Vanity area in the bathroom is a place where proper lighting is required. With all the lighting options available to illuminate vanity area, there are some facts which comes really handy and useful to get a properly illuminated yet elegant look to the vanity.
I’ve tried to explain them in a simple way in this post.
Lighting configuration for single vanity
When to use one light source over vanity
For illuminating a single vanity, a single light should be used when the width of vanity mirror is 20 – 25 inches. A single light source for example like led tube casts light evenly over the mirror as well as over vanity area.
Since a single light fixture is always installed at the top of mirror, it is an excellent option to illuminate vanity area that is installed at a very tight place such that there is no space for a side mounted wall lights to install.
Therefore, we arrive at a conclusion that a single light over double vanity is the perfect option to light vanity area when the vanity is installed in a compact space.
There are some bathrooms in which the vanity mirror in less in width but very tall in length. In such vanity area, using light source above the mirror may not properly illuminate the vnauty area.
Therefore, simply using a hanging light fixture like a pendant light can meet the lighting requirement.
The effectiveness of a single pendant light in illuminating the vanity area is further increases when used along with other ceiling mounted light like spot lights as shown in the image above.
when to use two light sources around vanity
A vanity can be illuminated with two light sources only when the space around each side of vanity mirror is equal to or greater then 6 inches.
If the space around vanity is sufficiently enough then such a vanity should be illuminated with wall sconces each placed at either side of the mirror.
The benefit of having 2 lights over double vanity is that it allows proper lighting for people of normal height to perform their activities. Also two light configuration allows more light to fall over the face as compared to single light configuration.
Thus, it helps in improving the effectiveness of activities that are usually performed near vanity like getting ready, grooming, shaving etc.
when to use 3 light sources above single vanity
A three light configuration should be used over vanity when the width of vanity mirror is greater than 25 inches and there is not enough space around the vanity mirror to accommodate wall sconces at the sides of mirror.
Three lights should always be installed at the top of mirror in a linear way.
Lighting configuration for double vanity
Bathrooms with double vanity should have one light only when a single mirror is used over both vanities such that the size of vanity mirror is less than 50 inches whereas when the size of vanity mirror over double vanity is greater than 50″ a 2 light configuration looks better.
when two separate mirrors are used over each vanity, then also 2 lights can be installed over double vanity
It is clear that whether to use a single light or multiple lights over double vanity depends over the size of the vanity mirror itself.
See the images below for reference.
Can 3 lights be used over double vanity
A 3 light configuration can be used over a double vanity only when the gap between two vanities is greater then 6 inches so that when light is placed in between two mirrors, the space does not appear tight.
When the gap is at least 6 inches or greater, a normal sized wall light can easily be installed while maintaining proper proportions with the mirror and vanity.
In some cases, a light configuration is also used when a single vanity mirror is used. As long as the lighting requirement is met properly a 3 light configuration can also be used.
To summarize up, if a more flush type look is required, only then a single light configuration should be used and to achieve a particular style of look, 3 light configuration can be used however the mirror should not get too bright.
Next, we discuss how bright should the lights be over double vanity.
Lighting configuration for a 60″ vanity
Due to its large size, a 60″ vanity can be illuminated with various lighting options.
Let’s see the configuration of different light sources below.
If only a single mirror is used for the entire vanity, then 3 wall sconces ( 200 lumens each) are required to properly illuminate the entire mirror as well as the vanity area itself whereas if two small mirrors are used over 60″ vanity then 2 wall sconces (300 lumens each) are required to properly illuminate it.
(See the placement of wall sconces for 60″ vanity here)
Pendant lights can be use together or at either side of mirror. In case of a 60″ vanity if, only one mirror is used over the vanity, then big size pedant lights (6″ wide) can be installed at either side of vanity mirror whereas if two different mirrors are used over 60″ vanity then no pendant lights should be used.
The reason for not using pendant lights when two mirror are installed over double vanity is non uniform lighting distribution as well as the look they provide to vanity mirror
Lets discuss each reason in depth.
