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Randall Whitehead

Professional Lighting Expert

Best Bathroom Lighting & Best Task Lighting

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When designing the lighting for your home, you should start by learning the “language of light”. Don’t be intimidated. There are only four words to learn: decorative, task, accent, and ambient. All electric lighting falls into these four categories. Once you have these terms down then working out the lighting for any of the rooms in your house becomes much less overwhelming. There is no one light fixture that can give you everything you need to illuminate a room properly. The trick is using a variety of light sources to create a flexible, inviting space. This is what is referred to as “light layering”. These categories are also referred to as the four functions of light. Here is a list of what they are and what it is that they do:

Decorative
These are what I like to call “architectural jewelry”. Their only purpose is to look pretty. They add sparkle to a space. Chandeliers, exterior lanterns, and candlestick-type wall sconces fall into this category. They should not be used as the work horses for lighting a space. When they are too bright they can visually overpower the other elements of the design. Subtle is the way to go when thinking about decorative lighting.

Task
Lighting by which you do work, such as the under cabinet lighting in the kitchen, reading lamp next to a chair, lighting in your closet, and lighting at the bathroom mirror for applying makeup or shaving.

Accent
Lighting used to highlight objects in a space. This adds depth and dimension to an environment. Recessed adjustable fixtures, track lights, portable uplights, and directional landscape lights all fall into this category.

Ambient
This is the gentle fill light for a room. It softens shadows on people’s faces and fills the volume of the space with a warm glow, as if the room was being filled with the light of a roaring fire. Ambient light comes from illumination that is bounced off the ceiling. Such sources as opaque wall sconces, torcheres, pendant hung indirect fixtures, and cove lighting can be used to create the ambient light.

The Bottom Line
By layering these four functions of light together you can create an environment that welcomes visitors into the space, while providing usable light for day-to-day activities. Getting a feel for these terminologies will get you on the right path to understanding how light can work for you.

The Best Task Lighting:

Task light is illumination for performing work-related activities, such as reading, cutting vegetables, and sorting laundry. The optimal task light is located between your head and the work surface. Lighting from above isn’t an optimal source of task light, because your head casts a shadow onto your book, computer keyboard, or ransom note.

Overhead lighting or incorrectly placed task lighting often contributes to what is called “veiling reflection”. It occurs when your eyes try to accommodate the contrast between black print on white paper. This happens when light comes down from the ceiling, hitting the paper at such an angle that the glare is reflected directly into your eyes, causing eye fatigue. Think of it as the mirror-like reflection of a light source on a shiny surface. It may be a glossy magazine page or any matte surface that has markings of shiny ink, pencil lead, or other glossy substance. Another related term is “photo-pigment bleaching”. A good example of this is when you try to read a book or a magazine outside and the brightness of the sunlight on the page makes it difficult to read. You end up moving to a shaded spot or tilting the magazine until the sun isn’t hitting it directly.

A reflective surface is always a reflective surface, which means you can’t eliminate glare if you are focusing light onto a mirror-like finish. What you can do is redirect the glare away from the normal viewing angle. That’s why a light coming in from one side or both sides, instead of directly overhead, is more effective. It directs the glare away from your eyes.

Table lamps with opaque shades often do the best job for casual reading, because they direct the light better and don’t visually overpower the room when turned up to the correct intensity for the job at hand. Fluorescent or light emitting diode (LED) linear lights are also a good source of task illumination when mounted over a work surface with a shelf above or in the kitchen with the fixture mounted under the overhead cabinets. Incandescent versions are also available but they are not energy efficient and can get very hot.

Now that you have a handle on what part task light can play, you can take a look at what I feel is the best the market has to offer. You’ll find that most of them are energy efficient choices – because beauty can also be wise.

Find the best bathroom lighting and other best task lighting that will put the right accent on your home's best features. We also recommend the best kitchen under cabinet lighting and other home lighting.

Best Task Lighting by Randall Whitehead

The Best You Can Get

  • Artemide - Robbia Wall Sconce

    Randall says: This cleanly-designed wall sconce is great for task lighting, flanking the mirror in the bathroom. It provides even illumination through hand blown white opaline glass or white thermoformed Plexiglas. These fixtures are available in two sizes. The Full Robbia is 22” tall and the Half Robbia is 11” tall. The Full Robbia takes two 100-watt household bulbs or two 18-watt compact fluorescent bulbs. The Half Robbia takes one 100-watt household bulb or one 18-watt fluorescent bulb. The Plexiglas versions are only available in fluorescent.

