How to Optimize Lighting for 3 Common Bathroom Layouts

The average cost to remodel a bathroom is $11,364, according to the latest data from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Lighting and ventilation costs contribute five percent of this total, coming to $568. As this indicates, lighting is one of the least costly parts of your bathroom remodel. However, it can have a big impact on the functionality of your bathroom as well as the mood and feel of your remodel, so it’s important to consider your lighting options carefully when embarking on your renovation project. Here are some tips for optimizing the lighting for three types of common bathroom layouts:

One-wall Layout

Bathroom layouts can be distinguished by the number of “wet walls” that have plumbing pipes. The most basic type of bathroom layout only has one wall with plumbing. This is typical of smaller bathrooms. One-wall layouts are the most inexpensive type of bathroom setup, but they also offer the most limited design possibilities. This makes it especially important to make the most of your lighting selection.

In a basic bathroom, the most essential function of lighting is task lighting, which enables you and your family to see yourselves in the mirror as you’re performing tasks such as shaving, grooming your hair, brushing your teeth, and applying makeup. The optimal task lighting for using a mirror is to have a pair of sconce lights mounted at eye level on either side of the mirror. A lighted mirror or medicine cabinet is another option. This provides illumination without throwing shadows. Excessive shadows can distort your appearance in the mirror, making you appear older and giving you a false impression of how you look. One common mistake is adding lights above the mirror, which casts strong light on your forehead while throwing the area beneath your eyes, nose, and chin into shadow. To allow your eyes to adjust in the morning, put your lights on a dimmer.

For your bathroom’s ambient lighting, and to make your small bathroom feel bigger, use a flush mount ceiling light instead of a large or decorative light. To illuminate counter, cabinet, and shelf space in a small bathroom, consider installing undercabinet or tape lights, which illuminate the area without taking up extra room.

Two-wall Layout

A layout with plumbing on two walls provides more floor area and sink storage space, and in the process offers additional lighting options. The same basics for illuminating your mirror with sconce lights or a lighted mirror or medicine cabinet apply. You may wish to include additional undercabinet and tape lights to illuminate additional sink storage space.

For your ambient light, if your room is large enough, you may wish to explore more decorative options such as small chandeliers. If there’s enough room on your counter, you might add a portable lamp.

Three-wall Layout

A three-wall layout offers the most floor, counter, and storage space, along with the most design flexibility. It is characteristic of larger bathrooms such as master bathrooms.

As with other bathroom types, the same basics apply for mirror lighting, but you may have two sinks that both need task lights. You have additional options for ambient lighting, such as the room to install a larger chandelier, pendant lights, or a series of fixtures. For example, a grand rectangular bathroom needs two or three fixtures along the ceiling for good illumination. You may have room for an additional task light or overhead light over your tub and shower area.

Larger bathroom layouts afford the most flexibility for decorative and accent lights. Recessed directional lights can help highlight art pieces or flowers. Candles are another decorative option. Toe-kick lighting under base cabinets can help you navigate at night without having to turn bright lights on.

These guidelines provide some basic principles for optimizing the lighting in the most common types of bathroom layouts. Choose the lighting layout that best fits your bathroom and adapt these ideas to your room’s color scheme and decor to give your bath a unique look.


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