Universal Bath Design: Light Your Bathroom for All Ages and Abilities

Learn about uplighting, downlighting, visual cueing and avoiding glare for a bathroom that’s safe and works for all.

By Anne-Marie Brunet, CKD, CBD and Houzz Contributor

Bathroom remodels have been taking off in the past few years — today the bathroom’s design is just as important as the kitchen’s, making bathrooms with a universal appeal in design and aesthetics more in demand than ever. And that includes lighting. Younger homeowners might like the vibe and ambiance of colored LEDs in the shower and tub, while aging homeowners might need more light to make their space work.

A white on white bathroom

A white on white bathroom

While so many of us love the crisp bathrooms with endless slabs of white or cream stone, the lack of material contrast makes visual cueing and distance perception difficult — no matter what your age. Even the average person can get lost in a sea of white.

A touch of LED color in a cove

Add touch of LED color in a cove or soffit

Creating a universal lighting scheme for your bathroom doesn’t mean it has to be dull. Here are some examples of lighting techniques and material selections that can make your bathroom sparkle, without the glare.

Add some sparkle!

Add some sparkle!

Designing your bathroom to increase light levels and avoid shadows and glare is always tricky. The first line of defense is usually at the vanity. Always consider wall sconces at the appropriate height as a first option. Place these lights on either side of the mirror so as to evenly reflect light toward you. This eliminates any shadows that will occur with only pot lights or downlighting. Ideally, opt for LED lighting for maximum light output.

Side sconces can fill in shadows that downlights (or recessed lights) create.

Side sconces can fill in shadows that downlights (or recessed lights) create.

If you have a family of individuals with varying heights, opt for longer light bars so that everyone can get the right light in the right place. Some manufacturers’ lights can be placed horizontally or vertically.

Linear lighting can ensure everyone can see well in the mirror, no matter their height!

Linear lighting can ensure everyone can see well in the mirror, no matter their height!

If you’re using decorative lights with shades on them, make sure the lights are not placed too high, where the bulb can be seen, since this can cause eye fatigue from the bulb’s glare. Instead place the bottom of the shade just about at eye level. Someone in a wheelchair will need to have the lights at a lower level for optimum performance.

Side lighting doesn’t have to be traditional wall sconces to work successfully. Consider decorative pendants like these.

Side lighting isn't limited to sconces ~ why not try pendants!

Side lighting isn’t limited to sconces ~ why not try pendants!

Lighting in the shower shouldn’t be just an afterthought when you’re considering new construction or a remodel. Shower lighting is imperative, especially if you don’t have any natural light coming into the room.

Try a mini chandelier in your bathroom!

Try a mini chandelier in your bathroom!

Lighting your shower elevates your showering experience to more than just the basic scrub and ensures safety in a wet environment. You should include at least one light (or more depending on the size of your shower) and include a fixture that is appropriate for wet locations, for obvious safety reasons.

A monorail track in your bathroom can offer lots of lighting options.

A monorail track in your bathroom can offer lots of lighting options.

Visual cueing in a bathroom is important for safety, but it becomes even more important for those with vision problems. The lighting at the base of the tub skirt, the detail on the front of the cabinetry and the contrasting colors between cabinetry, countertop and floor all help an individual detect edges and perimeters in the bathroom shown here, allowing for greater confidence in navigating it.

A mirror outlined with LED lights can be left on as a nightlight ~ soft lighting and low wattage!

A mirror outlined with LED lights can be left on as a nightlight ~ soft lighting and low wattage!

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Posted in Bright Ideas, Lighting News

Lighting is an essential way to change the mood of a room, especially if you can use dimmers.

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