Home Improvement

Ask a Lighting Pro: Positioning Bathroom Fixtures

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In a monthly column, Sanford Fogg, of Fogg Lighting in Portland, offers his best advice on illuminating your home.

Q: What’s the proper way to light a bathroom?

A: While the most critical need is adequate lighting at the vanity, I recommend incorporating additional layers of ambient and task lighting in a large space. In a master bathroom, these might consist of a centrally located ceiling fixture, a recessed light over the toilet, and recessed light(s) in the shower. In a powder room, vanity lighting alone might be sufficient (although I always recommend a recessed fixture over a toilet). Every situation and budget is different. But if you spend $10,000 to tile your walk-in shower, you should allocate $200 more to light it properly! For those on a smaller budget (i.e., most people), installing an exhaust fan with a light over the tub/shower is also a fine solution.

Sconces mounted beside the mirror at approximately head height, 65 to 70 inches above the floor, provide the best vanity lighting. These produce even illumination across the face. A sconce or bath bar installed above the mirror provides the next-best lighting. Most lighting designers advise against having recessed fixtures over a vanity as they create shadows under the eyes, nose, and chin, making tasks like shaving and applying makeup more difficult.

Opt for sconces with opal versus clear-glass shades, as the latter tends to produce glare. When choosing fixtures, I recommend ones that accept a minimum of 60-watt light bulbs, or the equivalent in an LED, per sconce. Like all lights, these fixtures should be on a dimmer that you can crank up when you’re getting ready in the morning, and down when you want to relax in the bath.

Love the sconces shown here and above? Click here to get more info.

Sanford Fogg holds a Certified Lighting Consultant designation from the American Lighting Association, an industry trade group, and is co-owner, with his wife, Debbie, of Fogg Lighting  in Portland. Founded in 1994, the company offers residential and commercial lighting products, lampshades, and consulting services.


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