Lights over vanity - upwards or downwards

LinelleMarch 23, 2014

Currently I have boob lights over my vanity:

They're not staying. :) However, they produce abundant light. I think each is 40 watts, so 240 is plenty. Of course, the light is going out in every direction.

Everything in the above photo is being replaced. I think I will have a new light in the same general location (as opposed to sconces). Some lights point up (see example below), while others point down. What should I be taking into consideration?

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I have lights facing up in one bathroom, and going down in another. The up lights give more general illumination to the bathroom, while the down ones focus more light on the mirror and sink. I am going with down facing lights in my remodel, but chose fixtures with long enough shades so that I don't see the light bulb as much.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 6:31PM
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sjharris53, that makes sense. I don't want to see the bulb either but I think I'd prefer more illumination below than above.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 7:02PM
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We did our guest bath last year with a 36" vanity. We had a 4 light version of yours and replaced with a 3 light down-facing. We have 75 watt bulbs in them. Plenty of light.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 7:25PM
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I just purchased lighting for three bathrooms in our new house under construction. I'm going with down facing lights. Two of the baths have no natural light, so I need to light those baby's up!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 7:27PM
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I prefer down, keeps out more dust..... and easier to change bulbs. Of course in our new build the electricians put them all up instead of down as we specified. I think they like to do everything at least twice. Lol.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:10PM
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may_flowers, so you have a 36" vanity with a 3-light unit above = 225 watts.

I have about 240 watts with my boob lights which is plenty.

My vanity will be 56-57" and I'm wondering if I need a 4 or 5 unit light with maybe lower wattage. I want to distribute the light. This will be the only lit area in the bathroom (no cans, nothing over the tub), although I do have a high, south-facing window over the tub and it brings lots of light into the room.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:21PM
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Maybe a 4 light? Our lighting designer used a 3 light on our 42" cabinets and a 5 light on our 62" cabinet. Disregard the upside down lights. ;)

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:30PM
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Sometimes it just depends on what else is going on in the area. Will you have medicine cabinets that need to swing open? If they are down facing lights, there may not be enough room.

Tips from the Ferguson's website: Don't extend the fixture past the mirror. If the globes point down, they should never overhang onto the mirror. Make sure you place the fixture over the mirror at 80" off the finished floor

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:33PM
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Right now my boob lights are centered at 80". At least the old builders got that right. The top of my large mirror is 76" off the floor. So that's working, no overhang over the mirror.

I plan to get a new, somewhat smaller mirror over the vanity and a recessed medicine cabinet on the side wall, so there won't be any problem with swinging doors.

In another thread someone recommended looking at LightingDirect and I immediately found a 4-light fixture I love (Hinkley Avon collection). It can be up or down facing so that's a nice option.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:45PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Some fixtures can be hung either way. I vote for down. Also, get fixtures that can handle more vs fewer watts. You can always put in a lower wattage bulb, but you cannot go the other way. Our old bathroom had 12 of those 40w boobs across a 7' mirror and vanity, and when we turned on the switch the sun would be jealous. BUT they were great for makeup, hair, and everything. They throw light out in all directions. Once you put shades on fixtures the light is more directed.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 9:27PM
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Babka, 12 boob lights?!!! I'm impressed.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 10:33PM
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Yeah, can we see those? The lights, I mean.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 10:45PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

The bathroom is 7x11'. In addition to those Twelve 40W "boob" lights there was a ceiling light centered in the room that had two 60Watt bulbs, and a fan with light over the shower that had another 100W bulb. There were no shadows in that room. Here are the before and after pics.

Yes, our electricity bill has dropped. ;-)


    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Two sconces on each side of the mirror pointing up. Three can lights in the ceiling (pointing down of course).

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 9:21AM
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Babka, wow! Also, what a difference. You talk about the other ceiling and fan lights in the past tense, so are they no longer there?

I'm curious how the amount/quality of light compares with the 3-light fixture above and two sconces. What amount of wattage?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:57AM
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I almost bought a Hinkley, but I realized it was too angular for my Delta Cassidy faucet, which has curvy lines.

