Bathroom Makeover Phase 1 - Lighting

Hello friends!

Today I'm finally getting into the guest bathroom that I've been wanting to tackle. I'll preface this entire series of posts by saying that this is not going to be a complete remodel. We're not gutting it, we're not getting even close to that. The vanity, the tile shower surround, the pink countertop; basically all the very in-place fixtures are staying. Mainly, we're just doing some refreshing of the finishes and a few upgrades of easy-to-change fixtures. So far, we've kind of just been making this room work for the light daily use it gets, paying it little attention. Now we're ready to get started with the first phase.

That brings me to the point of this initial post. I won't focus on the decor stuff right now, that'll be for another post. This is about the lighting alone; I wanted to figure out how I was going to light this room as a first step in the process to better see the colors, the tones, basically the entire vision of the space going forward. It's no good basing anything new off something that's going to change, and the difference made was pretty astonishing.

The original lighting in this room was not what I would consider good. A single fluorescent strip over the mirror is alright in certain regards, but it was absolutely not enough for the entire length of the space. This room is narrow, but actually fairly long and essentially only half the room was being fully lit. Taking a shower in here felt like bathing in a cave once the curtain was closed. So not only did I want to put in a more stylish vanity fixture, I also wanted to add some more general lighting into the ceiling to better light the entire space. These days there aren't a great many builders that don't at least put a light in above the shower so you can see what you're doing in there. I'm going to bring this thing up to 2018 standards.

Existing fluorescent strip, the only light source

View into space from tub/shower

View toward tub/shower

My philosophy is you can never have too much lighting. If there is too much, you can add a dimmer to tone it down. There's no such thing as putting in too much. However, I wanted to make sure I wasn't going through an excess of extra work and material here. In order to decide how many ceiling lights to put in, I wanted to see what coverage the new vanity light would provide, so that was really the first decision to be made. Since I've been working with the aged and brushed brass palettes, I really wanted to go all-in on that finish for this room. It's a small space where we can go a little more out-there and have fun with some trendy design, but keep it contained to a more specific area in case we want to change something in the future. Since it is more of a guest bath that doesn't see super heavy use, we also want to keep a budget in mind. There's no point in going super high luxury with an expensive price tag in a space where it doesn't get seen, but at the same time you want it to feel expensive and luxurious.

Once again, enter Progress Lighting. They were the company that offered the high design I desired at an affordable price for the exterior of the house, and they came in with exactly what I was looking for at an incredible price for this space. I wanted something fairly simplistic, clean lines, no frills. Light contemporary vibes, maybe a little mid-mod if anything. I had a few options on the table from various brands, you'll see more of that when I put my full idea boards up in the next bathroom post, but the price point really put Progress on top. These gold and brass tones are at premium popularity, and usually premium price points, but this 4 light fixture from the Elevate collection retails at only $165. An absolutely incredible value for a 4 light vanity fixture in a premium finish. They have 2 and 3 light variants and a 1 light sconce available as well, and the collection is offered in chrome if you love the style but need a silver-based finish. Also FYI, you'll see 'bronze' and 'copper' wordage listed for these fixtures, but the actual tone of the finish is indeed very golden. I was hesitant as to whether it would be the finish I desired, but it definitely is. Here's a link to the fixture I purchased:

You can also shop products I've used or reviewed in my Amazon recommended list here:

Progress Lighting 'Elevate' 4 Light Vanity Fixture

In the end, the new vanity fixture was putting out a similar dispersion of light to the previous fluorescent one. It was, however, directing more light downward to the vanity and less upward to the ceiling, which is precisely what I was looking for it to do, and of course I used LED bulbs which I vastly prefer to fluorescent. It does sit slightly low in relation to the mirror, I may move the electrical box upward a little, but will do that later on. For now, this was just a trial run and answered the question about the ceiling lights. With less light being directed upward, I decided to install all three lights that I had purchased.

I bought three lights in case I wanted to do that many, and if not, it's never hurt for me to have some extras of these Kichler LED discs on hand. These little lights are fantastic, I've used them in a few places throughout the house. They're usually under $14 a piece from most retailers, mount to regular junction boxes, and throw out great light while being completely dimmable. They're nothing advanced, no new features like warm dimming, etc. but it's a nice product at very low cost, available in both 2700K and 3000K color temperatures. I am not currently aware of anything like this available to everyday consumers, as in not trade or wholesale pricing, that rivals this price point at all, and certainly not at Kichler's level of quality. Here's links to the 2700K and 3000K for your convenience. Again, you can also shop them on my Amazon list linked above.

Installation for these isn't necessarily a do it yourself kind of thing, unless you're just doing a one-for-one swap out of other fixtures. If you're adding lights as I did, it definitely goes into the territory of finding yourself a qualified electrician who knows exactly what they're doing and will get the job done for you in a timely manner. It's definitely a cost factor you have to weigh, but I think proper illumination is really worth it. Not to mention, if you get these fixtures yourself instead of the electrician choosing a pricier option for you, you'll already be saving a bundle.

That said, I'll show some of the installation process. I have attic access right nearby in the garage, so it was pretty quick and easy for me to do when we had a warmer day. I began with layout, basically knowing I wanted one light centered on the tub and one centered on the sink. Then I just split the difference and put the third directly in the middle of the first two. I cut holes and installed the boxes into them. Also shown in the first picture, I upgraded the bath fan to a quieter model. Since I was doing attic-based work already with the lighting, it made sense to do it at the same time. The old fan can be seen in the third picture of this post.

With all the boxes in, I went up in the attic and installed wiring between them all. Often times in the trade we'd just fish wires between from below before installing boxes, but since I had attic access so close and needed to fish down the wall too, it was easier to do it all from above in one trip.

After fishing a wire down into the wall before coming down again, I removed the old 2-gang box and cut out for a new 3-gang. This part is where the qualified electrician really comes in, if you weren't listening before. This box in particular was a major pain to deal with, as it was used as a junction for the hallway power as well. It was quite difficult to remove the old box with wires entering from all directions, and there were six different incoming cables to keep track of by the time I added my new lighting switch leg. If you didn't follow any of what I said in this last paragraph, get yourself an electrician! It's not always this complex, but it's really not for the inexperienced to be messing with. So much can go wrong, I just can only encourage hiring a professional. I had a slight wallpaper casualty in this process, but not a big issue as we're going to be dealing with wall finishes down the road.

New switch bank, with separate dimmer for ceiling lights. 

With all the wiring in place, all I had left to do was install the three lights, relatively pain free after dealing with that switch box! Turned power back on at the breaker, and voila! Let there be LIGHT!

Look at all that light in the shower!

At long last, I'm HAPPY with something in this room. It's amazing what difference just the lighting made in this space, it already looks so much fresher without even touching anything else. Fluorescent lighting has its applications, for me, the bathroom is not one of them. Colors just don't show up true and the light always feels a little sterile; the new LED sources have warmed the space up immensely, and I love the added warmth that the brass on the vanity fixture brings in. This space is already shaping up to be something amazing. Be sure to keep an eye out for Phase 2. It may or may not be the very next post, it really depends on where the timeline goes as we're not in full speed ahead mode to get things moving in here yet.

Until next time, thanks for reading!


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