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Choosing the right color temperature and CRI for bathroom lighting

The lighting in a bathroom should be both practical and beautiful, which can be optimized by using the best color temperature and CRI for the design.

Modern bathrooms have to be able to fulfil a multitude of functions, from bathing, grooming and applying makeup to a relaxing getaway on a stressful day.

Therefore, the lighting needs to be bright enough to be practical but not too bright, as this will make the room feel uninviting.

A few ways to ensure that you maintain this balance within your bathroom’s lighting is to match the undertone of your lighting to the undertones in your bathroom color scheme, use different levels of lighting and to make use of dimmers for different functionalities.

However, the most important step when it comes to the lighting in your bathroom is choosing the right color temperature and Color Rendering Index (CRI) for your lights, as this cannot be changed by adding different lights or changing the positions of your lights.

The importance of bathroom lighting

Bathrooms are multi-use spaces, where most people start and end their days.

The fact that people need to wash, groom and do their makeup in this room, sometimes before the sun has even come up or after it has set, means that lighting is an integral and functional part of any bathroom’s design.

Bathroom lighting is always best when it manages to mimic natural sunlight, but the lighting in this room also needs to be bright enough for the space to be both beautiful and functional.

In recent years, homeowners and designers have taken bathrooms from small, uninteresting rooms, to spaces with their own distinct designs and styles.

When we take this into consideration, the lighting in your bathroom should also be seen as a way to enhance this design and further the look and feel of the space.

It is important to remember that the darker a room appears to be, the smaller that room will feel to guests and people living in the house.

The modern bathroom can also be seen as an escape or a place to relax to many people, and therefore lighting that is too harsh or bright is also not desirable. This is because this might make the bathroom feel too cold and industrial.

Tips and tricks to achieve the best bathroom lighting

Since the lighting in your bathroom is so important in creating the right ambience and functionality, there are a few tips and tricks to ensure you achieve the best possible result. Bathrooms are often the smaller and more oddly shaped rooms within the house.

Although it can be tempting to only insert one overhead light in a small space, this can cause a lot of shadows and dark spots within a bathroom, which will affect the functionality of the room negatively.

Therefore, it is best to work with lighting in different layers of temperature and brightness, to ensure that every inch of your bathroom is properly lit.

Lighting is often inserted in vanities, medicine cabinets or even in the shower within a bathroom to ensure that the lighting within the room is even.

Sconces, like these ShineTech Wall Sconces Set are also good alternatives to ceiling lights, to ensure that there is more than one dimension to your bathroom lighting.

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When you insert lighting in a bathroom, especially in places where there is a lot of moisture like near the bathtub or sink, do make sure that the lights are wet location rated, to ensure they will be safe to use in high-moisture conditions.

Dimming switches can also be very practical when used in bathrooms. Being able to increase and decrease the brightness of the lights in your bathroom means that you can have the lights brighter when you need to see fine details, but lower when you want to create a more relaxed ambience in the room.

If your goal with lighting is more on the aesthetic side, it is best to remember that the lighting will look best when the warmth of the lights matches with your overall color scheme in the bathroom design.

If the walls in your bathroom have cooler undertones, then a higher temperature light will look best, whereas, if you have a warmer color scheme – a lower temperature light will work best.

The most important factors to consider when you are choosing the lighting for your bathroom is the temperature, the Color Rendering Index and different types of bulbs which you can choose from.

The best color temperature for bathroom lighting

The color temperature of a light bulb is calculated on a scale of 1000 to 10 000 in degrees of Kelvin (K). The lower the number, the warmer the color of the light will be.

This means that the light will look yellow when turned on. If the number is higher (closer to 10 000 K), the light will look bluer.

The most popular light temperatures can be summarized as follows:

Color temperature in degrees Kelvin Color name
9000 Overcast Sky
6500 Daylight
5000 Bright White
4100 Cool White
3500 Neutral White
3000 Soft White
2700 Warm White
1500 Candlelight

The consensus is that lights with a color temperature between 2700K and 3000K (between a soft white and a warm white color) are the best lights to use for your bathroom. This color temperature is comfortable and is the light most people are used to seeing in their homes.

This is a relatively warm color temperature, which is flattering to most skin tones and creates a warm and inviting ambience within the room.

However, this temperature is still bright enough to ensure that you can see details, as it looks like more of a neutral white to the human eye.

The best Color Rendering Index (CRI) for bathroom lighting

The color temperature is not the only factor to consider when you are choosing the right light for your bathroom.

A lightbulb which measures high on the Kelvin scale can still make it difficult for you to see and make the room feel dim, if it measures low on the CRI.

The CRI is a scale developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is used to measure the ability of a light to make colors look as natural as possible from one to 100.

If a light measures closer to the 100 end of the CRI scale, this means that this light will bring out richer colors and higher contrast within your bathroom.

A higher number in this scale also means that this light makes the room look as close to the natural environment as possible.

If you are worried about your 2700K to 3000K light being too dark for your bathroom, ensure that the lights you choose have a CRI of 80 or higher.

This is the optimal range for a bathroom light, as it will allow you to see a lot of fine details and be as close to natural daylight as possible.

Different types of lights

Once you have found light bulbs with the perfect temperature and intensity on the Kelvin and CRI scales, you can decide where to put these light bulbs in your bathroom for the best possible practical and aesthetic functionality.

In order to decide how many lights you need in your bathroom and where these lights should be placed, you will need to take the size of your bathroom, the layout of your bathroom and the amount of natural light in your bathroom into account.

The first type of lights to consider are task lights. These are lights that are essential to certain tasks like mirror lights that will be needed when you are putting on your makeup.

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Furthermore, ambient lights are needed to cast a general glow across the entire bathroom, and create that warm and inviting feeling within your bathroom and ensure that all of your different design elements stand out.

Accent lighting can be used to draw attention to very specific design elements, such as artwork. Hanging a dramatic light within your bathroom can be a design element all on its own, but it can also add some drama to the bathroom to make it feel grand.

You can also use the light fixtures themselves as part of the design elements, as there are many beautiful decorative lights that will fit into any bathroom design style.

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The lighting in your bathroom may be much more important than you think. Not only is the lighting responsible for keeping you safe and comfortable, but it can also be used to emphasize and accentuate the design and style of your bathroom.

Whether you are concerned with the more practical or more stylish side of lighting, there is sure to be a chandelier, sconce, LED or other light fixture that can add to the decorative style of your bathroom or help you to highlight certain impactful features better.

As long as you keep the color temperature and the Color Rendering Index at the optimal levels, you will be able to use and enjoy your bathroom, no matter the time of day.