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Poll: Should bathroom light point up or down?

HousebathlightupdownA reader sent in this question and I’m glad because I’m having the same quandary. The question:

I’ll be purchasing lighting for above a bathroom mirror. Which is better? Mounting the fixture so the lights point down or point up? Currently there is a bar fixture so I have no experience with this lighting issue. Thank you!

In my case, it’s a classic debate about form vs. function.

As you can see by the photo, I recently replaced a chrome and glass cabinet/light combination with a new $100 light fixture from Home Depot. (Still to come: New mirror, sink, counter, fixture, vanity, backsplash, floor, tub and window. But hey, the light is a start!)

I pointed the three bulbs up to highlight the pitched wood ceiling, the small room’s best feature. But I’ve noticed that the light for applying makeup or shaving is not so good. I’ve toyed with the idea of turning it around to point down, or to somehow add sconces on either side of the mirror for more light.

What’s your opinion? Should the bulbs point down to shine on the sink and the person, or shoot up to reflect light on the ceiling and make the room seem more spacious?

22 Comments on Poll: Should bathroom light point up or down?

  1. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  2. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  3. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  4. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  5. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  6. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  7. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  8. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  9. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  10. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  11. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  12. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  13. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  14. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  15. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  16. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  17. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  18. I really think it depends on the fixture . . . I personally don’t like light casting straight into my face (especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning).
    My thought is to hang them shining up if the fixture will still cast enough on to you for your routines. I would maybe consider adding the task lighting that you mentioned for the make-up / shaving . . . had you considered a nice lighted mirror on a swing arm . . . it would fold away (to the wall) when not in use and then you can get really good lighting and view for your routine . . .
    I think that it all just boils down to you personal preferences though!
    I LOVE THE WOODWORK!

  19. Neither and both.
    From what I’ve read, one point of agreement that lighting experts have is that bathroom lighting (by the mirror) should illuminate evenly, so the Hollywood makeup style lightbars that illuminate from both sides of a mirror ought to be the best for seeing yourself with minimal shadow.
    It seems the more recent lighting literature is all about task lighting, so I’d expect a real expert to suggest side lighting for makeup in addition to whatever other light is used for more general tasks.
    For those of us who can’t or won’t implement the Hollywood makeup style side lighting, I’d guess that lights pointing up would diffuse the light a bit better, making shadows less harsh.

  20. I’d have to say I prefer the shining up position as it diffuses the light nicely. Down casting lights are too harsh in my opinion.

  21. Kathy Price-Robinson // January 4, 2008 at 12:36 pm // Reply

    Hey, thanks for all the suggestions. Very helpful. I had a little epiphany from reading these comments that my bathroom is not a beauty salon or barber shop and I don’t need full-on studio lighting 24-7. Softer, diffused light is better for most of the day. I like the idea of the lighted makeup mirror for the few moments in a day where bright lights are needed.
    P.S. You can receive reader comments on your own remodeling dilemma by sending your quandary to podblog@aol.com. There really is a lot of wisdom to be shared here.

  22. Definitely down, you don’t want mood lighting you want to be able to see your face in the mirror.

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