When two mirrors are used over 60″ vanity, there is some gap left between two mirrors. If one pendant lights is installed at either side of two mirrors, then the corners of the mirrors would be more bright and the opposite side of mirror would be less bright
The vanity area below would also get the same non uniform distribution of lights .The sides of vanity would get more light compared to the center of vanity.
And if multiple pedant lights are installed in between two mirrors over 60″ vanity, then the center of vanity would get more lights leaving the sides darker.
Therefore, when two mirrors are installed over a 60″ vanity instead of pendant lights other light sources like wall sconces, accent lights should be used to illuminate the mirror and vanity
Accent lighting is an excellent option to give vanity a unique and modern look. To get accent lighting for vanity the best way is to install led stop lights behind the vanity mirror.
It is however important to note that accent lighting compliments the look of only small sizes mirror i.e mirrors with midth < 30″. If greater size mirrors is used over vanity then accent lighting may get overwhelmingly bright.
Lighting configuration for a 72″ vanity
A 72″ vanity can have as many as 6 individual lights. Due to the large size of a 72″ vanity, its lighting requirement is also large compared to other vanities. Lets take a look at how many lights are required to illuminate a 72″ vanity.
If only one large mirror is used over 72″ vanity then, 6 wall sconces each providing 100 lumens of brightness can be used to illuminate it. However if two mirrors are installed over 72″ vanity then 3 wall sonces each providing 200 lumens of brightness can be used.
Led tube lights
Led tube lights are incredible sources of light to completely flood the vanity area with light.
If only one mirror is installed over 72″ vanity then, 2 led tube lights of 1.5 feet length can be used to meet the lighting requirement whereas if 2 mirrors are used over 72″ vanity then 2 (1 feet long) led tube lights can be installed over each mirror.
Ceiling mounted lights
Ceiling mounted lights like recessed lights are used when a minimalist look for vanity is to be achieved. The presence of light source at the ceiling reduces the need light sources near the vanity.
When ceiling mounted lights are used over vanity then contemporary pendant lights (width 10″-15″) can also be used as most of the lighting requirement gets already fulfilled by ceiling mounted light using pendant lights only adds to the aesthetic aspect of vanity.
Placements of lights over single and double vanity
Proper placement of lights over vanity ensures efficient spread of light all over the vanity.
Placement of light in One light configuration
For single vanity
To properly illuminate the vanity mirror along with the vanity area with a wall mounted light, the light source should be installed at the top of vanity mirror at a distance of 4 to 5 inches from the top of the mirror.
Increasing the distance between light source and the vanity mirror would make the light source less effective as with increase in distance more brighter light source is required.
Therefore, the approach while spacing light source from the top of mirror is that the distance between light source and mirror should be minimum while retaining the geometrical symmetry in the lighting placement.
Placement of hanging light fixture over single vanity
The hanging light fixture should be placed at a height of 4.5 ft to 5 ft from the floor such that the light fixture reaches half the lenght of the vanity mirror. By this much distance, the light fixture would illumnate both the mirror as well as the vanity.
For double vanity
In a single light configuration, the light is always placed over the top of the vanity mirror. Place the light at a distance of 5 inches from the top of the vanity mirror.
To achieve a geometrically symmetrical appearance, the light placed at the top of mirror should be parallel to the centre of vanity mirror
This would ensure that light covers the mirror, the sink as well as the vanity area effectively.
(It is clear that the distance at which light is placed at the top of mirror is same for both single vanity as well as double vanity. i.e 4 to 5 inches)
Placement of lights in 2 light configuration
For single vanity
For a single vanity, the lights around the mirror should be placed at a distance of minimum 2 inches from the sides of the mirror. If there is lot of free space available around the sides of mirror then the lights can be kept at a distance of maximum 8 inches from the side of mirror
From the floor, the wall sconces should be placed at a height of 5 feet.
For double vanity
Two lights over double sink can be placed either on top of mirrors or near the sides of mirror. When lights placed on top of mirror, leave a gap of 5 inches from the top of each mirror.
whereas when lights are placed near the sides of mirror, then leave a space of 4 to 5 in ches from the mirror. The height at which wall lights like wall sconces should be installed around vanity mirror should be around 5 feet to 5.5 feet from the floor.
