Exterior Lighting: A Guide To Landscape Lighting

Exterior lighting adds a number of benefits to a home. It makes an outdoor space more functional, allowing a garden to be used at night. Ideal for late summer nights. Once the outdoors has an exterior lighting design, it will create a scenic view that can be enjoyed even when viewed inside. This allows the beauty of the property to be showcased at night. More lighting outdoors also adds security to a home. When all of this is added up it will also boost the value of the property. Though it can be complex to set up exterior lighting, or landscape lighting, with all the electrical wiring, there are other options to make it easy. Through the use of solar garden lights, DIY outdoor lighting is possible. Making it easier to add value, visual appeal, and security to a home.

Exterior lighting design needs to have some thought behind it. When done right, it provides all the benefits mentioned above, when done wrong an outdoor space can become washed out with imposing shadows casted all over the place.  Also, when it comes to buying outdoor light fixtures, it is key to invest in them. They need to be durable, and shine brightly. While cheap ones will just add costs and wont do your outdoor space any justice and bring the added benefits of exterior lighting.

Types of Exterior Lighting Fixtures

When you are installing lighting fixtures outdoors, you will either be using a line voltage system, low voltage lights or solar exterior lighting.

Line Voltage is when your outdoor lights are installed and connected to your homes 120-volt AC power grid. This type of lighting provides the brightest form of lighting. But because of the high voltage they are not as safe, are much more expensive, and less energy efficient than the other two options.


Low-voltage lights are also connected to a homes electrical works but first go through a transformer. This transformer turns the current into 12-vol allowing you to install low-voltage lights.


The easiest and most cost effective exterior light fixtures are solar powered garden lights. They are cheap to purchase, and very simple to install. Because they do not require any wiring they can be placed anywhere you like – anywhere under direct sunlight. The technology has advanced to make solar garden lights shine brighter and longer. They are able to absorb the suns energy more efficiently. As more people are turning to alternative energy forms such as solar exterior lighting, the range of solar garden lights has expanded from the shapes, styles, and to the sizes.  There is also the added benefit of not needing to install a timer or having to turn the lights on or off as there is a light sensor on top of every solar light.

Layering: Exterior Lighting Design

A modern exterior lighting plan is made up of layering lighting. There are three types of exterior lighting uses: Accent, Task and Ambient.

Task Lighting

The most important form of modern exterior lighting is task lighting. This is because it allows the outdoor space to be functional and adds security.

The Entrance

A sconce is a light that will either shine light up and down or left and right

The entrance of your home is the most important area for outdoor lighting, making it the first area to focus on for task lighting. Lighting up your entrance will provide a warm welcoming. The best lighting layout is to have a light on each side of the door. Whether it is two sconce lights or hanging lanterns. It is best to find light fixtures that are the right sizes, as too big and it will overpower the doorway, and too small will make the entrance look distorted. A good rule of thumb is to look for fixtures that are about 1/5th the size of the doorway.


Leading up to the doorway: paths and driveway lighting is next. Lighting these areas enhance the safety and visual appeal. This will also include stairs to patios and deck lights.

Post lights are commonly used to light up pathways. These will include a shade at the top of the post to direct the light downwards.

A recommended option would be to use ground stake solar lights. They easy to install as all you need to do is to push them down into soil. They are very versatile as you can move them around where you like and find them in tall or short sizes.

When it comes to lighting pathways for decks or patios, recessed lights are an elegant form of modern exterior lighting. These are ideal for outdoor stair lighting as the lights are fitted flushed into the steps and deck itself and shines light upwards.



By just having any exterior lighting will add security, as the outdoors are lit up, making it uncomfortable for potential intruders. But motion sensors are a great addition. There are standard electrical motion sensor lights. Another simpler option is to use motion detector solar lights. They are energy efficient and can be installed by anyone. They need to be placed in areas under direct sunlight, around the front door, back door and garage.

