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Updating Your Bathroom Lighting

The Essentials of a Lighting Plan That Will Elevate the Space

August 16, 2019

Updating Your Bathroom Lighting

The Essentials of a Lighting Plan That Will Elevate the Space

August 16, 2019

The bathroom is where we go to refresh so it only makes sense to give the space itself a refresh, updating fixtures, colors, tiles, backsplashes, cabinetry, and faucetry.  

Whether you’re outfitting a palatial bath suite, an average-sized bathroom, or a small powder room, a strong lighting plan incorporating ambient, task, and accent layers is key both to the functionality of this space and its décor.


A flush or semi-flush mount provides the base layer of light in an average-sized bathroom. In a larger bath, perhaps a master, a chandelier may be safely installed, elevating the space.  This is especially true in bathrooms where there's a tub. Either sort of fixture may make a signicant design impact and opens up the question of whether to mix or match metals to faucetry and pulls, according to your taste.

A matching metal brass theme works beautifully in this bathroom, drawing from different brands within HVLG. Wellington pendant with acrylic by HVL and Carrie sconce by Mitzi.

Homeowner: Carmel Phillips of Our Fifth House | Semi-flush mount: Winfield by HVL

Design: Kristina Lynne of Kresswell Interiors | District pendant by Troy

Design: Design Storms | Glenford sconces | Sweeny pendant

This beautiful bath and vanity space by Design Storms shows how high-end lighting like a chandelier or pendant safely installed some distance from the bathtub and sophisticated outsized wall sconces can transform a functional in-and-out room into a place to luxuriate and get in some good self-care time.

Of course, this room has good bones and a generous skylight, giving it a good headstart. Adding a beautiful rug like this is one way to make the space more inviting and elevate its design. For quick things like this you can do to give a bathroom new life, check out our post The Bathroom Refresh.


Homeowner: Suzannah Stanley | Here, lighting ties the space together, with matching sconces and semi-flush mount from the same family: Stella by Mitzi 


“Bath bars" are horizontal wall-mounted fixtures featuring a range of bulbs, designed to be mounted above bathroom mirrors. Glass diffusers surrounding bulbs and materials such as alabaster spread light evenly, making fixtures with these attributes a smart choice. More traditional shades channel light down in some designs.

If you opt for a bath bar, shoot for about 75% of the mirror's width. A bath bar's width should never exceed the mirror's. 75-80” from the floor is the max for mounting one. 

Design: Page Mullins for Country Living | Bath and Vanity Light: Sutton by HVL in Polished Nickel

Ideally, you'll complement this light source with side-lighting from sconces or pendants, but this is sometimes impossible given electrical capability or the demands of the space.

Side-lighting your face will prevent unflattering shadows. Both bath and vanity sconces and wall sconces may serve for this task. For a dash of the unexpected, consider mounting one-light pendants at approximately eye-level.

This picture shows a sensible and stylish lighting plan. A flush mount checks off the ambient layer, while pendants with white glass diffusers suspended at the right height side-light the mirror. 

Design: Christina Goldsmith Interiors | Bath and Vanity Sconce: Malcolm by HVL

Homeowner: Ali Hynek | Julien bath and vanity lights which can be mounted horizontally or vertically bringing that mid-century modern meets boho charm to this bathroom

Design: Arianne Bellizaire Interiors | Sconces: Raef by Troy

Ambient, Task, Accent. All are important, but different spaces assign different priorities to these layers. For the bathroom, the task lighting of the vanity is probably the most important.

Illuminating your routines of hygiene, grooming, shaving, applying make-up and any other kind of self-care rituals, this layer deserves careful planning. It's also a good place to treat yourself. 

To review, task lighting can take many forms in this space:

  • As a multi-light bath bar that goes above the mirror.
  • Bath and vanity lights or wall sconces mounted to either side  of the mirror or to the mirror itself. 
  • Even one-light pendants or hang-down sconces hanging at about eye level!


Design: Kristina Lynne of Kresswell Interiors | Here, Rousseau sconces by HVL behave in a pendant-like way. 

Design & Photo: Margaret Wright |  Sconces: Taft

Design: This Old Hudson |  Sconce: Croton


In this space, accent light may be the piece that takes it from a functional place to one of high design. An open closet shelving system for example, with folded towels and washclothes, might have a picture light or an articulated-arm wall sconce mounted above it, lighting the selection while adding atmosphere through its accent illumination. 

While sconces are more likely to be in a task role here, accent light from sconces is also a great touch near tubs and whirlpools, if present. Picture lights near linens or illuminating artwork take the space to the next level.


Quick View
25cm W x 32.39cm H
4 Finishes Available

Quick View
20cm W x 28cm H
4 Finishes Available

Quick View
20cm W x48cm H
3 Finishes Available

For your convenience, here are some quick sizing tips, some of which we've covered above. 

These measurements will help put you in the best light. Side-lighting in tandem with a dimmable source above the mirror is ideal.

Side-mounted sconces, wall or bath & vanity

  • Mount sconces a few inches to either side of the mirror, as close to your face as possible, while preserving a minimum of 28” distance between them. Keep them symmetrical.
  • Mount the backplate of a vertical, tube-shaped fixture at eye-level.
  • The shade opening of glass down-lights should sit slightly below eye-level.
  • The shade opening of glass up-lights should sit slightly above eye-level..
  • Preserve about 60-65” of space between the floor and the midpoint of the sconce backplate.

Pendants, one-light

  • Another option is to suspend two one-light pendants in place of sconces for side-lighting.
  • Traditional shade openings should be slightly below eye-level.

Top-mounted fixtures, bath bars

  • Above-the-mirror fixtures can be mounted horizontally at a height of 75-80” and typically range in width from 24-48”.
  • The width of the fixture should measure ~75% of the mirror’s width and should never extend past it.
  • Consider using two or more bath bars as needed to cover a particularly wide mirror.