My guest bath doesn't have a window or other light. No problem finding anything in the shower with three lights. I use a clear shower liner with a white curtain to let more light in.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 12:40PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

The photo doesn't show the 5, (25W)LED can lights. There are two, centered over the sinks, then one in the shower, and one between the shower and toilet. They all have shower trim so they are flat on the ceiling, not recessed. I also have a lighted 3x make-up mirror mounted on the wall.

The halogen bulbs in the light fixtures pictured are 60W ea. We tried a bunch of different types of bulbs in those...LED, fluorescent, halogen in different wattages to get what we wanted. I thought I had to have as much wattage as I had with my bank of boob lights.

Times have changed from the old days of light bulbs. Lumens are the new measuring stick today, and each type of bulb gives you a different kind of light. Then, within those categories, there are "warm" and "cool" and "daylight" . Halogen is most friendly to your skin, but they give off heat. LEDs stay cool and cost pennies to use. I made about 8 trips to a "Bulb and Battery" store near here, and they would let me try bulbs and return them, except for the LEDs. Once you buy those, they are yours.

I love the look of my new bathroom with the added sinks and drawers, but even with all the new lights, the light isn't as uniform as it was with the boobs.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 1:36PM
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Babka, at least your boobs had a chrome base, whereas mine have brassy brass. What a shame they're so ugly, because they sure do put out great light in every direction. No need for up-or-down? conversations.

I have a halogen light in my other bathroom. It has these tiny little bulbs putting out 100 watts and are they ever bright. The photo shows how much space is above them. My ceiling vaults to about 12.5 ft. The bathroom is tiny so it's a trapezoidal space on end. Anyway, it really produces a lot of light.

If I have to have vanity lights high enough to clear the mirror, and they're downward facing, it's not going to be easy to avoid seeing the bulb, right?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 5:16PM
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Boob lights -- lol!!! I am so disliking of those things, though I don't want to offend anyone. When we moved into this house 18 years ago I swore those would be the first things to leave. Course they weren't ... but they are gone now. shudder.

Thanks for the laugh! I am looking forward to reading this thread (running now).

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 5:45PM
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The standard solution to light bulbs that are visible is to use clear glass bulbs.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 5:56PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

My old Boobs were on a beveled mirror base, (not chrome) probably giving them even more reflectability.

Here's a shot looking up while I stand in front of a sink. The can light is directly over the sink.The bulb is pretty far up into the shade. You would have to bend way forward and look up to see any bulbs, so, it depends on the fixture. You are wise to do all this homework before you purchase your light fixtures.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 6:07PM
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Your old boobs. :D

Thanks for the pic, Babka. Can't see the bulbs and that's a beautiful fixture.

I'm doing what research I can. I'm sure there will be something I never thought of.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 6:20PM
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Sorry to hijack a bit
Babka - love your vanity as well as your boobless lights.
Who makes your lights? I think I will want to use LED but that is not for sure.
How wide is your vanity?
What sinks did you use?
What faucets did you use?
How did you deal with the plumbing?
I just want to import your bathroom - Thanks A2gemini
PS - you outdid our Bathroom boobs - but we don't have any in the center..

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 8:50PM
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a2gemini, I don't consider your post a hijack, but good questions that logically come out of a good discussion.


What are the dimensions of your mirror?
Do you find the sconces effective given how widely they're spaced?
Do the sconces + over mirror light provide enough light *at the vanity*?

My current boobs provide 240 watts of unencumbered light. With your setup, you should have 300, right?

Today I was in a lighting store. Vanity lights look so much bigger in person. The Hinkley I found yesterday that I thought I loved is just big, lots of chrome. Now that I've decided I want chrome plumbing fixtures I'm worried about having to match things. I would rather not, but I don't know the best way to deviate without it looking wrong.