Accent Lighting

If there is something outdoors that you want to showcase, or be the focal point of the garden, then accent lighting is what is used. Areas or objects that are usually highlighted are: trees, shrubs, the swimming pool, fountains, or outdoor décor such as sculptures. By using accent lighting you can create an amazing view with the focal points and play on the shadows.

When it comes to accent lighting, you will need to look for light fixtures that are bright and have a focused point, like a spotlight. When it comes to highlighting trees (other focal points in the garden), there is a technique that can be used called ‘cross lighting’. This is when you use more than one light to shine on the tree, lighting it up on multiple sides. Another technique is to do backlighting, where you place the light fixture behind the object, and this creates a silhouette.

Up-lighting is a third option. This is when the light is aimed upwards towards the piece you want to highlight. Up-lights can come as stake lights or well lights. Solar spot lights are also an ideal option to use for accent lighting. Because of the lack of wiring, they can easily be placed anywhere in the garden, and be used to highlight a tree, sculpture, shrub, or any landscape feature.

Ambient Lighting

If task lighting and accent lighting is not enough to layer the garden with enough light, then additional lights will be needed to provide the right amount of lighting. Decks and patios, swimming pools, ponds, out of the way areas in the garden, and walls around the house will most likely need additional lighting to fulfill the layering needed.

Some popular exterior light fixtures used for ambient lighting:

Outdoor string lights are commonly seen and bought for Christmas festivities, but they can now be found in elegant forms. Instead of the traditional red and green flashing lights, they come in a range of white and off white hues, with large bulbs, and some come with a lantern shade. They can also be found in solar powered form, making them ideal for exterior lighting on patios, and used for lighting paths.

Rope lights are different than string lights. A form of LED exterior lighting where multiple LED lights are encased within a plastic tube to form a rope of lights. These lights are highly versatile (especially when solar powered) and can be used to light patio and deck railings, outlining garden areas, hung on fences or even wrapped around trees.


A highly elegant exterior lighting idea is to use floating solar lights. Used for adding ambient lighting within a pond or swimming pool. The light is reflected off of the water surface, creating an elegant scene.


Moonlighting is an uncommon exterior lighting design feature, reserved for gardens with high trees. When lights are placed high among the treetops, they will cast a moon-like light around the garden.

Exterior wall lighting: it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds with solar powered wall lights, but there is still the option of electrical light fixtures. Sconces provide  a modern exterior lighting look when used for ambient lighting around the house. While hanging lanterns add a more traditional style. Wall lighting can be merged with outdoor wall décor. A wall fountain or wall sculpture fixed with a light will create a focus point within your landscape.

Tiki torches are also ideal for adding ambient lighting. They come in a range of styles to suit the informal garden setting, or a formal manicured landscape. For the informal setting you can find kerosene and oil tiki torches, which are easy to buy at any department store, Amazon, or even a Wal-Mart. These torches just require a filling up of fuel, you can even find ones that are fueled by citronella oil which repels insects. For a more formal garden, there is the option to install gas fueled tiki torches. The benefit of this is that you can control the flame from a valve and there won’t be a need to be replace the oil. But you will need to install underground piping connecting the torches to the gas source. There are permanent tiki torches, made from metal, that are elegant looking that don’t require any gas piping as they are oil fueled.


Exterior Lighting Fixture Styles

All the mentioned above fixtures can be found in a range of different styles to suit the architectural look of your home or the look you want to create for your home. You are not limited by the look of your home. If you have an old home, modern exterior lightening fixtures (more minimalistic in style) strategically placed will contemporaries the house. Decorative outdoor lighting ideas and fixtures (elaborate and stylized fixtures) can be used on a plain house to enhance the look.


Exterior lighting fixtures can be found in styles ranging from:

Rustic: unpolished and rough, can be found in brass

Victorian: ornamental designs, scrolls, common in wrought iron

Contemporary outdoor lighting: minimalistic in style, usually a single tone of finishing, made in a form of metal

Oriental: lanterns, wooden, Asian motifs, paper/glass focused

Tropical: use of natural elements (wood, stone), tiki torches, etc.


