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Client IQ: How to Talk to Your Clients About Bath Lighting

It’s easy to forget that homeowners don’t always know the rhyme and reason behind what goes into a remodel and why. They may have talked to friends, looked at photos on Houzz or priced out products online, but in the end, they still need your guidance to understand the products, design features and practical know-how that will help the space work best for their needs. 

This month, award-winning journalist and lighting expert Linda Longo shares her top tips for talking to clients about bathroom lighting, calling on her 30 years’ experience covering the residential lighting industry.

  1. First and foremost, install a dimmer. Anyone who has ever walked into a bathroom in the middle of the night has been instantly jarred awake by lights at full brightness. That temporary blindness is more than annoyance if you have seniors in the home; it’s a safety concern. As we age, it takes longer for our eyes to adjust from bright light to darkness. Statistics show many falls among senior citizens occur when they are heading back to bed from the bathroom. If you only have one lighting fixture, a dimmer will make residents and guests of all ages more comfortable at night. Best of all, dimmers are extremely affordable (under $20) and easy to install.
  2. Male and females both perform grooming tasks at the bathroom mirror. Full bathrooms should have an ambient light source overhead, and a secondary lighting source at the mirror. In many cases, that secondary light source is what is called a “vanity strip” or “vanity light” above the mirror — however, that placement can cause shadows on the face. Lighting designers choose to place lighting at both sides of the mirror about midway down. The purpose is to light both sides of the face evenly. There are mirrors that come with lighting on the sides (it’s part of the style) or you can install a pair of sconces or vertical lights to achieve the same effect more decoratively. Recently, interior designers have taken that idea further by hanging a decorative pendant on each side of the mirror and at that midway height.
  3. You might not think of accent lighting in the bathroom, but once you see it, you’ll love it. Accent lighting is an inexpensive way to create a more high-end look, and it can even make the room look larger. Thanks to advancements in LED lighting (i.e. small size, long-lasting light source), manufacturers are able to incorporate “backlighting” into bathroom mirror designs. The result is a soft, halo-like glow coming from behind the mirror and reflecting onto the wall. Almost all of these LED mirrors are dimmable (perfect for use as a nightlight), plus with light coming from all sides, it is practical for grooming tasks, too. Another way to create accent lighting in the bath is with “toekick” lighting. Again, with LEDs’ small size, there are many types of adhesive tape light on the market that can be cut to fit just under the bottom edge of the base cabinet. This creates a “floating” cabinet effect, and can also serve as a nightlight that helps make the bathroom safer for all users.
  4. Installing a shower light is another amenity that you never thought you needed — until you experience it. Brightening the confines of the typically dark shower gives an instant mood lift, provides better light for grooming, and makes cleaning tasks easier.
  5. “Chromotherapy” has been embraced by many plumbing manufacturers recently as homeowners look to de-stress and relax. There are bath products by the major brands (Kohler, Delta, Moen) that incorporate color-changing light into tubs and showers to promote the idea of color therapy as part of a health and wellness routine.

Bonus tip:  Despite what you see in magazines, hanging a chandelier over a tub is not permitted by any electrical code (often people do it after they have already received the CO) for obvious safety reasons. There are other ways to set a luxurious look by the soaking tub and that’s to use decorative sconces instead (check for UL-listing for “damp” locations).

For more lighting ideas, visit or contact Linda Longo at

Photo Credit: Gessi

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