And OMG, don't get me started with tile.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 9:11PM
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I'm going for chrome, chrome and more chrome, bwahaha, but there are other options. Without question, if you want chrome faucets, you could easily go with a different silver metal (i.e. nickel or stainless steel) for your lights. Even a brown metal finish (like oil rubbed bronze) could also work like with brown toned tiles. And then there are painted finishes which might be even more flexible.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 10:22PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Here's the scoop on our 7x11' master bath.

Lights: From Lamps Plus. Possini Euro Bennett sconces and wall light. They take up to 100W bulbs, but when we tried that we were blinded by the brightness.

Sinks: Lacava rectangles 19x15" with 2" click clack drains. (So much nicer to look at than a regular drain. The overflow holes are on the near side so you don't see them while standing at the sink) We had the Caeserstone countertop cut to overhang the sinks 3/4" all around to give us more surface.

Faucets: Grohe Eurocube w/o a drain lever (easier to clean)

Vanity custom: 7' long. U-shaped drawers under the sinks to work around plumbing. Fronts are made of a double sided textured product like melamine and is indestructible.

Mirror is roughly 3x5' (because Fibonacci likes it that way)

We have halogen bulbs in the sconces and above the mirror. Those new 60W bulbs give the same light as incandescent 75W bulbs. The LED ceiling lights give off a LOT of light even tho they are rated 25W. So, these days you don't add up watts to figure out the amount of light you have, you need to add up lumens to determine if you will have enough light.

Nobody said it would be easy...


    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 11:14PM
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click clack drains

I had to look that up. Does it mean you close/open it manually at the drain? I rarely fill a lav bowl with water for anything. Not having to clean a topside drain opener seems a good thing.

Yes, I do understand about lumens, although I think in terms of watts. So, if your Fibonacci-approved mirror is 60" wide, how effective are your sconces if 1) you're standing in front of a sink (other side of your face), or 2) standing right in the middle of the vanity?

My current mirror is 54" over a 56" vanity. It doesn't have to be that big as there is just the one sink. It would have to be less wide to accommodate sconces, say 36", which would leave 10" on either side for sconces. Is that enough room? There will be a recessed medicine cabinet on a side wall, but I think there's enough clearance.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 11:39AM
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I had to look up click clack drains too! Turns out I also have one in my Master BR, it came with the Price Pfister faucet I have, so I'm guessing click clack may be a proprietary name of Lacava's. Hadn't even thought about the looks per se or the advantage of cleaning, but it sure does seal the sink well!

10" is enough room for the lights, but do mock up the medicine cabinet to see if it clears when swung open, you may want to make sure it only opens a certain amount...still have to have mine made (I want semi-recessed, so I can have nice deep shelves, and a plug in, think custom will be the only way to get everything I want), but will make sure it only opens 90 degrees as I have hanging pendants that it would hit otherwise.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Babka NorCal 9b

I love my Click-Clacks. Other companies make them too. I have to hand wash compression sleeves (garments, not a plumbing thingies)often, and at first I thought "ick", I have to put my hand under water to open the drain???? Well, duh. Aren't your hands IN the water already? I don't think my husband has ever closed his sink drain. Did you know you can buy 1.5" click-clack type drains to replace your old ones? I saw those at the local plumbing store.

Regarding shadows. With all the lights on, there are no shadows to speak of. I suppose if I took a light meter standing dead center between the two sinks would give the most even light. But the right-side sink is mine and when I stand in front of it, I can pull out a make-up drawer on either side of me, and turn eyes-right to the 3x magnifier for eye-liner, and other details.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 2:44PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Regarding the mirror size: Our original bathroom had a wall to wall mirror. Our GC's design consultant suggested two mirrors, one over each sink with 3 sconces. They looked beautiful in the scale drawing she made. I put blue tape to outline a couple mirrors and then covered the rest of our old mirror with newspaper so I could see what it would be like.