7 Exterior Lighting Designer Tips:

1. It is possible to over light an outdoor space (light fixtures need be layered to create a canvas of lighting).

2. The lighting does not have to be evenly layered. There are focal points in an outdoor space, and these will have more lights focused on them. Areas of little interest will have a lower amount of lighting.

3. Use a range of lighting fixtures to provide a variety of lighting effects

4. The entrance of the home is the most important area for exterior lighting design

5. Light fixtures such as spotlights and accent lighting need to be avoided from shining into windows

6. When going about path or driveway lighting, alternate the side on which you place the lights, otherwise having the lights directly opposite from each other will create a ‘runway’ effect.

7. Lighting watered areas such as ponds or a swimming pool is a great way of creating a scenic view of your garden.


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Tiki Torches: Landscape Design Guide

When it comes to landscape lighting ideas and design, outdoor tiki torches provide a simple and inexpensive way of adding light to your garden.  They will create a warm and tropical atmosphere that invites people to enjoy the space in your garden. When it comes to tiki torches there are a few areas to know about that will help make the planning and design of your landscape what you wish it to be.


  • Choosing Between Kerosene or Gas Fueled Tiki Torches
  • What is Citronella Oil
  • Garden Landscaping and The Different Styles of Tiki Torches
  • The Placement of Tiki Torches Around The Garden
  • Tiki Torch Safety
  • Prices of Tiki Torches

Choosing Between Kerosene or Gas Fueled Tiki Torches

The average tiki torch stands at 5 feet and comes as kerosene or gas fueled versions. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Kerosene Tiki Torches

The most common outdoor tiki torches are the kerosene-fueled torches, which can easily be found in hardware stores and even large supermarkets. For fuel you will have the choice of kerosene, citronella oil, or the cleanest burning fuel is paraffin oil.

Kerosene torches are generally made of bamboo or the more expensive kinds are made out of aluminum.   They will have a shaft that is used to press into dirt or a bucket of sand to hold it upright. The top part of the torch is usually made out of straw or bamboo that holds the plastic fuel container. Each torch has a metal top that exposes one end of the wick, and the other end is submerged into the plastic bottle. The cord (wick) is lit and it draws fuel from the oil in the plastic bottle.

These can burn for a few hours at a time before you will need to refuel and adjust the wick to expose more of it.

The advantages of kerosene, oil tiki torches are that they are inexpensive, flexible and you do not require any complex installation. You are able to place the tiki torch wherever you like, as you do not require underground gas piping.

Gas Fueled Tiki Torches

Going for gas tiki torches can be a sizable investment. The reason people do so is because of the greater quality in light and lower maintenance.

A gas based tiki torch is fueled by a controllable source, which will allow you to control the flame of the torch. You can make the flame a lot larger and brighter than kerosene or oil tiki torches. The flame will be at a constant height for the duration of the night, whereas a kerosene tiki torch will need attention after a number of hours: refilling and wick extension. You can also light a number of gas tiki torches at the same time from a master control.

The only maintenance needed for gas based tiki torches is that they need to be kept clean of garden debris, leafs, twigs, etc. The added benefits of this type of torch comes from the initial hard work of laying out gas piping under the garden. Trenching will be required, making this a long-term landscape design plan.

What is Citronella Oil

An added benefit of kerosene and oil tiki torches is that you can fuel them with citronella oil. Made from a relative of the lemon grass, citronella oil harvested from citronella grass is a natural insect repellent. This plant based, non-toxic biopesticide burns slowly providing hours of light and insect repellent through the night.

Citronella tiki torches also burn without producing smoke. You will want to place your citronella tiki torches 15 feet apart to provide effective insect repellent.

Garden Landscaping and The Different Styles of Tiki Torches

There is a range of choices when it comes to tiki torches. Choosing among them will be determined by your preference in function (kerosene vs. gas), landscape design style, and budget.

