Bathroom Workbook: How to Get Your Vanity Lighting Right

Getting ready to leave the house in the morning can take effort, but the job is easier with adequate lighting at the bathroom vanity. A successful plan has multiple light sources, including both overhead and task, with good task lighting at the sink and mirror being key. To achieve a successful lighting plan at the vanity, fixtures need to have adequate light output, be of appropriate size and style for the bathroom layout and design, and be installed at the proper distance from the floor and one another. Mounting vanity light fixtures at the optimal location minimizes the potential for shadows being cast on the face, important when applying makeup or shaving and grooming.

Jute Interior Design

The primary place to hang wall sconces in the bathroom is on either side of the bathroom vanity mirror, providing ideal lighting for the sink area. The American Lighting Association’s general rule is to mount them 65 to 70 inches from the floor, at about eye level. This allows light to fully illuminate your entire face without casting shadows. Ideally, the fixtures should be placed about 28 to 30 inches apart, but achieving this depends on the size of the room and configuration of the design. When installing fixtures above the mirror, the ideal height is about 78 inches.

Haus Interior Design

If the fixtures are to be installed near a tub or shower with a risk of having contact with water spray, look for styles with a “damp” rating. Here’s an example of a compact bathroom where the vanity sconces are close enough to the shower area to warrant choosing fixtures with this rating.

Key Measurements to Make the Most of Your Bathroom

Neuhaus Design Architecture, P.C.

Light from sconces should be softly flattering yet bright enough to shave, like the light provided by this pair of fixtures framing a recessed medicine cabinet.

Artistic Designs for Living, Tineke Triggs

Sconce shades are an important feature since their transparency and color greatly affect how much light is emitted. White fabric shades give off a diffused light that provides a bright, clean tone.

41 West

In a narrow bath, consider mounting sconces on the side walls, close to the back wall. The illumination is still effective while maximizing the size of the mirror.


To avoid dark spots at a long vanity, consider mounting a dual sconce in the center with single sconces at the outer edges of the mirrors and vanity.

Tip: Avoid asymmetrical lighting. Placing a fixture on just one side of a mirror will create uneven illumination and make grooming difficult.

Polsky Perlstein Architects

If the bathroom is small, sconces may illuminate the entire room. In larger bathrooms, light from additional sources, such as recessed lights and ceiling fixtures, will be necessary for adequate general lighting.

Tip: A longstanding guideline has been to match finishes within a bathroom, such as the beautiful brass tones seen throughout this bath. But