03 February 2010

Lighting 101 Guest Post - Powder Room Strategies

Powder room lighting has come a long way over the years. Gone - thank heavens - are the bare bulb light bars of yore. Today, the opportunities to create a wonderful, well-lit space are as endless as your imagination. Well, maybe not yours or mine, but definitely my guest author, lighting designer Vicky Lodge, Allied ASID, whose imagination overflows with brilliant lighting ideas. Vicky returns to GOLD NOTES after her terrific kitchen lighting post last year with these innovative strategies for lighting your powder room.

Small space, big impact

Powder rooms usually receive more traffic than any other bathroom in your home, and are used by visitors, as well as household members. This makes them a great place to show off your style.

Fortunately, since this room is usually small, you can do a lot without it costing you a fortune. In this small space, on a reasonably small budget, you can produce a "wow effect," with your lighting playing a best supporting actor role.

Lav lighting

The focal point in many powder rooms is the sink, which in bathroom lingo is called a lavatory. If yours has an interesting shape, is hand-painted, made of a unique material, (e.g., wood, hammered metal, semi-precious stone), or a vessel that sits above the countertop, then I recommend using a low voltage recessed ceiling can with a pin hole trim. The narrowed beam spread of the light will make the sink look almost like it's levitating, adding a soft but dramatic effect.

If the sink is a translucent material, perhaps onyx or glass, then I suggest lighting it from below to create an inner glow. For this application, I have often used indoor/outdoor rope light. It is flexible and the bulbs are encased in plastic, so they can be in contact with moisture.

If the sink is not a focal point, then the lighting adjacent to it can be. If the cabinet and the mirror above are small (36" or less in width), then an interesting way of making the lights the focal point is by installing colorful glass pendants from the ceiling in front of the mirror.

Ceiling-mounted pendants, rather than wall-mounted sconces on either side of the mirror, allows for a larger mirror, as well.

Added effects

An unexpected way of achieving a powder room's "wow effect" is by installing a mini chandelier, or a fixture that casts an interesting pattern on the walls or ceiling.

Another way to create drama in your powder room is by installing flexible lighting under the edge of the countertop or in the toe kick. Here you can use rope lighting or LED tape lights.

Powder rooms are also a great place to show off a favorite painting or art photo, as there's no shower moisture to damage it.

In this application, use a recessed spotlight or a wall-mounted picture light to emphasize the piece.

Last words from GOLD NOTES editor

Vicky shared with me one day that when she does her job well, no one notices. Powder rooms, as her expert tips and project photos above show, can be the dramatic exception to that rule, where brilliant lighting is not only noticeable, it's part of your winning space.

If you don't live in San Diego or Central Florida, where Vicky Lodge practices her lighting magic, do yourself a favor and find a professional equally skilled in your area. Because the second half of the quote above is... When lighting isn't well done, everyone notices.

Vicky's next guest post for GOLD NOTES, already in the works, will bring her expertise to master baths. Check back later for that one.


  1. Nice examples - thank you! I love your note that in most rooms if the lighting design is done well no-one notices it. How true

  2. I'm always so impressed with Vicky's ideas and advice. She really knows what she's doing.

  3. loved the lighting ideas! but, how much lighting is needed? I will have an onyx counter top lit from below, as suggested, but how much else do I need in order to see?

  4. Leslie, you will definitely want more light than just the onyx countertop illumination. If you have room, put sconces next to the mirror. If you don't, add light above it. This will help anyone touching up their makeup or working with contact lenses in your powder room.

  5. Lightings plays a major role in interior design and it is very important to know how much well illuminated every room must look and where the dim ones should belong. I loved the lighting ideas shared in the post.

  6. Thanks, Cagr, Sarah and "Anonymous" for your kind words. Vicky is a lighting champ!

  7. I am working on a 4.5 X 5' powder room now with an onyx vessel sink and a cream marfil counter top. I can not illuminate through the marble so I was planning on installing a pendent light directly over the onyx vessel sink. Could I put 1 pendent light in the middle of the vanity to show off the sink? Or, would I be better off with small high hats above the sink and putting a pendent in the middle of the powder room. I do not have much room for sconces but could opt to hand 2 pendents from the ceiling flanking the mirror. I welcome your suggestions.


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