The most common torches used for casual landscape lighting are the simple rattan or bamboo tiki torches. These are inexpensive, simple to use and are easily found online and offline. But these will look out of place in contemporary gardens with outdoor kitchens, wooden or granite patios. There are more modern and high-grade outdoor tiki torches available for these types of gardens.

More modern and permanent torches can be found such as copper tiki torches, brass, aluminum, steel, and glass, and will come as stakes that you can plant into the ground, or will have their own base to stand on.

You can also find tabletop versions, deck torches that can be attached to railings, hanging torches, path torches, wall mounted, and solar tiki torches.

The Placement of Tiki Torches Around The Garden

Kerosene and oil tiki torches can serve a number of functions around the garden. They can be used for ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting.

Ambient lighting

Most people will use tiki torches for ambient lighting, placing them around the garden or patio. Depending on the space you are looking to light, the general method is to place the torches 15 feet apart, and 3-4 feet away from chairs or tables.

Task lighting

Task lighting is lighting that helps people do something like walking down a path, finding their car in a driveway. Tiki torches can also be placed around the food area in a garden providing light for people to see the food. When it comes to lighting a path or a driveway with outdoor tiki torches you will want to alternate the sides they are on so not to make your path look like an airport runway.

Accent lighting

Another way of adding light to your landscape is to use accent lighting. Accent lighting is used to highlight a certain area or object in your garden. You can place tiki torches around a swimming pool, above ground deck, or fountain highlighting those areas of your garden.

Tiki Torch Safety

It is important to take precautions when using flame based lighting in gardens.

  • Avoid placing your tiki torches near bushes and low hanging trees.
  • If you have a small garden, trees and bushes need to be kept trimmed
  • Leave ample room between torches and plants, trees, etc.
  • Short wicks on kerosene based torches reduces the chances of flying sparks
  • Look for the taller torches that are out of reach from children

Prices of Tiki Torches

The typical and common rattan and bamboo tiki torches can be found for $5 to $30 at places like Amazon or even local supermarkets. They will come as single torches or in a set. Prices for more modern and permanent fixtures can range from $30 to $100 and even up to $300.

The versatility of outdoor tiki torches provide people with many options when it comes to garden lighting. From inexpensive, flexible options, to more expensive, permanent tiki fixtures. Either way your garden will be transformed into a warm and inviting space to be enjoyed when the sun goes down.


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Using Outdoor String Lights For Your Garden

Many people think landscape lighting is expensive and complicated, but is not. One way of lighting your garden is to use decorative outdoor string lights, and using solar powered lights will make it even easier.

Outdoor string lights are a number of light bulbs connected together. The lights can range from colorful to warm or white outdoor sting lights, and come in styles such as large lanterns, circular, rustic, modern, or small festive lights. They are great because they can be used for exterior lighting all year round. String lights should not be mistaken with rope lights, which are LED lights in-cased within a clear tube to form a rope.

From paper DIY paper origami shades to wine bottle lamps, have a look at our post here for a range of outdoor string lighting ideas

Decorative outdoor string lights are used for ambient lighting: to outline driveways, walkways or steps, they look great for deck lighting, patios and porches. String lights cast a soft glow but when used with other forms of landscape lighting will enhance the look of any garden.

Depending on the quality and length of the decorative outdoor string lights, the prices can range from $15 to $150. The lights can come in lengths of 10 to 40+ feet, and some string lights are able to connect together.

Decorative Outdoor String Lights
The kind of decorative string lights to buy will be based on how you want your garden to look. If you are decorating for the festive season then red and green or other colorful string lights will turn the garden into a festive wonderland. If you are looking for a natural, year round design, one that is calm and relaxing like a European café, then white outdoor garden lights or off white will be the best choice.

Standard Outdoor String Lights: These are the most common outdoor string lights. You can get them in many different styles, colors, and lengths. There are many choices, from mini lanterns to colored blown glass.

