top of page
  • Stephanie Donnelly

Illuminated Vanity Lighting

We’ve all been the victims of bad lighting. When we’re exposed to different types of lighting, we quickly notice how we can look like we’re glowing at one location, while appearing exhausted and washed out in another. What we don’t often give much thought to are the components which contribute to a well-lit, flattering, and useful lighting scheme.

An essential component of any well-lit and frequently used bathroom are bathroom vanity lights. Vanity lights are a practical, attractive task lighting. Simple and easy to style, these fixtures come in a range of shapes and looks that can really take your bathroom lighting design to the next level.

Bathroom vanities require special considerations for specific task lighting such as the type of lightning required to perform tasks like shaving and applying makeup, and hair styling. Bathrooms of all sizes will benefit from these tips and tricks, from the spacious and spa-like to cozy half baths. Those looking for vanity lights for a small bathroom or half bath lighting have just as many opportunities for bathroom beautification as those with a more sprawling layout!


A successful lighting plan contains several elements: multiple light sources, suitable light output, and to stand as a complement to the design of the room. Distance and location of lights are also important factors. Optimizing the location that you are installing your bathroom lights minimizes the potential for unflattering shadows being cast on the face which is important to the overall look and feel of the room.

Vanity lights are a particular subset of lighting fixtures designed to be mounted above the bathroom vanity. Vanity lights are considered task lighting and should not be expected to fully light a bathroom on their own. Be sure to incorporate other layers of lighting throughout your bathroom. Ceiling lights and bathroom pendant lights are great for providing ambient lighting to the room for full illumination. The primary function of bathroom sconces and vanity light fixtures is to evenly light your face for all of your daily self-care tasks.

Because they’re intended primarily as task lighting, vanity lights should be positioned optimally for illuminating the head and face evenly, while eliminating any shadows that might negatively affect tasks such as shaving or makeup application. In many cases, this will entail hanging the light above the mirror. However, some spaces may be best suited to single- or double-light bathroom vanity sconces instead. If your mirror is narrow enough, two sconces placed on either side of the mirror hung at the proper height will cast even lighting across your face.

Wall sconces placed on either side of the bathroom vanity mirror aren’t simply for symmetry. This strategic placement provides ideal lighting for the mirror. The best height to mount wall sconces is at the eye level of those who will utilize this area the most. This makes it so that your fixtures will fully illuminate your face without casting those dreaded shadows.

Light fixtures mounted on either side of the mirror are the best for illuminating the face, but if that isn’t possible, mounting fixtures above the mirror that contain higher-wattage bulbs is an alternative so that illumination may be cast evenly over the sinks.

If you prefer horizontal lighting but can’t find a light fixture that is to your liking, try installing multiple sconces in a row. Bath lights are now designed in a multitude of sizes, allowing you to select the best option relative to the width of your mirror.

If you’re using your bathroom lighting primarily for applying makeup, illuminated LED mirrors are ideal. They are a chic, contemporary replacement for the vintage style Hollywood lights that most people are familiar with from the vanities of the past.


Let’s also talk about bathroom lighting finishes. Different styles look better in different finishes, but some of our favorite finishes include a polished nickel for a classic finish, along with a brass or gold for a modern finish. Oil rubbed bronze, chrome, and iron also are solid options when it comes to choosing the best fit for you and your personal style. The old design rule of thumb was that your lights had to match the finish of your hardware such as your faucet, towel bar, drawer handles, and shower head. While it is still perfectly fine to match these finishes, you can also mix your types of finishes in your bathroom. Try pairing a warm finish, like brass or bronze, with a cool finish, like nickel or chrome. Or pick out a primary finish and contrast it with lighting in a different finish!


Light Direction

Choose the direction of your light fixtures based on the type of light you want it to provide: ambient, task, or accent. Ambient lighting produces general lighting in a room, while task lighting focuses on specific areas for concentrated. Lastly, accent lighting is used to highlight decor and architectural features.

Up: An upward-facing light provides ambient light, illuminating the whole room with soft light. These are great to mimic natural light in your bathroom.

Down: A downward-facing light creates focused task lighting on your vanity. This provides the best bathroom lighting for makeup or grooming.

Moisture and Dampness

How do you know which lighting fixtures to choose for the bathroom? It is definitely important to note that when fixtures have a risk of coming into contact with water or spray such as in a tub or shower, you must choose lighting fixtures that are UL listed as “Damp Rated.” Such lighting fixtures will be noted with “Suitable for Damp Locations” or “Suitable for Wet Locations”. Install these lights in a location that is normally or periodically subject to condensation of moisture.

Now that you have more of an understanding behind the design options of vanity lighting, which do you think you will choose for your bathroom? What are some of your primary needs and uses for your daily routine, and which type of lighting fits your lifestyle best? Let us know in the comments below!

~This blog was brought to you by S. Donnelly Interiors. Learn more about the interior design project process by following Stephanie Donnelly and her interior design services in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and the surrounding areas!


S.Donnelly Interiors
bottom of page