Well, it made the room look smaller, and when we were both standing in front of our sinks, we couldn't talk to each other in the mirror. Silly I know, but you had to turn you head to see the other guy. Not that we have so many discussions while brushing our teeth... but we've had this big mirror for 30 years and we are used to it. I also wanted to see what was reflected in the larger mirror...our bamboo glass/mosaic tile on the outside of the shower. And when I stand farther back I can check out clothes better. So it might not be ideal design-wise, but it is just perfect for us.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 3:00PM
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Babka, thanks for the real-life experience. I like your idea of covering up the existing mirror to try out a smaller size. While I don't really need all the real estate I currently have to look at myself, its reflective and room-opening powers are a major consideration. I do not put on makeup in there (I prefer to sit in front of a magnifying mirror and listen to the radio), but I can always use flattering light (sconces). Recently I was in a Banana Republic dressing room and OMG did the sconces ever flatter. Too bad the sales staff considered me invisible.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 3:16PM
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Babka, also, thanks for mentioning Fibonacci. My late DH was a fan. It's interesting how certain proportions are more pleasing than others. I will see what I can do toward that end in the mirror department.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 3:41PM
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Another option, besides click-clacks, depending on how you use your sink, is to install a grid drain. I did that for one elderly relative who was calling me over to fix a slow bathroom sink drain, seemed like every 4 to 5 months. The problem was always gunk collecting around the stopper mechanism. When I asked, I was told that the sink stopper was never used. So, I installed a grid drain and there were no more problems with a slow drain.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 8:58AM
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Babka, today I did the newspaper thing over my existing mirror (see photo with original post). I thought if I planned to use sconces, I'd see what a 36" wide mirror looked like, 24" high, a little more than Fibonacci would like, but, you know.

I hate it! Of course, the newspaper background makes me want to scream. Paired with the boob lights, it looks like a dressing room in a strip joint.

I want a bigger mirror. My existing one is just a big plain-edged mirror held on with those clip things. If I get a nicer one, beveled with or without a frame, I think I'll drop the idea of sconces.

I'm going to look into getting a mirror made at a local glass shop. I'll really need to know what I'm going to do about lights over the vanity before I know what dimensions I need.

I'm gonna leave the paper up for another day or two, but I really can't stand to look at it.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 7:46PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

YES! That is exactly what I did. I really needed more mirror too. Do you know that you can have holes cut in a mirror and mount the sconces there? Then you have to deal with the double reflection of your sconces. Do a look at and look for "through the mirror sconces" to see what I mean. That might work for you. Hey, nothing wrong with the Boob lights. ;-D


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 9:41PM
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Why can't they make boob lights look less like boobs? They are so good for illumination, but I think my daughter would disown me if I don't get rid of them.

I've already taken the newspaper down. It was depressing me. I'm glad I did it though, because I realize how much I love a large mirror and 36 x 22 won't cut it. I know that sconces can poke through mirrors, but I don't think it's for me, e.g., double reflection, holes in the mirror.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:21PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Out here they call them "Hollywood Lights". Does that make you feel any better? Good luck. My newspaper lasted only 24 hrs too. ;-) You will find a fixture or some skinny sconces that you really like and that will make it all better. Keep searching.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:57PM
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Babka, I'm "out here" too and I'm sure their official name is something other than "Boob Lights." Home Depot has them proudly displayed, unnamed. :) They certainly provide light and lots of it.

I also noticed the declining number of incandescent lights at HD. I guess as long as I can match a 240 watt equivalency *and* I can't see a twisty bulb, I'll be okay. More and more LEDs are showing up.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 8:35PM
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I know this is months after this thread, but thought I'd add a few of my thoughts & info.

Those lights - I've had those and always called them Hollywood Lights. I've never seen bulbs that large, though. Mine had tiny bulbs.

I'm deciding between larger wall mirror or hanging more design-look smaller mirror, so the posts above were informative to me.

As for the lights above the mirror, I'll add a thought that no one mentioned. Lights above the mirror, as opposed to sconces on the side, are generally unflattering. And lighting facing down above the mirror is the most unflattering at all. That's the sort of lighting used in movies to make people look old and such. It highlights shadows on the face. (Movies use lights placed low, facing upward, to give a scary look, like in horror movies.)