Victorian String Light

Victorian String Lights

Lantern String Lights

Lantern String Lights

Glass Globes String Lights

Glass Globes String Lights

LED Outdoor String Lights: An energy efficient option is to use LED outdoor string lights. They are versatile and can be used to light trees, plants or other parts of the garden. More commonly seen as Christmas decorations, they now come in white and off white colors, which can be used all year round.

Japanese lanterns: A creative option for outdoors string lighting is to use Japanese lanterns. These are usually made of paper and can be fitted with an electric cord to attach light bulbs.

Going Solar
Using solar outdoor string lights will make it much easier to install and place the lights where you want. There is also no need to have timers or to switch the lights on and off, as they will automatically come on at night. They are becoming cheaper to buy and they don’t cost anything to run. More and more styles, shapes and colors are being made available as more people turn to solar powered lights.

Using decorative outdoor string lights is a great way of adding ambient lighting to your garden. It can easily turn an area into a festive, colorful place or make an area relaxing and elegant. Adding any kind of lighting to a garden will make it an enjoyable place to experience during night.

photo by photojenni

Outdoor String Lights


Using Solar Garden Lights For Landscape Lighting

Solar garden lights use to be quite expensive and would not last long or shine too brightly. But as more and more people are turning to alternative energy sources, the solar power industry has advanced to the point now where solar garden lights are able to capture the suns energy more efficiently, shine brighter, and last longer. They also come in a range of different sizes and styles to fit many different landscaping design needs.

Landscape Lighting Design
Landscape lighting, or outdoor lighting, is important for a number of reasons: it makes the garden more homely at night, is more attractive to potential buyers, and is beneficial for security reasons. If it is done wrong, it can wash out the colors and features of plants and can also cast imposing shadows across the garden. Many people believe that outdoor landscape lighting is complicated and expensive, but it is not, especially if you use outdoor solar garden lights.

The first thing to consider when thinking of a garden lighting plan is to ensure that there is enough outdoor lighting for safety and security.  This includes lighting for steps, driveways and door entrances. Once this is covered, the next step is to look at ambient lighting, or lighting that enhances the feel, look and style of your landscape. When buying light fixtures for the outdoors, it is key to spend wisely. Cheap, low quality solar equipment won’t last long, shine bright enough and will just add stress and costs to your landscape lighting design.

photo by mistercam

Solar Garden Light

Solar Garden Lights
Many people and landscape lighting designers are turning to outdoor solar garden lights as they are:

–       easy to install

–       can be placed anywhere

–       there is no need for timers or need to switch them on or off

–       cost effective (they are cheap to buy, and don’t cost anything to run)

–       eco-friendly

–       come in range of styles and colors that can fit into any garden design


Solar garden lights are made up of low voltage LED lights, which can last a number of years and are commonly powered by a rechargeable NiCad battery.  Each light has a solar panel on the top and a light sensor to know when to switch on and off. Most LED solar garden lights these days can provide up to 10 hours of light.

Types of Solar Garden Lights
The first thing to think about even before looking at decorative solar garden lights, is how you want the garden to feel. A garden can feel more lively and festive by using colorful and decorative lights, or a garden can feel more romantic and relaxed by using rustic orange and white lights.


Ground Stake Solar Lights: These are the more common solar powered garden lights. They are versatile, and easy to install. They come in short and tall sizes. All you need to do is push them firmly into soil and they will stand upright. Uses for garden stake solar lights include ambient lighting and lighting a drive or walkway. To avoid making your path lighting look like a runway, you need to alternate the side of the path you place the lights.

Solar Powered Recessed Lights: For step or deck lighting, you can install recessed stainless steel solar garden lights, lights that are fitted within the steps or the deck. They are mainly used for safety reasons but also make a landscape more aesthetically pleasing.

Hanging Solar Lights: Can be used for pathway and driveway lighting, doorway lighting and outdoor celebration events. You can get them in a range of different styles such as Japanese lanterns or Victorian lamps.

Solar Spot Lights: These are used for accent lighting as they provide a focused point of light.  They can be used as decorative outdoor lighting to highlight the trunk of a tree, a fountain, a statue, a bush of flowers, a pond or other landscape features you want to showcase.

