What is the best lighting option for your bathroom vanity and mirror? When it comes to your bathroom design, I can’t stress enough how important your vanity lighting is and planning it out with the mirror installation. When it comes to the bathroom, it seems that the vanity lighting is an afterthought. Most bathrooms have a single junction box for a single vanity light. But is this the best option? The answer is a straight forward, no! The hands down option for a vanity mirror-sconces.

If you are remodeling or building new, now is the time to consider the best option for vanity lighting. Hands down there is one double winner, and that is the double sconce. Of course the placement of these sconces will be discussed more in depth, but first, why the double sconce?

The sconce is the perfect answer for two reasons.

  • First, the double sconce wins for design appeal. The balance and detail will add an unexpected design element that our eye doesn’t see often enough. The double sconce will create that custom look your friends and neighbors will envy.
  • Second, the double sconce provides the perfect lighting solution for the job intended- being able to see ourselves in the mirror. For me that would be to apply just the right amount of under eye concealer and mascara to not look like the hot mess I do when I wake up in the morning. For others, also myself included, the correct lighting will help get that nice clean shaven face, without creating a crime scene of blood. I think it’s worth mentioning the benefits of woman stealing their mans razor, or doing like I do, and just buying one of their own. Shaving is not only exfoliating, it removes any peach fuzz…or possibly a mustache, that will make your skin look young and fresh. The dded bonus- your make-up will effortlessly glide over a smooth, clean shaven face.  Ladies do not be afraid to shave that face! Perhaps this passionate topic needs to be a separate blog post. Back to the topic at hand.

Let’s start with a photo of a vanity mirror we did for a recent client. First, What did they do right? They chose to mount the light fixture on the mirror! Imagine the look if they had us cut the mirror below the light fixture to save a few bucks? The lower the height of the mirror the smaller the bathroom looks, and the more likely the eye will catch the design flaw. Second, they didn’t hang the light too high. The position of this light is a perfect spot to work as it is intended. The light fixture should be hung approximately  68- 72″ above the finished floor. This height will keep the light fixture in the sight line to be enjoyed and also provide lighting closer to where we need it. I can honestly say, I have never seen a light fixture in a bathroom that I thought was too low. I often see them installed too HIGH.

In addition to the functionality, the lower height of the light fixture brings it closer to eye level for some mirror eye candy for all to enjoy.  I would say this selection was a job done…almost….perfectly. The only better option here would have been….the double sconce! Let me tell you some more reasons why.

floating vanity mirror light

With overhead vanity lighting you really only see the top half of your face, with shadows being cast from the cheekbones down. I don’t know about you, but I want my whole face to match. My clean shaven face serves no purpose if I look like flawless on the top half and disheveled from the cheekbones down.  The double sconce will balance the lighting from the sides and allow you to see it all, like it or not!

This brings me to another point about the double sconce- where to place them. Two sconces above your face level wil defeat the whole purpose. Now we are back to downlighting and only seeing half of that beautiful face. The sconces must be placed lower than you would think. Stand in front of the vanity and mark on the wall where your head is. If your double sconces provide an all around light you have more flexibility. If your sconces have the light high and going up, consider lowering it so the light will highlight all of your face.

The next mistake I see all too often is the sconces placed too far apart in order to avoid installing in the mirror. Don’t be afraid of the mirror! Any competent glass and mirror contractor is skilled to drill the perfect holes in the mirror to allow for the lights to be installed exactly where you want them. It’s important to have your electrician have the boxes in place before the ‘template,’ or final measure takes place to cut the mirror. Hnaging the sconces in the mirror is a no brainer to me and I hope to see more designers and contractors encourage this option! The custom look achieved with hanging the lights on the mirror is well worth the nominal cost.  As a mirror company I will admit that it is much easier to install a mirror without two holes for lights, but the look and benefits are well worth the extra time and precision required.

Cost- How expensive is it to have the mirror custom cut for two sconces? My simple answer would be minimal. Even more straightforward answer would be approximately $40.00 per light to drill the holes. For as long as I have been in this business of  mirrors, I have been encouraging clients to consider going taller with their mirror and mount the light on top of the mirror. The ‘floating’ light fixture is a must in my book. For $40.00 a hole I think most would agree this is the way to go. The look is custom, flawless and ultimately the look we all want- effortless. It allows you to have a larger mirror and make that bathroom look expansive, even if it isn’t. Now it’s time to step it up a notch, and consider doing two lights, the double sconce. Of course the mirror drilling isn’t the only additional cost. You will have to buy two lights, vs. one and an electrician will be needed to add an additional junction box and move the existing one to the correct spot. I believe this to be an investment that will pay off quickly. Once that mirror is installed you will be starting from scratch if you decide to move your lighting. This is one of those scenarios where it’s worth it to just…. do it right the first time!

If I haven’t convinced you on the logical reasons behind the use of sconces in bathrooms,  a photo demonstrating the beauty this look provides, surely will.  How gorgeous do these two sconces look on this oversized framed mirror? The large mirror to the ceiling is the only way to go in a home of this calibur, and of course the designer knew the same was true when it came to the lighting.

double sconce mounted on mirror

double sconce mounted on mirror

The simplest way to tackle design is to look at it from this angle. Is what I am doing going to leave people questioning why? Why does the mirror stop to low? Why doesn’t the mirror cover the width of the vanity?  When making a decision ask yourself, why am I doing it this way? If the answer is to save a couple bucks, it’s time to think long and hard about that decision. I say, do it right the first time. These little areas where we try and cut corners will end up driving us nuts every time we have to look at them in the future. When it comes to the master bath and even guest baths…that means everyday. In fact, multiple times everyday.

I have a couple more points worth mentioning when mounting your light fixture on the mirror-

  • When we drill a hole in a mirror we are creating a weak spot. Make sure your electrician knows this when installing the lights. Mirror and drywall are two very different surfaces. If that electrician wants to tighten those screws down like he would on drywall, you will end up with a broken mirror. If our clients have the light fixture ready to go, we will gladly install it for them if possible.
  • Another factor is the length of the screws needed when mounting the light. Often the screws that come with the light will no longer be long enough now that you have added 1/4″ of mirror and 1/8″11/4″ of mastic behind the mirror. New, longer screws are to be expected.