Trying to apply makeup or trim tiny beard hairs in a dimly lit room is a specific kind of annoyance—and one that can leave you looking worse for the wear. Not everyone can custom-build a bathroom with massive windows, but there are a few steps you can take to capitalize on what light you do have. Ahead, our top tips for lightening things up:

vanity area with sconce lighting

First and foremost, make the most of whatever natural light you are working with.

  1. Get rid of heavy drapery or window dressings. The goal is to remove any blockage of natural light—and not to mention, curtains can get icky in a damp bathroom fast! Although you may need some variation of light-filtering blinds or shades for privacy, stick to something that lets light flow freely in.

  2. Get strategic with your mirror placement. Mirrors reflect and bounce light around the room, creating a brighter and airier feel. By hanging mirrors directly opposite windows, you can amplify the incoming natural light and get twice the brightness. Consider a larger mirror or an artful arrangement of smaller mirrors to achieve this effect. 

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  3. Clear the clutter. Keep your window sills and the shelves around your windows free from soap dishes, knickknacks, and other items that tend to pile up in a bathroom to allow for unobstructed light flow.

bright bathroom

Limited natural light? No problem. Follow these tips to brighten up a dark bathroom. 

1. Layer your lighting. Instead of relying on a single, harsh overhead light or only strong vanity lighting, opt for multiple layers. A thoughtful combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting will help create a balanced and inviting atmosphere.

    • Ambient light: Consider this your base layer, providing the central illumination. Ceiling-mounted fixtures like flush mounts or semi-flush mounts fall into this category.
    • Task light: Speaking of makeup application… task lighting is essential for your nitty gritty daily grooming tasks. Place task lighting at face level specifically where you will use it. (Think wall-mounted sconces, or vertical LED strips on either side of the mirror.)
    • Accent light: This is the “decor” lighting. Use accent lighting like small lamps or gallery spotlights to highlight any architectural features, artwork, or plants in order to add a touch of elegance and depth.

2. Make more mirror magic. If you aren’t working with a ton of natural light, your mirror placement becomes even more critical. If you can't place a mirror directly across from or adjacent to a window, consider placing it opposite your bathroom vanity. That way, the vanity light can reflect in the mirror and enhance the effect. If you have the space for it, a full-length mirror can create the illusion of more space—even hanging one on the back of a water closet door is an option.

mirror facing window in bathroom

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More ways to brighten a dark bathroom:

  • Paint it white. It's the go-to for a reason. A crisp white paint offers a more reflective surface that can make the room feel bigger than it actually is.
  • Swap your bulbs. One of the least expensive ways to instantly brighten your bathroom is to replace your light bulbs. Opt for "cool white," "bright white" or "daylight" bulbs in order to minimize shadows. 
  • Clear out your clutter. Bathroom countertop space is precious real estate, so don't waste an inch with nonessentials. Use a tray or tiered organizer to help contain those bottles and tubes that tend to pile up, and remain strict with yourself about putting things back where they belong.

RELATED READ: Find the Right Balance Between Decor and Clutter