Solar String Lights: Mainly known as Christmas lights, the more modern versions come in a range of different sizes and styles. They work great on decks and patios as it makes the area look like a European café, and can also be used to outline driveways and walking paths.

Solar Outdoor Rope Lights: Rope lights are made up of LED lights that form of a rope. They can be used to wrap around a tree, hung on fences, or outline flowerbeds. They are very versatile and come in a range of colors.

The Sun Jar

The Sun Jar

Sun Jar: The Sun Jar is a designer, decorative solar garden light. They are vintage style jars that light up at night, easily placed anywhere around the garden or on a table.

Motion Detector Solar Lights: These lights are becoming more popular and are being used as security/intruder spotlights. They are usually installed around the garage, or the front and back door.

Floating Solar Lights: These are ideal for placing in a pond and will highlight the area at night.

The placement of your solar powered garden lights is essential. They need to be in areas where they can get a few hours of sunlight a day. You need to make sure that they are not covered up by plants or tall grass, not only because it will block the sunlight, but when the light comes on at night it will then cast unwanted shadows across the garden. You also don’t people to be able to see the light fixtures, so look to hide them behind rocks or big plants.

One other thing to keep in mind is to keep the color of the light consistent. This is a small but important detail, as different light fixtures can give off different shades of light (white, warm orange, cold blue).

The many advantages of outdoor solar garden lights makes landscape lighting easy and non-expensive. Anyone now can design their landscape lighting just how they want their garden to look and feel.

photo by children of the neon god

Garden Lights


Outdoor Lanterns For Better Garden Lighting

Using outdoor lanterns is a great way to make your garden more homely at night and add security. Outdoor lanterns come in many styles, from candle to electric, Victorian to Asian and can be used to outline walkways, driveways, steps, and to light doorways. They work and look great on patios, decks, porches and around swimming pools. Other uses for them include events such as a wedding reception, Halloween, Christmas, parties or even for camping.

Like any other exterior lighting equipment, buying high quality fixtures will not only look great but will keep maintenance cost down. Outdoor lantern prices can range from $10 for simple paper lanterns to $150 for more elegant Victorian brass steel lanterns.

Candle vs. Lights or Solar?
If you are looking for permanent garden light fixtures that will be used regularly and requires low maintenance, then electrical outdoor garden lights work best. Outdoor lanterns for candles are ideal if you plan on using them occasionally, as they require you to light them every time. The added benefits of candle lanterns are that even the small ones can provide a heat source during chilly nights, they can also be used as a form of insect repellent. Candle lanterns are also more portable and are ideal for tabletop lighting, as they don’t require any wiring.

photo by by mistercam

Solar Garden Light

Another option is to use solar outdoor lanterns. Solar garden lights have gotten to the stage where they shine brightly, and can last the duration of the night. They have gotten cheaper and now come in a range of different styles and sizes to fit any garden design. Using solar outdoor lanterns gives you the option of having permanent low maintenance fixtures without the complexity of electrical wiring. They are low maintenance, easy to install and don’t need any timers to turn them on or off. They are also more cost effective as they don’t cost anything to run.

Types of Outdoor Lanterns
The choice of outdoor lanterns include simple, functional or more elaborate and decorative.

The different light sources: candle, electrical, LED or solar powered.

The different forms of outdoor lanterns include: hanging, wall attachments, floor, table or camping lanterns.

The most popular design style is Victorian but other style options include: Moroccan, Japanese, Chinese, rustic/lodge, traditional, contemporary/modern, paper, and wooden.


photo by simpologist

Outdoor Lantern

Installing Outdoor Lanterns
The easiest lanterns to install are solar powered, as they do not require any wiring or easy access to light candles. The most common model is the hanging outdoor lantern and can be fitted and hung from gutters. Other kinds will need a lamp post, a pole, hooks, be mounted to a wall, or will come as a set of string lights.


