17 bathroom lighting fixtures for a retro-modern bathroom remodel

Lights for a retro modern bathroom remodelKateIn my quest to find the perfect blend of retro and modern for my master bathroom remodelI have plenty to consider. Which elements of the bathroom redo will be more modern, which will be more retro and most importantly, how will I blend the two styles? While I’m letting all those questions spin around in my brain, I thought I would delve into the world of lighting to start figuring out what is out there and what types of fixtures might go well together in a retro modern bathroom….

In any bathroom remodel, when thinking about lighting, considerations include not only the design of the light, but also what type of fixtures will work best — individually and together — to both illuminate and decorate the space. One alternative is to put in a bunch of well placed, yet minimal can lights, and then add sconces to either side of the mirror to put more light where it is most needed and emphasize the focal point of the room. Another alternative: Put a single central flush-mount fixture to illuminate the space, and add a horizontal light bar type fixture over the mirror for additional light. As I hunted for contenders for my lighting game, I kept in mind how they might work together…

1. Flush ceiling lights for a retro modern bathroom remodel

Retro Styled flush mount light

Above: Glomar 1-Light 6 in. Ceiling Mount with Frosted White Glass Finished in Brushed Nickel – $10.61 from Home Depot. — This is a classic choice, especially for small spaces and limited budgets. While I like the simple design of this light (and the price) I don’t think it is large enough to light up my master bathroom, however it would be retro cute in a half bath or entryway.

Calypso flush light Ikea

Above: CALYPSO Ceiling lamp – $29.99 from IKEA.  This one is a modern design with a midcentury feel. Its size and shape are reminiscent of some of the large, original saucer shaped light fixtures that are in two of my bedrooms.

UFO style light

Above: Possini Glass Disk 15″ Wide Round Ceiling Light — on sale for $49.95 from Lamps Plus. This model reminded me of the retro “UFO” style lights from the 1950s and 1960s. At 15 inches in diameter, and mostly glass, it is a nice size light and would likely do a good job of filling my master bathroom with light.

West Elm Tulip shaped light

Above: Contour Semi-Flush Fixture – White — $69.00 from West Elm. This model has just the right amount of retro lines (think Saarinen tulip table) while also looking modern.

Modern looking chrome light

Above: Sonneman Puck 15” Surface Ceiling Light Fixture — $270.91 from Lamps Plus. This fixture definitely falls more in to the modern category, but the extensive use of chrome and simple shape would mesh well with even the most retro of decor, though I do wonder if the heavy chrome sides would cause the light to be more direct instead of filling the bathroom with light…

Jonathan Adler Parker light

Above: Jonathan Adler Parker 15 1/4″ Wide Nickel Ceiling Light — $271.99 from Lamps Plus. This light (which Pam posted about earlier) is not only chrome and fun, but injects a bit of pattern to an otherwise boring ceiling. If I decided to use one-inch square mosaic tile, this would be a good way to echo its shape in other areas in the room.

Chrome tulip shaped light

Above: Holtkoetter Satin Nickel 7 3/4″ Wide Ceiling Light Fixture — $458.91 from Lamps Plus. While pricey, this light could be a showstopper when used in the right place. The chromed tulip base and oval globe are about as modern mixed with 1960 as you can get.

2. Bath light bars for a retro modern bathroom makeover

Retro Bath light bar

Above: Nuvo 76/277 with Diamond U Channel Glass, White — $25.99 from Amazon.  I’ve always liked retro bath light bars for use over the mirror. I think they cast a flattering light for putting on makeup, doing hair, etc. This one is affordable and comes with a retro-esque pattern.

Plain bath bar

Above: 4-Light Bath Bar — $22.97 from Home Depot — Of course there is always the Ebay, Etsy, ReStore route for this style of light (and many other cool, original lights can be found there), but if I couldn’t find a suitable vintage style for my master bath remodel, this light could easily by painted or stenciled with a starburst or geometric pattern to make it look more authentic.

Modern Bath Bar

Above: Bel Air Lighting 2-Light Polished Chrome Bathroom Vanity Light — $59.62 from Lowes. I think this more modern bath light bar would also give off a flattering glow, and its clean design and shiny chrome center would also mesh well with a retro look.

