ceiling
For decades, wall wash lighting has been used in galleries and museums to bring a little drama to a space and hotels use them to add a touch of luxury to their best rooms. So, you can employ them in a similar way in your home, and not just in the bathroom.
Try our stylish and elegant tips to create that soft glow that spreads out across the wall, softening the surface and creating a gentle yet dramatic effect.
Wall washing also makes a room look and feel larger. This is because you are emphasizing the vertical surfaces and drawing the eye to the far points of the room, which makes the room appear bigger.
They’re also fantastic for creating a mood, especially after a long day when you need that spa shower or warm bath. Switch them on and, in an instant, turn an ordinary bathroom into a sophisticated cocoon of luxury.