How often do you think about your bathroom lighting? Probably not very often, provided all the lights remain working. If you’re like most people, you probably get used to the slightly dark shower, learn to compensate for the weird shadows that the vanity light casts on your face when you’re shaving or applying makeup, and live with the ugly overhead fixture.

It doesn’t have to be this way. When you take the time to light your bathroom properly, you will notice a significant difference — and wonder why you lived with poor lighting for so long. Before you head off to buy an assortment of fixtures and bulbs, though, you need to remember the five commandments of bathroom lighting.

Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Use Sidelights

Those weird shadows that appear when you’re trying to shave, put on makeup, or perform any other grooming task in the mirror? They are due to overhead vanity lighting, one of the most common mistakes that many homeowners make with bathroom lighting.

The solution, of course, is side lighting. Sconces or vertical lights on either side of the mirror create more even lighting, eliminating the shadows that make grooming rituals difficult. If lighting the sides of the mirror is impractical, overhead lighting can work, but it must be at least 75 inches from the floor, extend at least 24 inches across, and allow for bright light (about 150 watts or more) to prevent unattractive shadows.

Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Have More Than One Light Source

Many bathrooms, especially small or older bathrooms, have a single source of light (besides a window), which is usually a ceiling-mounted fixture. While that’s certainly adequate for using the bathroom, a single light doesn’t really maximize the potential and functionality of the room. The same lighting rules that apply to the rest of the home apply to the bath as well: You need to consider ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting.

Ambient light is the overall light in the room; it’s the main switch you flip to illuminate the room. Task lighting is just what it sounds like. It’s additional lighting for a specific task, such as bathing or grooming. Accent lighting is used in other rooms to highlight accessories or add a warm glow to a dark corner. The same principle applies in the bathroom, only the accent light might serve as a nightlight, or to highlight an architectural feature like crown molding.

While you might not need an overhead light, a shower light, a vanity light, night light, and accent light in a small bath, you should incorporate at least a few types of lighting, such as those offered by Savoy House bathroom lighting, to add plenty of interest and illumination. Consider which areas could use more illumination, and add light where needed.

Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Use Dimmers

Dimmers allow you to control the intensity of the light — and your electric bill. With a dimmer switch, you can lower the ambient light for a relaxing bath and turn it up when it’s time to scrub the toilet. Dimmer switches are inexpensive and easy to install, but allow you more control over the amount of light in the room. Not to mention, lowering the lights reduces electricity usage, which lowers your electric bill in the process.

Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Pay Attention to Lenses and Shades

Too often, homeowners purchase beautiful lighting that provides clear, bright light — and then cover the illumination with a dark shade. Or they install recessed lighting with plastic covers, only to have the plastic yellow and darken over time, reducing the quality of the light. When designing and choosing your lighting, pay close attention to the shades and lenses you choose. For recessed lighting, glass lenses are a better choice than plastic, as they will not yellow over time. Choose shades that are white, clear, or pale colors to avoid blocking the light. Even better, explore the wide range of shade-free lighting options, which are fresh and modern as well as bright.

Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Not Forget Safety

While function and beauty are an important part of illuminating the bathroom, safety is the top priority. We all know that electricity and water don’t mix, so making sure that everything is grounded properly is a priority. Placing the lights in such a way that they properly illuminate dangerous tasks is also important. Hire an experienced electrician to help plan and install your lighting scheme to ensure that your bathroom is as safe as possible.

When your bathroom is properly lit, you’ll be amazed at the difference. Keep these commandments in mind, and choose high quality fixtures and lamps, and it won’t be hard to “see the light” in your bath.