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Bathroom Lights types, styles, and construction ideas

Updated on February 2, 2013


Bathroom lights are about as varied as they come. From bathroom vanity lights with anywhere from two to five light bulbs, to wall sconces, overhead lighting, and even skylights, and contemporary bathroom lighting to vintage, it can never be said that the right light for your home is not available.


As builders we have worked with many electricians. In the state of Montana, a person is allowed to install their own wiring and fixtures if they own their home for two years or more. When building a home for resale or for ownership of less that 24 months, a licensed electrician must do all of the wiring. Over the last twelve years we have been both deeply disappointed in subcontractors and extremely satisfied. With this in mind, when building or remodeling a bathroom, be sure to make the bathroom lighting fixtures choice yourself. An interior decorator is also a great way to go.

Bathroom Lights

Master Bath Vanity and Light
Master Bath Vanity and Light | Source

Bathroom Lighting In New Construction

A few years ago we built a spec (speculation) home for resale. The electrician that was hired insisted that one bar light mounted on the wall above the double vanity was “more than enough light” for the master bath. And he was sadly mistaken. Logs and wood inside a home absorb light instead of reflecting it. This large master bath had log walls on two sides and a ceiling of tongue and groove 1”x6” pine. Additionally there were no windows or skylights. In the end we had a huge disappointment. The room was very dimly lit and it really diminished from the whole aurora typically created by a handcrafted home.

A new home, built by licensed contractors is supposed to come out right the first time. Going back and adding lighting is hard enough in a standard construction home, much less in a log home. When building a log home with wiring and plumbing on the second floor, the first floor ceiling and second floor subfloor is built much like a sandwich. Log homes are known for their open beams and exposed rustic purloins that set of the tongue and groove pine paneling used for the ceilings. First the main beams are set. Then the tongue and groove is nailed into place. Next the 2x6 floor joists are nailed down. Then the wiring and plumbing holes are drilled and the pipe fitted together and the wires run. Then the plywood or OSB boards are air nailed to the top of the joists. Last the finish flooring is installed. And so the sandwich is complete. I would challenge any expert builder to tackle the daunting task of cutting to that jigsaw puzzle to add a light. The long and short of it is that you would never do it. Some wall sconces can be added by drilling a hole in the wall and fishing a wire from the attic or basement, but all in all the homeowner is much more satisfied if it is done within the orderly building process.

Bathroom Lighting Video, very informative from the UK

Bathroom Vanity Lights


Now for bathroom vanity lights- Vanity lights are the true center of the room. The main goal in vanity lights is to aid the person getting ready for the day or evening. Shadows are the enemy. To overcome shadows an overhead vanity bar light can be useful, but instead consider adding two vertical lights, one on each side of the mirror. Halogen or glowing bulbs are the best. Vanity lights should also shine directly onto the person, not be reflected off of the mirror. Reflective light adds to the shadows.


Florescent bathroom vanity lighting or overhead florescent lights are a poor choice for bathrooms. When using makeup, and choosing clothing colors, it is important to have true lighting. Florescent options yield washed out cooler and even greenish tints at times. When choosing bulbs some may even be marked something along the lines of true light or natural light. Incandescent bulbs also provide suitable illumination.

Bathroom Light Fixtures


Some things to consider:

1)       Very seldom is one light sufficient for an entire bathroom.

2)       Down lights leave lots of shadows.

3)       It is much better to air on the side of too many bathroom light fixtures than not enough. Even if your electrician grumbles. Just smile and tell him you read an article about it. (You can blame me! That’s OK!)

4)       The function of a vanity light is to specifically light the area above the sink, not the whole room. No bath is complete without a mirror, so extra attention to lighting around the mirror needs to be paid.


A good rule of thumb is to allow about two to two and a half feet of space between lights. Wall sconces can be used or ceiling lights for the main area of the bath. One really smart light combination is a ceiling exhaust fan that also has a light fixture built into it. There are some very inexpensive looking ones on the market, but if you look a little more carefully, you can find some really nice ones. The one I chose for our house actually has the fixture built with the fan behind it. This leaves no exposed grating for the exhaust fan. The grating looks so poor in quality that I was delighted to find the more decorative light/fan combo.


If using the fan light combo be sure the wiring for it does not place it in the corner. Most exhaust fans are not positioned with a light in mind. It should be places to take full advantage of the light produced by the fixture.


A heat lamp is a real treat. The very first one that I remember was in my Grandmother’s brand new custom bathroom. Even today I can still feel the warm rays after a bath.


Bathroom Lighting Start to Finish

When building your home, plan out the lights in advance. In fact, once your floor plans are finalized it is a good idea to tackle the lighting issues and ideas right away. All bathroom lighting is just as much for the home décor as for the people using them.

Back to the consideration of more light is better than not enough. A dimmer may be a smart addition to the bathroom wiring. Then the amount of desired light can be obtained. A dimmer would be the most vital on a vanity light.

For energy efficiency and to capitalize on natural light, a skylight is my favorite choice. In our home we hardly use the electric lights during the day. The natural light shines in and even warms the room in the winter months. I love the sunlight washing into the room.

Bathroom lights are an important integral part of everyone’s home. Lighting not only accents home décor, but it says a lot about the people who live there. Good lighting makes you look even better when preparing to go out or getting ready for work. Whatever your choice, do a lot of research, visit several lighting stores, and don’t let the electrician just install whatever is easy or convenient for him. You are the customer and you are the one who has to live with the final product.

When remodeling or building a new custom log home there are lots to think about.

And as always--
Thanks for reading!
Sue Lemmon
Cowboy Log Homes


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    • JHE Log Furniture profile image

      JHE Log Furniture 7 years ago

      Loved your hub! I always love reading about how to decorate the bathroom since it is often the most overlooked room in the house. Your bathroom lighting ideas are great and would look amazing with a log bathroom vanity as the centerpiece of the room. There are so many various styles and shapes that I'm sure everyone could benefit from such a piece.