Balance Lighting to put Yourself in Most Flattering Light

Washington Post, by Patricia Dane Rogers

In most rooms, the goal is to find lighting that makes the space look good. In the bathroom, the lighting needs to make us look good. Whether for shaving, putting on makeup or dressing in front of a bathroom mirror, the ideal lighting will let you see what you're doing without making you wince.

Architect Reena Racki of Reena Racki Associates in Washington said the familiar Hollywood-style mirrors or medicine cabinets with the round bulbs marching across the top and down the sides do the job just fine, but have an undeniably dated look. Plus they get hot.

"If you're dressing and making up in the bathroom, it's good to have lighting that is similar to where you'll be spending the rest of your day. You might look fine in the bathroom's fluorescent lighting, but appear washed out under incandescent lighting in your office," Racki said. "I like to use incandescent lights" like halogen, which are bright and give a crisp white light (the bulbs last longer as well).

She often uses contemporary lighting, including a medicine cabinet designed by Philippe Starck with a sleek built-in light fixture from Town & Country Baths in Washington (202-244-8989). But she said the choices are unlimited: Companies like Flos, Artemide, Resolute, Steng and Luceplan also offer intriguing contemporary designs. Heid agreed. "You don't have to think 'bathroom' " when you're choosing a sconce or other fixture, she says. "If your house is traditional, the overhead light could come from a beautiful shallow alabaster bowl" pendant light on a tripod chain "or even a dainty crystal chandelier."

And Racki puts in a good word for the least expensive and most flattering light source that she knows -- the sun. "If there's a question of privacy, a sandblasted glass window or one of glass block can bring in outside light and even sandblasted glass bathroom doors can borrow light from an adjacent room."