When it comes to choosing outdoor lanterns for your landscape lighting design, there are a number of options to choose from. From the different light sources, forms, and design styles, outdoor lanterns can easily light up and add elegance to anyone’s garden.


Bathroom Light Fixtures: A DIY Guide To Bathroom Lighting Ideas

Bathroom Lighting Ideas

As bathrooms are being upgraded to become a place of relaxation with steam showers, designer faucets, and mirror TV screens, lighting and bathroom light fixtures are becoming more important. You can even find bathroom lighting consultants.

The right bathroom lighting ideas are needed to set the ideal feel and look, and also for functional purposes. A single ceiling light fixture in the bathroom is inadequate lighting. There are just a number of things to know to be able to design your own bathroom lighting plan:

  • You will have to know the different types of bathroom light fixtures and their different proposes.
  • The most important thing to know about bathroom lighting is the correct placement of the fixtures and the kind of light it will emit.
  • There are also some basic enhancements to know, which can make a bathroom feel bigger, cozier or more luxurious.

Types of Bathroom Light Fixtures

There are many different types of bathroom light fixtures used for different purposes. Lighting in a bathroom can serve 3 different purposes: you have task, ambient and accent lighting.

bathroom lights

Task Lighting
Task lighting is the most important form of lighting in a bathroom. It is for areas of the bathroom where a person will be performing a task such as grooming. The main task areas of the bathroom are the mirror and the shower/bathing areas.

The Mirror, Vanity Lighting
Bathroom mirror lighting is also called vanity lighting. Vanity lighting needs to be the top priority for bathroom lighting design, as it needs to light the head properly for grooming. The common mistake with bathroom vanity lighting is to simply put a light right above the mirror, but this casts shadows on the face.

The best way to setup vanity lighting would be to use the Hollywood effect, many white bulbs placed all around the mirror. This is more common back stage at fashion shows and in make up rooms than it is in bathrooms. A more stylish and practical option would be to use contemporary bathroom light fixtures: 2 vertical sconces, one on each side of the mirror and a horizontal sconce, aka a vanity strip, right above the mirror. This will create even lighting across the face.

photo by l1nda1

2 Vertical Wall Sconces

Wall Sconce

A Wall Sconce

Sconces: Sconces are lights that are attached to the wall. They are narrow light fixtures, and can either be vertical (light shines out left and right) or horizontal sconces (light shines out top and bottom).

Shower and Tubs
Because of the need to clean, shave, see if it is slippery, and read bottles, the showering/bathing area is the second most important part to plan for lighting. In smaller bathrooms, the lighting from other parts of the bathroom might be enough to adequately light up these areas. By using modern bathroom lighting fixtures focusing on the showering and bathing areas will provide added comfort and style to the bathroom. The best kind of shower lighting ideas are shielded (this reduces glare) recessed downlights, which are listed for damp locations. An elegant light fixture above a bath would be a mini chandelier, or just a simple hanging light.

photo by Shine 2010

A Well Lit Shower Area

Recessed Light

Recessed Light

Recessed Lights: These are lights that are installed into the ceiling. They provide softer light than fixtures that hang down from the ceiling and give the bathroom a modern look. A false ceiling is usually installed to fit the lights into and hide the wiring.

Downlights: Downlights, as the name suggests, are lights that can be angled downwards. Usually recessed, these will shine light onto walls and surfaces below.

Ambient Lighting
If there is not enough light from the task lighting to light up the whole bathroom, ambient lighting is needed. Smaller bathrooms

only need one central ceiling light to light the rest of the room, while larger bathrooms will need multiple ceiling lights. Ambient ceiling lights are commonly recessed lights, or hanging ceiling lights.  Wall washers and uplighters can be used to light up individual walls and the ceiling. There are other creative options such as a rope lights or cove lighting.

Wall Washer

Wall Washer

Rope Lights

Rope Lights


Uplighter: Can be standalone or recessed


Wall washers: Just like sconces, wall washer are attached to walls but only emit light upwards, lighting up the wall above.

