Wall light fixtures pointing up or down in a bathroom?

osxaddictDecember 17, 2007

Hi all.. We've got a couple of bathrooms that are newly remodeled and each has two octagonal boxes on the wall above each sink for some sort of light fixture.. In doing my homework on the web looking at various lighting fixtures, some have the light shining up on the ceiling and others down onto the sink area -- what do you prefer? In our last master bath, the light was provided by can-lights that were pointing down on top of the sinks.. My gut tells me to have the light pointing down, but the light shining off the ceiling can be pleasant as well (assuming there's a sufficient amount).. The two bathrooms also have a couple of other fixtures (over the showers) and also built into the ceiling vent but those are fluorescent and provide a piddly amount of (very white) light (but were required as part of California Title 24)..

Anyway, I'm not sure what works better here.. Thanks for any info you can provide!


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Hi Rick,
I'm just picking out a couple of vanity lights and discovered that there are some brands that let you change the lights to "up" or "down" at will. I think this is a great feature because there are times when you might want it one way, but not all the time...

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 10:37PM
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Indirect light bounced off the ceiling is likely to be more pleasant, easy on the eyes and soft with few shadows IF you can get enough illumination that way. The problem with indirect light is that it goes everywhere rather than just where you need it, and much of it gets soaked up instead of bounced around by various surfaces. I wouldn't consider indirect light unless the walls & ceiling are white, or nearly so. Having the light point directly down puts more light approximately where you need it, but is likely to cause shadows on your face while standing under it; not great for makeup, shaving, etc.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 6:26AM
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Thanks for the info.. Our ceilings are in fact white (Sherwin Williams 'Swiss Coffee') and based on Jon's comments above, I'm tempted to lean towards a light that either puts out above and below or only above if light output is on the higher end of the spectrum (60-100 watt/lamp). Thanks again..

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 3:15AM
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One other factor: how often are you willing to clean out the dust and gunk that gets into those up-pointing fixtures? My unwillingness to do the necessary cleaning has dictated my choice of fixtures throughout the house: there are no shades/lens covers on the bottoms of fixtures. Some are open both top and bottom. Combine that with a translucent shade and you get light dispersal in all directions.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 5:51AM
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Well.. I think we're ending up going with a mixed bag -- some 1/2 circle sconces in one bathroom (yes -- more difficult to clean) and some easy to clean fixtures (more traditional styling) in another.. Thanks for all the help!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 6:25PM
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I had too much difficulty trying to find fixtures with just shades that I liked and could afford, so I bit the bullet and bought most of what I needed with the glass shades that will require bug removal from time to time. The way I look at it, whatever kind you have will require some cleaning from time to time anyway. Ah, can't get away from the dirt no matter how hard we try!!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 11:58PM
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I agree with pinktoes. The cleaning aspect is a big one for me. We are on our 4th build and I learnt that one after the first build. No my fixtures have no openings on the top, keep out the things that need to be cleaned.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 3:46PM
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I understand that light openings pointing down may cause shadows on a lady's face while putting on makeup,or when a man is trying to shave, but should vanity take precedence over common sense and practicality? My wife and her decorator went ahead and pointed a five sconce fixture facing up. Well, it certainly provided nice mood lighting in the bathroom, but doesn't throw the light downward onto the sink/counter. Also, it's above a mirror, the sconce openings are 7 1/2 feet above the floor and 8 inches from the ceiling. So, aside from cleaning the damn things from bugs, cobwebs, dust - do you know how difficult it will be changing light bulbs? Instead of reaching underneath, we (or I) will have to get a ladder or stand on the sink and fit hand and arm between ceiling and sconce - rather than just stand on solid flooring, reach under, clean or change the bulb. Thanks for giving me a space to vent.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 1:50PM
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For me, it would also depend on the height of the box. We have downlights, but the box is actually a little too low and my husband has to bend his knees to see the top of his head in the mirror, so not ideal. With the box in the same position, an uplight would be better for visibility (but it would stick up above the partial wall, so we didn't do that.

It also depends on the fixture itself. If the light shines through a frosted glass, for example, it softens it and the light does a better job of bouncing off your face and on to the mirror. I think the effect is very different from a downlight in the ceiling, which can give those harsh shadows, but even then, I think it depends on the exact placement.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 4:36PM
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