Placement of lights in 3 light configuration(for both single and double vanity)
3 light configuration around double vanity can be done either by installing 3 lights at the top of mirror in a linear fashion or by installing three wall sconces near the either sides of mirror whereas for single vanity 3 light configuration is only possible by installing all the 3 lights in a single line.
Therefore, when 3 lights are placed over double vanity, place them over the mirror in a straight line at a distance of 5 – 6 inches from the top of the mirror
whereas when three lights are used in double vanity place them at a distance of 3 – 4 inches from either side of mirror.
It is only when the space between the two vanities is greater than 8 inches, wall sconces can be placed at a distance greater than 4 inches from the side of mirrors. The maximum distance at which wall sconces can be kept from sides of mirrors in a 3 light configuration is 8 inches.
Placement of lights around a 60″ vanity
Placement of wall sconces
Wall sconces around 60″ vantiy can be placed either together in a straight line above the vanity mirror when a single mirror is used over vanity and if two mirrors are used over vanity place one wall sconce at either side of mirror as well in the middle of each mirror.
When wall sconces are placed above the vanity mirror place them at a distance of 5 – 6 inches from top of mirror facing downwards such that the led part of wall sconce maintains a distance of a minimum 2 inches from the top of mirror.
Pro tip : While placing wall sconce above the vanity mirror make sure the LED of wall sconce does not overlap with the mirror i.e there should always be some gap between the body of wall since and the mirror itself.
When wall sconces are placed at either side of mirror, they should be placed at a height of 5 feet from the floor such that the middle part of mirror should be in line with the wall sconce.
Ideally, the gap between the mirror and wall sconce should be 3.5 inches. However if the space is tight a minimum gap between wall scocnes and the sides of mirror should be 2 inches.
Placement of pendant lights
When a single mirror is used over 60″ vanity, the pendant light should be placed at a height of 5 feet from the floor such that the light fixture when installed from ceiling reaches near the middle of the mirror.
The pendant lights should never overlap over the mirror from sides and should be at a distance of 1.5 to 2 inches from the side of mirror.
Placement of Accent lighting
An LED strip light is used for getting accent lightning around mirror. Place the LED strip light at the back of mirror leaving a gap of 2 inches from the edges of vanity mirror.
The trick to get perfect accent lighting is that the light behind the mirror should come out highlighting the shape of vanity mirror.
So if a square mirror is used for vanity, the accent lighting behind the mirror should form a squarish shape and if a round mirror is used, the accent lighting should form an circular shape.
Placement of lights around a 72″ vanity
Placement of wall sconces
When a single mirror is used over a 72″ vanity the wall sconces should be placed at a distance of 7 inches from the top of mirror facing downwards such that the body of light fixture is always at some distance from the mirror (i.e 1.9 – 2.5 inches)
When two mirrors are used 72″ vanity, place the wall sconce at a height of 4.9 ft from the floor. The wall sconces can also be placed in two sets i.e 3 wall sconces for each mirror.
(It should be noted that the placement of lights around 60″ vanity and a 72″ vanity is very identical. It is because same lighting principles are applicable to these vanities)
Placement of lED tube lights
Whether a single mirror is used over 72″ vanity or two mirrors, LED tube lights should be placed at a placed at a distance of 2.2 inches to 3 inches from the top of vanity mirror.
How to size lights over vanity.
How to size side mounted lights around vanity (like wall sconces)
To size lights around the vanity, a good rule of thumb is to simply divide the length of the mirror in inches by 4. The result would give the length of light to be placed at the side of mirror.
How to size lights that are placed on top of vanity mirror (like led tube light, linear light fixture)
To size the lights that are to be placed on top of mirror the length of light source should atlest be equal to half of width of the vanity mirror and should not exceed the totalwidth of the mirror. So for example if a vanity mirror is 45″ wide, then the length of light tube light on top of mirror should be around 22″ to 40″ always be less than 45″.
By following this rule to size lights over vanity a geometrically symetrical look can be achieved very easily which would look appealing as well as is effective for performing tasks.