Uplighters: these lights face upwards and light up the ceiling which then bounces back creating ambient lighting. A light colored ceiling works best with uplighters.

Rope Lights: These are LED lights that come as a rope and extend out. They are versatile lights as they bend and come in a range of colors, and are more commonly used for landscape lighting.

Cove Lighting: Cove lighting is when you add a ceiling that has cut away, rope lights are then hidden within the ceiling, adding a luxurious touch to the bathroom.

Cove Lighting

Cove Lighting

photo by Villa Amor in Sayulita

Accent Lighting: Focusing on a vase

Accent Lighting
A way of adding extra light (more the better) to a bathroom is to use accent lighting. Accent lighting is used to shine light on an object or area that you would like to highlight. It is usually in the form of smaller recessed lights, tilted to face artwork or a vase of flowers. Highlighting such objects can greatly enhance the feel of a bathroom just like many 5 star hotels.

Bathroom Light Fixture Finishes
There are a number of bathroom light fixture finishes and choosing from them will be based on what kind of look and style you want to give your bathroom.

Chrome bathroom light fixtures are the most popular finishes. They provide a modern look and are easily incorporated into many bathroom styles.  Other bathroom light fixture finishes include: bronze, nickel, rustic, and traditional.

Look for fixtures that have translucent/frosted glass. This is so that the light can pass through easily but at the same time does not produce a glare, which is an issue with clear glass fixtures.  When buying your bathroom light fixtures make sure to take into account that the glass of the light fixture can change the color of the light that is projected in the bathroom.

Bathroom Lighting Safety

In terms of safety, you will need to get the proper rated lights for the different areas of the bathroom. Areas that will get wet will need wet listed/rated light fixtures. If you are living in the UK you will need to know the different bathroom lighting zones and IP rating for lights.

Bulbs: Setting the right mood

Once you have installed your bathroom light fixtures in the right layout, the next thing to do is to choose the light bulbs.  A good rule of thumb to follow is to plan to have 300 watts of lighting for every 50sq feet.

The best form of light is natural light. To maximize available natural light in the daytime is to frost your windows and then take down curtains and blinds.  At the same time you don’t want to have too much exposed, as you will have the feeling of being on display.

photo by home space

All Natural Lighting

For vanity lighting, you want bulbs that best show off skin tones. These are: crisp white halogen light bulbs. Halogens provide the closest resemblance to bright daylight.

Ambient and accent lighting:  Soft warm colors, ones that give off that orange, natural, soothing daylight glow. The best light bulb would be warm florescent lights or incandescent.

Designer Tips

One quick and cheap enhancement recommended by lighting designers is to install a dimmer switch, which will let you have control over the level of lighting. Not only do dimmers save you money but they can make a light multipurpose: a dimmed light can provide ambient lighting (for candle lit baths), while a full light can provide task or accent lighting.

Changing a Bathroom With Lighting
With a few small changes to lighting, a bathroom can appear larger, taller or even cozier.

Making a Bathroom Feel Larger:Generously light up the whole bathroom. Lighting up all four corners of the room gives a sense of space. If you have a light colored ceiling you can install wall washers to shine light on it. Also, mirrors with lights give the allusion of more space.

Making a Bathroom Feel Taller: Two ways of making a bathroom feel like it is much taller is to use long vertical light fixtures and to also use low hanging pendant lighting.

Making a Bathroom Feel Cozier: If you want to make a bathroom feel cozy then you need to do the opposite of making it feel larger. Try not to light the ceiling. Low lighting is better, such as table lamps.

A bathroom lighting plan is made up of layers. The first stage of a lighting plan is to know the different purposes/layers of bathroom lighting: task, ambient and accent. The next stage of the planning process is to choose the right bathroom light fixtures (and finishes) and lay out where each light will go.  You then just need to buy the right light bulbs to finish designing your bathroom. Bathroom lighting plays an important role, one that can decide the style and feel of a bathroom.

photo by s.yume

Bathroom Lighting Design

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