6 Tips for Choosing the Best Lighting for Bathroom Vanities

Learn how to select hardworking fixtures that will cast flattering light on your face while providing a pretty decorative element for your bathroom.

Make your mornings bright by adding a beautiful light fixture near your bathroom vanity. In addition to serving as a decorative element, these fixtures provide proper lighting for important grooming tasks such as shaving or putting on makeup. Whether you're building a new home, gutting an existing bathroom, or just looking for an inexpensive way to update your space, you can find bathroom vanity lighting that's perfectly suited to your needs. Vanity light fixtures are available in a nearly endless variety of styles, sizes, and price points. Use these tips, including insights from the experts at the American Lighting Association, to achieve the best bathroom vanity lighting for morning preparations or evening relaxation.

bathroom with lighting above mirror
Courtesy of Z-Lite/American Lighting Association

1. Consider bathroom vanity lighting early.

Think through your vanity lighting plan early in a bathroom remodeling project. "It may be necessary to remove existing fixtures, add new lighting fixtures, or move them from one location to another," says ALA training consultant Joe Rey-Barreau, AIA, IES, architect, lighting designer, and associate professor at the University of Kentucky. "All these processes sometimes involve quite extensive electrical work." It's easier and less expensive to make decisions about bathroom vanity lighting when the walls are open.

2. Determine how much vanity lighting you need.

When choosing bathroom vanity light fixtures, assess how much light you need. Bathrooms without natural light from a window are likely to need more or brighter vanity lights. In most cases, a vanity fixture alone can't provide enough overall light for an entire bathroom. They are best used in conjunction with recessed or other overhead lighting.

black bathroom yellow ottoman
Michael Partenio

3. Select the best size for vanity fixtures.

Next, consider what size of vanity light fixture will look best in your space. When buying a bar-style or multiple-light fixture, a good rule of thumb is to pick one that's no wider than the vanity cabinet (it is OK, however, if the fixture is wider than the mirror). Long vanities might require multiple fixtures, and double sinks look best with a separate fixture over each. Sconces can be hung on both sides of a mirror. Or they can be paired with bar fixtures to provide more light and prevent shadows on the sides of your face.

close up of light on wall
Courtesy of Hinkley/American Lighting Association

4. Coordinate vanity lighting with your bathroom's style.

The vanity fixture you purchase should also coordinate with the decorating style of the bathroom or adjoining rooms. Select a finish that coordinates with other fixtures in the home. Popular choices include chrome, brushed nickel, antique brass, and oil-rubbed bronze. Whatever vanity fixture you choose, be sure it is designed for use in the bathroom. This will ensure it is waterproof and safe.

5. Choose the best bulbs for vanity light fixtures.

When it comes to providing proper lighting, a fixture is only as good as the bulbs you use. A very bright light first thing in the morning can shock the system. Choose lower-wattage bulbs to prevent the glare of harsh light; dimmer switches can also be used to help control brightness. For the most flattering light, choose coated or frosted bulbs and select fixtures with frosted-glass covers rather than bare bulbs.

bathroom with backlit mirror and marble walls
Courtesy of Eurofase/American Lighting Association

6. Consider other bathroom vanity lighting ideas.

Wall-mounted sconces and multi-light fixtures are popular bathroom vanity lighting ideas, but they're not your only options. An LED mirror, for example, can be wired to a switch and used with standard fixtures. Many options allow you to set the color temperature or dim the light. Choose a backlit bathroom mirror for added dimension.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles