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Ask Jennifer Adams: What's the best lighting for your bathroom vanity?

Jennifer Adams, FOR THE INQUIRER

Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2017, 3:01 AM

Sconces and table lamps help provide soft light that’s better for toiletry tasks.

Q: Is there any way to adjust or add lights in a bathroom? My apartment bathroom has one light in the middle of the ceiling, and a combination fan and light over the bathtub, which is sort of around a corner. I can barely see to put on my makeup. Is there any type of light I can add without drilling holes or calling an electrician, because my landlords won’t go for that.

A: Overhead lighting in any room is great for cleaning and general illumination, but not very helpful for brushing teeth, makeup tasks, or shaving. Oddly enough, a single central light fixture makes the whole room seem dark, because whenever you face the wall (or a mirror), you are looking into your own shadow.

For the bathroom, and anyplace where you want to look your best, having just overhead lighting isn’t the way to go — same with dining rooms and bedrooms, by the way. I always add table lamps or sconces to soften the light. Dimmers help, too, because they let you adjust the lights to the perfect level.

For better bathroom vanity lighting for your makeup, you want lights alongside the mirror to reduce harsh shadows and colors. When I’m designing a bathroom from scratch, I generally add sconces at each side of the mirror in addition to a matching bathroom light fixture over the mirror. Sometimes space is tight, and we can put only one light fixture over the mirror. But that is still much better than having all the light come from behind you.

Because you’re in an apartment, look for something you can take with you. Shop for lighted vanity mirrors that plug into an outlet. Or make your own by having an electrician rewire three bathroom vanity light bars to plug into a standard outlet. One bar would go on each side of the mirror, and one over it.

But remember, electricity and splashing water don’t mix. Use caution, follow the manufacturers’ directions, and if you’re not sure, ask a licensed electrician what would be safe in your bathroom.

Other ideas would be to do a makeup vanity in a dry area of your bathroom — if you have space — or even in your bedroom or a hallway niche. Find a vintage vanity or small desk or dresser, and have fun customizing it by painting or refinishing. Some even come with a mirror. All you have to do is add lights.

Have a design dilemma? Jennifer Adams is an award-winning designer, writer and TV personality. Send your questions to AskJennifer@JenniferAdams.com or on Twitter: @JenniferAdams. For more design ideas, visit Jennifer’s blog on her website at www.jenniferadams.com.

Jennifer Adams, FOR THE INQUIRER

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