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flattering light over vanity

Posted by OntarioMom (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 17, 13 at 11:08

Hi,

I read in a book that the most flattering light over a vanity is provided by light boxes on each side of the mirror. Apparently, this is created by concealing the light sources behind frosted-glass strips. The light boxes need to be a minimum of 3 /14 in deep so there is no direct imaging of the light source. Has anyone tried this? I have always had bathrooms with wall fixtures over the mirror. Would light boxes on their own be enough light over a vanity? Is there anywhere one can buy a ready made mirror that has light boxes on each side and large enough for over a vanity?

Carol


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: flattering light over vanity

Carol, I am not sure what you mean by light boxes, but the strong trend now is to have sconces or pendants on the side of the mirror. I just finished compiling a word document with lighting tips I've collected. Here is what I've found about the side lights:

Task lighting provides adequate light for daily chores, such as applying makeup and shaving. The best task light at the mirror is a pair of fixtures mounted on the wall, flanking the sink. This is called cross illumination and provides shadow-free lighting for the face. Once task lighting has been addressed, look at other types of lighting that will pull the whole room together.

To eliminate shadows under the chin, eyes, and cheeks, fixtures should be mounted on either side of the vanity mirror (or on the mirror's surface, if it's large), 30 to 40 inches apart. Although side sconces offer ideal lighting conditions for grooming, your walls may not have sufficient space for fixtures to fit next to the mirror. If it's more practical for you to install lights above the mirror, use a fixture with bulbs that face downward; you don't want all your light directed toward the ceiling. To locate the proper height for an above-the-mirror fixture, measure 78 inches up from the floor. The top of the mirror should rest about 3 inches below the bottom of the light.

The center of each fixture should be roughly at eye level, or about 66 (65-70) inches above the floor. This will guarantee even illumination across the face for grooming.
In a 5- by 10-foot bathroom, a total of 300 watts of incandescent lighting, including overhead and vanity fixtures is recommended. Use more wattage in larger bathrooms, but no more than eight watts per square foot.

Hope this helps, Rae


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RE: flattering light over vanity

Raehelen,

Your post is extremely helpful. Thank you ever so much for taking your time to educate me. I may very well abandon the idea of a mirror with light boxes due to cost, and go with your idea of a light fixture on each side. The two bathrooms we are renovating are small, but I think we would have room to have a wall mounted fixture on each side of the mirror.

For what it is worth, the mirrors with the light boxes installed are available at Wayvfair seen in the link above

Here is a link that might be useful: lighted mirrors


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RE: flattering light over vanity

Ontariomom: "I read in a book that the most flattering light over a vanity is provided by light boxes on each side of the mirror. ... I have always had bathrooms with wall fixtures over the mirror."

As I have written here before (I apologize to those reading this who have a sense of déjà vu), we solved the flattering lighting matter -- with some attractive ancillary benefits -- with an entirely different above-the-mirror strategy.

When we remodeled our powder room, we started with an existing very cheap fixture mounted above the mirror that was of the "barbell" design: two regular A19 medium base bulbs mounted sideways parallel to the wall and facing left and right. We had selected that fixture decades before at a corner hardware store because we did not want to be committed to exotic, hard to get, usually very expensive, possibly to be discontinued in the future, weird bulb types. Our fixture looks a bit like the Hudson Valley Auburn would look if you mounted it horizontally -- and used much cheaper materials. (Amazon is one place the stocks the Hudson Valley Auburn, so you can see what I mean there.) I assume -- but do not know -- that the Hudson Valley Auburn could be mounted horizontally; whether it could accept A19 rather than torpedo bulbs I cannot tell you.

By itself, that kind of fixture mounted above the mirror will not necessarily create flattering light; but in a narrow space with fairly proximate side walls, we covered the walls with very highly reflective textured wall covering: we used pattern 570631 from the Internet Wallpaper Store; the picture on-line does not represent it very well, making it look blue, which it isn't, but I give a link below.

