How To's

How to Light a Bathroom Vanity

So, the lighting over your bathroom vanity isn’t doing much good is it? Mine either. I have one single wall mounted glass fixture from the 70’s over my vanity, which seems super practical but doesn’t really meet the stylish and functional modern bathroom lighting combo I’m going for. So, while I’m dreaming of a total lighting redo for my bathroom vanity, I’ve decided to put together a snazzy how-to just for you:

Modern Bathroom Lighting |Ylighting
Metro Vanity Light from TECH Lighting

Finding the perfect lights for your bathroom vanity can be, stressful. There is way too much information out there, and I know at the end of the day you just want to put your mascara on or pluck your nose hairs with the help of a stylishly lit bathroom mirror. Luckily, I’m here to answer some questions and give you the skinny on how to achieve perfect modern bathroom lighting for your vanity.

Modern Bathroom Lighting |YLighting
Artemis 900 LED Bath Bar from Astro Lighting

So this might be a stupid question, but what’s the difference between vanity lighting and mirror lighting?

First of all, not to sound like a grade school teacher, but there are no stupid questions in the modern bathroom lighting world. Maybe obvious questions, but never stupid. So to answer, there’s really no difference between the two. I’d like to think that vanity lighting is the lighting above or alongside your mirror, but it can also be a vanity mirror with lights within it. Aka, mirror lighting. Fancy huh?

Modern Bathroom lighting |YLighting
Visual 1 Wall Sconce from Illuminating Experiences Lighting

Help! I’m totally lost with where to start improving the lighting in my bathroom. Where do I begin? 

Well, you can go here for starters. It’s a little handy dandy informative guide on all things modern bathroom lighting. Though to give you an idea of where to begin, I’d say look for shades in white or off-white glass, since that’s what’s going to give diffused light that’s just the right color for getting ready at the mirror.

Modern Bathroom Lighting |YLighting
Elf3 Bath Light from Illuminating Experiences Lighting

So I’ve got my lighting all picked out, now I just need to know at what height should I mount the lighting around my mirror? What about any particular angle?

According to the American Lighting Association, I did my research people, wall sconces should be mounted so the center of the fixture is around 60″ high and 28″ apart. If you’re mounting lighting above your mirror, like a bath bar, it should be mounted at 78″ high. Though if you’re a little loosey-goosey like me, you may want a linear sconce, like the Elf2 Bath Light from Illuminating Experiences and the Basic Bath Strip by Ron Rezek (from Artemide).

As far as angles are concerned, I can’t tell you for sure, since there are too many variables involved, like the dimensions of your mirror. If you’ve picked out modern bathroom lighting fixtures with a white glass diffuser, you won’t need to direct the light since it is diffusing into the room.

Modern Bathroom Lighting |Ylighting
Elf2 Bath Light from Illuminating Experiences Lighting

What’s the deal with LEDs? Can I use them in the bathroom? 

Ah the LED, an energy-efficient choice for the modern bathroom. If you’re wanting to use LEDs for your modern bathroom lighting, be sure to keep the color temperature in mind. Something over 3500K may be too cool for your space and result in too bright of a light, or even a fluorescent effect taking away from your relaxation zone. 2700K or lower may be too warm of a light depriving you of your much needed morning task lighting.  You might also dimmable LED options, which is great to help tired sleepy eyes adjust in the morning or to create a bit of mood lighting while you run yourself a bath overflowing with bubbles.

Can I use pendant lights? 

This is always a unique design choice that can really transform the look of your bathroom, especially if you have high ceilings. Keep in mind when looking for a more unique lighting solution is to make sure the bathroom pendant light is damp rated. Something like the Swell Narrow Pendant Light from Pablo Designs can put a nice twist on your bathroom design.

How much lighting is too much in the bathroom? Is there a sweet spot when it comes to lighting my vanity? 

I’d like to think the more the merrier! You can always dim the lights if you’ve created lighting that’s a bit much. When it comes to your vanity, you want enough illumination for your face, since that’s really the whole point of proper vanity lighting. Overall, you’ll want modern bathroom lighting that’s layered.

For More Advice + Inspiration

Have any lingering questions about how to light a bathroom vanity? Or just need more information on lighting your bathroom in general? Then check out our post on Modern Bathroom Lighting. And take a look at all of our modern bathroom lighting to find the fixture that’s right for your vanity.


Kelly Tirman

Kelly Tirman

After spending 10+ years living in a modern San Francisco loft, Kelly moved her family to a bungalow in the burbs. She now enjoys dreaming up home renovation and design projects in order turn her family's post-war cottage into the modern home of their dreams.

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