Proper lighting is essential for any bathroom. The vanity area in particular needs adequate illumination for tasks like applying makeup and grooming. With the right vanity lighting, you can create a functional and beautiful space. Follow these tips to get your bathroom vanity lighting right.

Choose the Right Bulbs

The type of bulbs you use can significantly impact the ambiance and usefulness of your vanity lighting. Here are some top options to consider:

LED Bulbs

LED bulbs are extremely energy efficient and long lasting. They come in a range of color temperatures, from warm white to daylight. Opt for soft white or bright white bulbs in the 2700K-5000K range for tasks like grooming and applying makeup.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs provide a warm, inviting glow. However, they are not very energy efficient. Use them sparingly over the vanity if desired for ambiance. Opt for lower wattage bulbs around 25-60 watts.

Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent tubes disperse light evenly over a large area. They tend to have a cooler, bluer light temperature. While not always the most attractive option, they work well for providing consistent lighting over the length of a vanity.

Halogen Bulbs

Like incandescents, halogens provide warm, bright light. A 50-watt halogen bulb gives off light comparable to a 100-watt incandescent. This makes them more energy efficient while still giving off a desirable light quality.

No matter what bulbs you choose, make sure they provide adequate brightness for grooming, makeup application and other vanity tasks. Anywhere from 450-1000 lumens is ideal.

Place Lighting Correctly

Proper placement of vanity lighting is key for functionality and ambiance. Follow these guidelines:

Install Wall Sconces

Wall sconces on each side of the mirror brightly illuminate the face for makeup application and grooming. Position the sconces 60-65 inches from the floor to light the face evenly. Choose sconces with adjustable swing arms to help direct light where needed.

Use Overhead Fixtures

Overhead lighting like flush mount or semi-flush fixtures provide ambient lighting. They disperse light evenly throughout the space. Position an overhead fixture in the center of the vanity area 5-7 feet from the floor.

Add Portable Lamps

Table lamps and reading lamps bring task lighting right to the point of use. Place portable lamps on each end of the vanity counter top. Opt for adjustable lamps to help direct light where it’s needed most.

Don’t Forget Accent Lighting

Accent lighting adds style and visual interest. Use recessed lights, track lighting or LED strip lights under cabinets to highlight display areas.

Layer Multiple Light Sources

The most effective vanity lighting combines multiple types and directions of light. Here are some effective ways to layer lighting:

  • Overhead fixture for ambient light
  • Wall sconces for focused task lighting
  • Undercabinet lighting for accent
  • Portable lamps on the counter top for personalized directional lighting

Layering lighting this way provides both form and function. The combination of ambient, task and accent lighting creates a space that is both practical for getting ready and visually appealing.

Use Dimmers

Dimmer switches allow you to adjust the lighting based on the task and time of day. Use dimmers on overhead fixtures, wall sconces and accent lighting. That way you can easily control the mood and brightness as needed.

Install dimmers that allow the lights to be turned fully on or off. Choose quality dimmers that don’t create buzzing or flickering. ELV or TRIAC dimmers often perform best.

Consider Light Color

The color or temperature of light impacts how spaces look and feel:

  • Warm white light (2700K-3000K) provides a soft, inviting glow. It’s ideal for creating a relaxing, spa-like ambiance.
  • Bright white or neutral light (3500K-4000K) promotes concentration and productivity. It’s well suited for task lighting over the vanity.
  • Cool white or daylight (5000K-6500K) mimics natural outdoor light. It tends to look stark and clinical indoors.

Select bulbs in warm or bright white for most vanity spaces. Combine different shades of white light to provide both ambiance and useful illumination as needed.

Use Directional Lighting

Directional lighting from sconces and adjustable lamps casts light right where you need it most. Ensure you have solid directional lighting:

  • On each side of the mirror for even illumination when doing makeup and grooming
  • Over sinks and other areas where detailed tasks occur

Blend directional lighting with overhead ambient lighting for the best coverage. Opt for dimmable directional fixtures to control brightness as desired.

Consider Reflectivity

The color and finish of surfaces impacts how they absorb and reflect light. To maximize brightness in the vanity space:

  • Choose light colored and glossy surfaces – white, cream, light gray, polished metallics
  • Avoid dark, matte and patterned finishes which absorb light
  • Use backpainted glass, polished stone, glossy tiles, and mirrored surfaces to add reflectivity

By paying attention to surface reflectivity, you can make the most of the available light.

Add Mirrors

Well-placed mirrors reflect light and visually expand smaller spaces. Strategically position mirrors:

  • Behind wall sconces to amplify illumination
  • On the wall above the sink to make the space feel larger
  • Behind glass shelves to create a decorative reflected glow

Avoid placing mirrors directly across from windows. This can create glare and eye strain.

