HOW TO LIGHT A BATHROOM
San Francisco designer Geoffrey De Sousa weighs in with expert tips and tricks.
Too often lighting a bath is low on the list of priorities relative to other rooms in the house. But with bathrooms becoming larger and more elaborate, proper lighting is essential to making the most of the space. San Francisco–based designer Geoffrey De Sousa, the co–founder of the DeSousa Hughes showroom who has designed residences throughout the Bay Area, Palm Springs, and Boston, offers his expert strategies.
YLighting: What's important to keep in mind when lighting a bathroom?
Geoffrey De Sousa: Your bath should be bright and clean, so ample overhead and task lighting are key. But bathrooms are now a room in the house where people are spending a lot more time, so you'll also want the ability to create an atmosphere that's relaxing and spa–like. Having flexibility to adjust the lighting is really important, which is why I put dimmers here just like I do throughout the house.
YL: What areas should be the focus of your lighting in the bathroom?
GDS: First, ceiling–mounted or recessed lighting overhead for general illumination. You'll also want to light the vanity area with some excellent task lighting, which can be a fixture above the mirror or sconces on either side. And you need to light the shower and tub area. You might also consider strip lighting under wall–mounted cabinets, which makes them appear to float in space, as well as illumination for wall art.
YL: What are some common mistakes in bathroom lighting?
GDS: Not enough of it. Another problem is when people install too many recessed fixtures so the ceiling looks like a sea of black holes.
YL: What about lighting the shower/tub area?
GDS: People often think one fixture is fine here, but you usually need two. Equal lighting at both ends of a tub is best. With a shower that's 3x3 ft. or 3x4 ft. you can get away with one fixture, but if it's larger you'll need more. And unlike the vanity area, for safety you should place lighting directly over where you stand in the shower.
YL: How has new LED technology affected lighting a bath?
GDS: Not only are LEDs energy–saving and convenient because you don't have to replace the bulbs for years, but they are minimal in appearance so you can get a more clean–lined, modern look in the bathroom. Plus, today's LEDs have more wattage and the light quality is a lot warmer than before, which means you have a more cohesive look when combining them with incandescent bulbs.
YL: What kinds of bulbs are best in the bathroom?
GDS: In addition to LEDs, I love an MR-16 bulb. It works with low-voltage recessed fixtures and gives off crisp, clear light—up to 75 watts—but it's dimmable, so it's really versatile.
YL: What are some examples of lighting you like for the bath?
GDS: With ceiling fixtures, I prefer those that give off diffused light that isn't overly directional. The iO ceiling light, for example, offers overall illumination and the light comes out of the sides as well as the bottom.
YL: Are there particular finishes that work best for the bath?
GDS: I tend to be a purist so I look at bath and door hardware as the jewelry of the house that should speak to one another. It's good to be consistent in a room—plus pay homage to the architecture—from the doorknob to the window locks. Good old chrome is always a good choice. It's like a great white shirt. It's cost effective and readily available.
YL: What about moisture concerns?
GDS: I would avoid fabric shades on fixtures, particularly if you have a Jacuzzi tub. And cast bronze and brass are more delicate so they tend to corrode sooner. Brushed chrome, nickel, and stainless finishes do better.—Jennifer Bush