Then we replaced the 60-watt incandescent light bulbs in our cheap light sconce, which had an omnidirectional radiating pattern, with 7.5-watt LED bulbs, Lowe's item #338802 (Utilitech is the Lowe's house brand for bulbs sourced from Feit). That LED bulb is very directional, somewhere between a spotlight and a floodlight, and, mounted horizontally in the fixture, it sends very little direct light toward the person in front of the mirror, but sends almost all of its light output out to the side walls, where is is diffused by the texture of the wall covering and reflected back into the room -- that is, illuminating the person standing on front of the mirror. The LED is 3000° K, a "warm" white, and -- unlike compact fluorescent bulbs -- has a broad spectrum, similar to incandescent bulbs' light.

It sounds complicated, but it really does work, producing an almost shadowless flattering light. And the two bulbs use only 15 watts, total.

Here is a link that might be useful: Highly reflective wallpaper


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RE: flattering light over vanity

herring,

Thanks for your detailed explanation and providing a solution that will not cost a fortune. I have a few questions. How high is your fixture over the mirror hung? Our situation will be a mirror straight ahead over the sink where we could place a fixture overhead, an interior window on one adjacent side (with cove lighting from strip lighting), and another small mirror on the last side. Do you think the combination of frosted window and mirror on the two return walls will work like your wallpaper does? Or do you think the texture of the wallpaper makes all the difference?

I appreciate you helpful explanation.

Carol


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RE: flattering light over vanity

OntarioMom: "How high is your fixture over the mirror hung? Our situation will be a mirror straight ahead over the sink where we could place a fixture overhead, an interior window on one adjacent side (with cove lighting from strip lighting), and another small mirror on the last side. Do you think the combination of frosted window and mirror on the two return walls will work like your wallpaper does? Or do you think the texture of the wallpaper makes all the difference?"

I attach a "before" picture of our old sink/vanity/medicine cabinet, before we did the remodel. At the time, the lighting fixture was not an issue, and is cut off in this image, so you cannot see it in the picture, but it is immediately above the mirror, just high enough that the medicine cabinet door has clearance for opening and closing. (The window at the other end of the powder room is reflected in the mirror, and that will give you a feel for the ceiling height.)

My guess (because we have not tried it both ways) is that the texture of the wall covering plays a pretty large role in the diffusion of the concentrated light from the LED floodlights, which impinges on the side walls mostly in an area from about six inches this side of the back wall to maybe 18 inches from the back wall: basically the portion of the wall above the sink's backsplash. It is that diffuse, soft, light that is so flattering.


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RE: flattering light over vanity

OntarioMom,

Realizing that, having seen the "before" picture, you probably would want to see the "after" picture where the painted walls have been covered with the new wall covering but the old <$10 sconce above the (replaced) medicine cabinet survived, I just shot a photo of the same end of the powder room and attach it here. I used the very harshest, unflattering, light possible for this image, the on-camera flash of a point 'n' shoot. The wide-angle setting of the lens creates a bit of perspective distortion, causing the sconce falsely to appear not to be centered over the mirror and to be slightly trapezoidal instead of rectangular, but you get the idea, I think. You can also see the true silver color of the wall covering, which differs from the blue image at the Internet Wallpaper Store.

(In daylight and in the ambient light from the LEDs in the sconce, the glass tiles of the backsplash appear as more of a rust/bronze color than the garnet color that they appear to be in this photo.)


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RE: flattering light over vanity

I put can lights behind my head in the ceiling and I look 20 years younger in the mirror. I have a lighted magnifying mirror for practical purposes. Light reflected off of the mirror back at the face is the most flattering, in my opinion.


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RE: flattering light over vanity

@ herring That wallpaper is really neat. Thanks for the pictures to help with the visual.

@hosenemesis,

You look 20 years younger! I need some of that magic. We are putting a pot a bit behind the vanity, nearer to the door. Hopefully that will help. Thanks for your comment.

Carol


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