Install Lighted Mirrors

Lighted mirrors take vanity lighting a step further. Options include:

  • Perimeter-lit mirrors with LED lighting around the edge
  • Vanity mirrors with built-in lamps on each side
  • Smart mirrors with integrated touchscreens and apps

Lighted mirrors provide perfect illumination for grooming and makeup application. The light levels are also fully customizable.

Use Light Colors

Painting the vanity space in light, bright colors reflects light and makes the area feel open and airy. Try these color ideas:

  • White or cream – classic choices that maximize brightness
  • Light gray, taupe or greige – refined neutrals that feel fresh
  • Pastels like powder blue, lavender or mint green – soft color in lighter shades
  • Metallic finishes like silver, gold, pewter or bronze – elegant and reflective

Stay away from dark, bold colors that can absorb light and create an enclosed feeling.

Add Windows

Natural light is best for illumination. If possible, ensure the vanity space has a window to let daylight in. Strategically place the vanity so that windows provide ample natural light, especially in the morning hours when getting ready.

Supplement windows with other lighting as needed. North-facing windows may require more illumination since they receive less direct light. South-facing windows may need window treatments to prevent glare.

Follow Local Codes

Always check local building codes for any requirements related to bathroom lighting. Most jurisdictions require GFCI circuitry for outlets around wet areas like sinks. Proper ventilation is also often required when light fixtures are installed over showers or tubs.

Carefully read all installation manuals for lighting fixtures and only hire experienced, licensed electricians. Permits are usually required for adding wiring and new fixtures.

Summary of Key Points

  • Use a mix of LEDs, incandescents or halogens to provide both task lighting and ambiance.
  • Layer overhead, wall mounted, undercabinet and portable lighting for full coverage.
  • Place sconces 60-65 inches high on each side of the mirror and an overhead fixture in the center.
  • Include dimmers to control mood and brightness.
  • Opt for warm or bright white lamps in the 2700K to 4000K range.
  • Add directional lighting like adjustable wall sconces and table lamps.
  • Choose reflective surface finishes to maximize available light.
  • Mirrors, light colors and windows help reflect and amplify illumination.
  • Follow all electrical codes and only use licensed professionals for installation.

With smart planning and design, you can have a vanity space that is both glamorous and highly functional. Pay attention to light sources, placement, color, direction and reflectivity to get your bathroom vanity lighting right.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bathroom Vanity Lighting

Getting the lighting right in your bathroom vanity area can make all the difference in your daily routine. Here are answers to some common questions about optimizing vanity lighting.

How many lights should be over a bathroom vanity?

It’s ideal to have at least two light sources over a vanity. This includes an overhead ceiling fixture centered over the vanity plus two wall sconces on either side of the mirror. Additional accent lighting like recessed or undercabinet lights also helps.

Should vanity lights be on each side of the mirror?

Yes, placing matching fixtures on both sides of the mirror provides the best illumination for grooming and applying makeup. The light should come from two equal sources hitting your face from the left and right.

What height should bathroom vanity light fixtures be installed?

Wall sconces should be installed 60-65 inches above the finished floor. This provides the best light level for the face when standing at the vanity. Overhead fixtures can be 7-8 feet above the floor.

How do you light a bathroom vanity with no windows?

In windowless baths, rely solely on built-in lighting. Place sconces on each side of the mirror plus an overhead fixture in the middle. Add recessed or undercabinet lights for extra illumination. Keep surfaces light-colored to maximize reflectivity.

Should you install lights above or beside bathroom mirror?

It’s best to have both overhead and side lighting. An overhead fixture provides ambient lighting while wall sconces directly light the face for grooming tasks. Use a combination for optimal coverage.

Do you need under cabinet lighting in a bathroom?

While not strictly necessary, undercabinet lighting adds a wonderful accent glow. LED strip lighting attaches easily under cabinets to illuminate counters, sinks and displays. Use a dimmer to control the accent lighting.

How do you light up a double vanity?

A double vanity requires centered overhead lighting plus two pairs of sconces – one set over each sink area. Make sure light is consistent on both sides for two people to use the space comfortably.

What color temperature is best for bathroom vanity lighting?

Stick to bright or soft white lamps in the range of 2700K-4000K. Cool white lighting above 5000K can seem too stark and clinical for a vanity space meant for relaxation.

Should vanity lights match the decor?

Vanity lighting works best when coordinated with the overall decor. Match metal finishes and choose transparent or colored glass shades to complement your color palette. Stylistic details can tie the sconces and overhead fixtures to the room.


An effectively lit vanity is about both beauty and function. Pay attention to the lighting sources, placement, color, direction and reflectivity to create an ideal grooming and preparing space. Layer ambient, task and accent lighting. Invest in quality fixtures and smartly place them. With good planning and design, your bathroom vanity can not only look stunning but also enable you to get ready in the best possible light every morning.