    • Available in 2 sizes
    • 100-watt household bulbs or 18-watt CFL bulbs
    • Plexiglas version – CFL bulbs only
  • San Marco Table Lamp

    Randall says: This is a sleek and low profile desk lamp that has the appearance of a clear picture frame. It is available in 3 sizes and 2 finishes. It uses compact fluorescent lamps that are hidden within the metal channel which makes up the frame. It takes up very little desk space yet provides even illumination for your work surface.

    • Available in 3 sizes
    • 2 different finishes
    • CFL bulbs
  • Tresco - Pockit T2 Puck Light

    Randall says: Tresco offers one of the first puck lights that use a fluorescent source. They are great for providing task light along work surfaces in the kitchen and laundry room. They come in two color temperatures; the 2700 degree kelvin is very close to incandescent light which blends nicely with the other light sources in a kitchen while the 4200 degree kelvin provides a color that is close to daylight which works very well in the laundry room when sorting clothes. The bulbs have an average rated lamp life of 8,000 hours and are brighter and more efficient than xenon sources. They are available in five different trim colors and can be recessed or surface mounted.

    • 2 color temperatures choices
    • Fluorescent
  • Dreamscape Lighting - Avanti 9000

    Randall says: Dreamscape Lighting has developed a wonderful task light for the vanity area that can be recessed into the wall. It uses a fluorescent bulb and is available in dimming or non-dimming versions. It is available in a variety of lengths. It comes with a standard acrylic diffuser but also has a variety of other patterned diffusers.

    • Fluorescent
    • Dimming or non-dimming versions
  • Cree LR-4

    Randall says: Sometimes, when you are not able to put the task light between your head and the work surface, it needs to go into the ceiling. If you have to use one then choose the best on the market. Cree Lighting has come up with a well designed LED version of a recessed fixture. Their four-inch diameter can comes in two color temperatures (2700K and 3500K) with six trim color options. The housing can be used in either insulated or non-insulated ceilings.It is also dimmable. These bright LEDs have an average rated life of 50,000 hours as compared to a household bulb of 750 hours or a compact fluorescent bulb of 10,000 hours.

    • LED
    • 2 color temperatures (2700K and 3500K)
    • 6 trim color options
    • Dimmable

You will be happy with any of these

  • Herman Miller Leaf Lamp

    Randall says: Herman Miller has created a desk lamp that is both useful and sculptural. It is sleek, energy efficient and very adjustable. It uses an LED source with an adjustable intensity.

    • LED
  • Neidhardt L901 Sconce

    Randall says: This gorgeous fixture doesn’t have a sexy name beyond its catalog number 901 S. Its shade is made of seeded and slumped glass with frosted acrylic end diffusers. It is 17.5” tall and 6” wide. It can take two 60-watt mini candelabra base incandescent lamps or two 13-watt compact fluorescent lamps.

    • 60-watt mini candelabra base incandescent bulbs or 13-watt CFL
  • Forecast Lighting - F5400 Java Wall Sconce

    Randall says: This fun task light for the bath offers a lot of bang for the buck. It features decorative swirls of color on a translucent glass. It is available in amber glass with chocolate accents or white glass with white accents. It is 16” tall and 7” wide and uses two 60-watt T10 tubular shaped bulbs.

    • Translucent glass fixture
    • 2 colors choices
    • 60-watt T10 tubular shaped bulbs
  • Remcraft - Echo Illuminated Mirror

    Randall says: For those people who would like magnification at their vanity, then an illuminated magnified mirror is the way to go. Remcraft offers both wall mount and portable versions with optical quality glass, fog free optics and can be flipped from a regular mirror to a 5X magnification on the reverse side. These are available in chrome, satin nickel, and bronze finishes.

    • Wall mount or portable versions available
    • Fog-free optics
    • 5X magnification
  • Tech Lighting - Tigris Oval Mirror

    Randall says: Sometimes the space above the sink is just too tight to have both a mirror and a flanking pair of wall sconces. Tech Lighting offers an oval mirror that provides shadow free task lighting within a compact size. It can be surface mounted or recessed into the wall for a more architectural look. It is available in a chrome or a satin nickel finish, and uses eight 20-watt 12-volt halogen bi-pin bulbs.

    • Shadow free task lighting
    • Surface mounted or recessed
    • 20-watt 12-volt halogen bi-pin bulbs

Related Articles

With the best bathroom lighting and other task lighting, you'll be able to work more easily. We recommend the best task lighting to cut vegetables, sort laundry, read and do other tasks with the right lighting. Always the best price, these best kitchen under cabinet lighting recommendations and other task lights help you get the job done.