How to size pendant lights over vanity
To get a modern look to small vanity area, single pendant light becomes the best option. The single pendant should be small in size around 1.3 to 2 inches wide. This size help to keep vanity area feel less tight and also adds a remarkable look to it.
For normal size vanity area, the contemporary pendant lights can be used with 3 pendant lights. The total width of the light fixture should be around 8 -10 inches.
For large size vanity (with vanity mirror >50″), a bigger size pendant lights with width of light fixture greater than 10″ can be used.
How many wall sconces are required for vanity based on ceiling height
How many wall sconces are required for vanity depends only over the size of vanity, not the ceiling height. Simply because the purpose of vanity light is only to illuminate the vanity area not the entire bathroom.
Also the light fixtures to illuminate the vanity are installed very close to the vanity which keeps the vanity well illuminated regardless of the height of the ceiling.
Therefore, the number of wall sconces required for a single vanity installed in a bathroom with 8 ft ceiling would be same as for a vanity in a bathroom with 9 ft ceiling or even 10 ft ceiling.
How bright should the light be over single and double vanity
Vanity area is a place where attention demanding activities are performed like grooming, make-up etc. Therefore, experts suggests that there should be 500 lumens per sq ft for vanity area.
This means for a double size vanity with single mirror configuration, the light should be 600 lumens bright whereas in double light configuration, the light sources should be 300 lumens bright each.
In a 3 light configuration over double vanity, each light should be 200 lumens bright.
The number of lumens for illuminating double vanity are attributed to light source after considering the placement height of light over the vanity. We know as the distance between light source and object increases, the intensity of light also decreases.
Therefore, following the recommended lumen value for the light source over double vanity, one makes sure that sufficient light falls over the vanity area without the light being too bright or too dim
After determining the number of lumens required over double vanity, it is also important to know what should be the color temperature of lights over vanity.
Color temperature of lights over vanity
Color temperature of lights for double vanity should be daylight white (4500k -5500k) this is because the attention-demanding activities are best performed in day time.
Daylight white light thus helps to create a natural day like lighting thus allows the activities to be performed properly.
It should be noted that while the general lighting of bathroom should be in cool white color temperature, it is only the vanity area that should be illuminated in daylight white color temperature.
So far we have discussed how many light should be there over double vanity, how bright the lights be and color temperature of lights. Now it would be useful to know where should the lights be placed over the vanity in order to get the most out of lights.
Does shape of mirror affects how many lights are required over vanity
Vanity mirror comes in various shapes like square, rectangle, oval as well as circular. The lighting requirement over vanity depends only over the size of vanity and not over the shape of vanity mirror.
This means that the number of lights required to illuminate a 25″ wide vanity with a square mirror would be exactly similar to the lighting requirement of 25″ wide vanity with mirror of any other shape.(square, rectangle etc.)
How other light fixtures in bathroom affects the number of lights required over vanity
The presence of other light fixtures within the bathroom like recessed lights directly determines how many lights are required over vanity.
If there are recessed lights on the ceiling over vanity chances are that the vanity is already illuminated and the need of specific vanity lights is reduced. It is only when there is no other light source on the ceiling over vanity or the light source on the ceiling is not bright enough that vanity lights are required to be installed.
Should all lights over vanity be damp rated ?
The UCDAVIS recommends all the luminaries that are to be installed in bathroom, utility area should be ul rated or damp proof.
This is because in these areas there is always a chance of moisture and humidity to enter in the light fixture specially in the bathroom.
For instance it may look like vanity area is moisture free but after taking a hot shower for a brief time the entire bathroom can bet filled with moisture and this moisture can thus entre in the luminary.
For vanities that are outside the bathroom, the lights around them do not need to be damp rated.
Should vanity lights face up or down ?
The purpose of vanity lighting is to illuminate only the vanity area and not the entire bathroom. Therefore, whether to install vanity lights facing up and down depends over the fact that which side illuminates the mirror and vanity area the most.
To simplify, if vanity lights are installed at a height less than 5 feet from the floor, the lights should face upwards whereas if vanity lights are placed at a height greater than 5 feet from the floor, the lights should face downwards.
This rule would help to illuminate both the vanity mirror as well as vanity area properly without confusion.