The key to good vanity lighting is to have it coming from all angles. If it's just from the top or side, there will be shadows on your face distorting what you see in the mirror. Check out the ideas on the following slides for a variety of approaches, some that are focused on the functional aspects of vanity lighting and others that are just plain fun.
This classic dressing room set-up will make you feel like a star. There's a reason that this is what people use backstage when they're getting ready for a performance - lights on four sides allows you to see perfectly in the mirror.
If you're one of those people who sees the bathroom as a place to relax, a blue toned lighting system maybe the approach for you. Combined with the black slate wash basins and the unusual counter with smooth river stones, the blue light gives the feeling of a shady waterfall grotto. It's not much to see by, but you can install another set of lights to be flipped on for more functional purposes.
Chandeliers are not conventionally used for vanity lighting, but they do give an eerie elegance to the space. The top lighting by itself isn't good for really seeing what's going on in the mirror, but it could be one part of a vanity lighting system - it certainly adds a romantic flair.
Extremely functional and uniquely styled, these lights are a fantastic choice for vanity lighting that really helps you to see what you're doing in the mirror. The stem is flexible, allowing them to be moved where needed for each person using the bathroom, and having one on each side really helps to light the face evenly.
Color makes such a strong impression on the senses. If you want to feel like you're stepping into another, more glamorous world when you step in front of the mirror, purple fluorescent lighting is one way to do the trick. Just make sure you have a regular white light for when you desire a clear image of yourself in the mirror.
Fit for Royalty
The left, right and top fixtures on this vanity make absolutely stellar lighting for visibility in the mirror. Of course there are many ways to achieve the same lighting effect, but it's hard to imagine finding a more regal vanity for a home with formal elegance.
Light fixtures that are recessed, meaning they are flush with the ceiling, are a good fit for a modernist decor. Though there are numerous individual lights around this vanity, they are all way above head level, which will result in a shadows on your face when you lean in to look at the mirror. For the bathroom as a whole, however, the system of recessed lights give a nice soft glow.
Having lights behind the vanity is a neat trick to make a glowing focal point in the bathroom, Obviously, this needs to be complimented by other lights, but it does add a gentle, glamorous glow and could even be used like a night light if it was on a dimmer switch.
Having recessed lights that shine down from behind the vanity is useful for seeing things on the counter top, kind of like the dash lights on a car. This is a nice touch that will help you when doing your nails or sorting through jewelry, for example, and also functions as a built in night light.
Instead of wall- or ceiling-mounted vanity lights, you could also consider hanging fixtures. This cute, cheery design points out a general principle about vanity lighting - fixtures that extend in front of the mirror will be reflected in the mirror as you look into to it. This could be a positive or a negative depending on the design and your personal point of view.
In the Spotlight
Spotlights are generally not recommended on their own for vanity lighting, but can be used in conjunction with other fixtures that provide a softer, less shadowy glow. In this example, the spotlight is angled slightly toward the mirror, so it casts less of a shadow on the face and some light is reflected at head level.
Some vanity lights come with covers or shades that play a big role in the quality of light they cast - and, of course, with the style and appearance of the light fixture, as well. Here is an example of a vertical light fixture being used with a vanity, which is a solid idea as they will give an even amount of light up and down both sides of the head and torso.
Framing the Glow
Sconces, a type of light cover that spreads out the light from a bulb, are a good choice for vanities because they create the gentle glow that makes for good bathroom ambiance and good visibility in the mirror - especially if they are used as left and right twins, as these are.
Floor Level Lights
These won't help you see in the mirror, but they will let you know how clean the floor under the bathroom sink is. It is a nice touch, especially for nighttime use when you may not want something that glares from above. It's also an example of bouncing the light off the wall, which creates a pleasing glow and is a common tactic in well-designed lighting systems - in the bathroom or elsewhere.
On the Wild Side
This totally wild vanity design is somehow reminiscent of African art, though it is also highly functional. The hanging lights splashing off the wall add to the exotic abstract design, but actually provide a well-rounded diffuse glow when using the mirror.
People often think of vanity lighting in the way that it is most often seen - traditional glass globe fixtures next to a square mirror mounted on a white wall. Yet, like any part of the house, it can be designed to create a certain ambiance.