So if I use lights above the mirror, which I may have to because of space, I will face them upward, so the light will bounce off the ceiling and give a more overall light to the room, instead of focusing on the face so much. I do have a small window in the bath, though.

As for incandescent vs CFL, I've been looking at LEDs. They're pricey, but they use almost no electricity, last decades supposedly, and come in warm or daylight or cool. So I may go that route for the bulbs.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 12:12PM
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I ended up getting the 5-bulb Hinkley Avon fixture, which I love. As my only source of light, besides a south-facing window, I knew I would need them to be downward facing.

It went up early in my bathroom remodel and initially we just stuck available bulbs in it (random assortment) so that the workers had light by which to work. I made three discoveries:

1. It puts out a lot of light.
2. The downward orientation doesn't cause harsh shadows. This may be due to the design of the light and/or nature of the shades and bulbs. But I think the light is softer and more diffused than the old 360-degree boob lights.
3. Most incandescent and halogen bulbs have UGLY stamps on the bulb end.

I spent a lot of time trying to remove the stamps. Sometimes I was successful, other times, they would not budge an iota.

Then I made another discovery: Boob/Hollywood/Vanity lights have NO STAMP, probably because they're meant to be exposed. I also discovered that 40-watts x 5 is the perfect amount of light for my bathroom. Perfect.

Every time I go to Home Depot, I buy 6 40-watt boob lights. One day they will be unavailable, but I will have a stash that will probably outlive me.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 12:45PM
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linelle- where did you get the Hinkley bathroom light? They look awesome!

I'm hoping that the 40 watt bulbs won't be outlawed for a long long time :P

    Bookmark   September 6, 2014 at 3:01AM
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Hi markmanduca! I got the Hinkley through my local lighting design store. They are the same price as through Lamps Plus, which I always assumed would be cheaper. Not so. My lighting store offers everything at the same price and I liked the idea of shopping locally.

I was concerned that 5 lights with chrome finish would be just too-too, but it's not. It doesn't scream CHROME! The shades are a soft white, no color cast. In a downward orientation, bulbs do show. If that is a problem for you, it's something to consider. Since I'm using vanity lights, they are very smooth and round and I've stopped even noticing them.

Each indiv. light can take 100 watts. I wanted maximum capacity. Who knew that 200 watts total would be perfect?

When I was researching lights online, this 5-light version said upward-facing only. It made no sense, since none of the other variations did. I did an online chat with Hinkley and asked about it and they confirmed upward-facing only. I asked why that was and the gal I spoke to said, I have no idea, let me ask. When she came back online, she said, it's a mistake, should be upward/downward, and they needed to change all their info.

I'm good to go with 40-watt bulbs for a long, long time.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2014 at 10:26AM
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Sofia Akhter


This is my first post on this website. I just adore your mirror. Very beautiful, very classy.

Would you be kind enough to tell me your vanity size and the mirror size as well. I have a remodel going on for my hall bath / kids bath. I had a 60" vanity and I replaced it with a 48" vanity. I am very confused what size my mirror and the lighting fixture should be?

By no means I am trying hijack this thread. I dont know how to start a new one with reference to your post.



    Bookmark   February 11, 2015 at 2:59PM
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Hi Sofia, thanks for your kind words. :)

My vanity is 58" wide (counter height and standard depth), the same width as my old vanity. I used to have a large, unframed mirror and went with a framed one based on recommendations from this board. If I had it to do over, I'd go with another unframed mirror, but that's just me. The one I have is the Silver Birch from Crate & Barrel, 47"x29". I repainted it myself because it had way too much gold in the "silver."

Others can probably better advise on the right size mirror or light for your vanity. I like a lot of mirror and the size I wanted is difficult to find. I was going for 48x30, which pleases Fibonacci. :) My light is the only light in the bathroom and I like it a lot, both for the light output and looks.

Good luck to you!!!

Crate & Barrel silver birch mirror

    Bookmark   February 13, 2015 at 8:22AM
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