Stella bath BarAbove: Stella — $290 from Rejuvenation. This bath light bar, which Pam debuted on the blog shortly after it was released, made my list because of the vast area of pin hole chrome in the center of the light. Many of my house’s original fixtures are pin hole chrome lights, therefore this fixture would feel right at home in my master bathroom. I also like the unique sloped glass ends, which would add to the individuality of my master bath.

3. Sconces for a retro modern bathroom

George Kovacs Sconce Modern Chrome

Above: George Kovacs Energy Efficient 12 1/2″ High Wall Sconce –$108.91 from Lamps Plus. This modern chrome sconce is very sleek and minimal, but it also has a slight taper — which reminds me of the tapered legs on so many retro furniture pieces — to keep it interesting.

Gemini retro wall sconce

Above: Gemini — $285 from Rejuvenation. One of my favorite retro shapes is the bow tie. This sconce’s silhouette has me all kinds of excited, plus the large areas of glass would likely create a lovely glow. If I were to do sconces in my master bath, I’d likely want one on either side of the mirror — but, two of this particular sconce might be a little out of the budget for my project.

Spektr retro wall sconce

Above: Galaxy — $229 from Rejuvenation. Here’s another cool chrome pin light. I think it would fit well in my house and look awesome flanking my bathroom mirror, but I do have to wonder if pin hole lights are flattering for the complexion.

Jonathan Adler Parker wall sconce

Above: Jonathan Adler Parker Collection 15″ High Nickel Wall Sconce — $178.99 from Lamps Plus. Here’s the sconce version of the ceiling lamp mentioned above. These would be great on a plain wall flanking the bathroom mirrors, but if I decided to do some sort of attention grabbing backsplash around the sink, I’d stick with a more simple lighting style.

havanna wall sconce Jonathan Adler

Above: Jonathan Adler Havana Half-Wall Sconce — $195 from JonathanAdler.com. Here’s yet another bow tie shaped light sconce. This particular model looks a touch more modern and sleek to me, but the cut outs add a nice bit of vintage charm.

Jonathan Adler orange wall sconce

Above: Jonathan Adler Capri Wall Sconce — $225 from JonathanAdler.com. This sconce comes in several colors (though orange is always my favorite) but mixes chrome with an interesting, torch-like shape. With the right color scheme and placement, a pair of these sconces could be a show-stopper in a retro modern master bathroom.

Of course I still have to make a few more trips to my local ReStore, scour Craigslist, Ebay and Etsy and decide which way some of my other bath elements will lean, but now I have a good idea of what kind of retro and modern styled lighting is available. My retro/modern mixing muscles are beginning to tone up and are getting ready for my master bathroom renovation.

Have you added new or vintage lighting to your bathroom? What did you choose?

  1. Lynne says:

    Not going to be an easy choice, Kate! You could go in so many directions and loose your main focus easily. My favorites are the Jonathan Adler with the filigree metal, but I’m thinking that all of those cut outs might be hard to keep clean in the bathroom. I know in my bathroom, they would get kinda furry quickly!

    1. Kate says:

      You’re right Lynne, I have to keep my focus to make sure I can successfully blend the retro and modern style. I plan on doing some mood boards to see how my blend of retro and modern “looks” before committing to any plan for my master bath remodel! Stay tuned!

  2. bluecanary says:

    Wow…this could not come at a better time. That bar light with the floral pattern is a dead ringer for the one over the mirror in the house we are currently renovating. Unfortunately, that one is shattered in several places and can’t be re-used, and I had had no luck in finding a similar one to replace it. This one is perfect, and for 25 bucks! Thanks Kate, can’t wait to see which ones you pick for your place.

  3. Steve H says:

    Does anyone know if the sconces that are “up-down” symmetrical (like the Adler ones) could be used horizontally like a light bar? Also, when did the “make up” style light bars with all of the little round bulbs come into fashion?

    1. E-Chic says:

      I don’t know when they came into fashion, but our original 1965 bathroom has a mirrored bar with screw-in white “hollywood” lights over the medicine cabinet. So, they were in use in the 1960’s.

      Ours uses little bulbs – they are a bit bigger than a golf ball and on smaller screw-bases than a normal bulb. There are 4 of them & they light the room pretty well. I’ve never liked the 1980’s era bare-bulb light bars (with the visible filaments) but something about this one seems charming – probably the petite size of the bulbs & the fact that they’re white, not clear, helps.

  4. JKaye says:

    We have what appears to be the original bath light bar in our main bath (’59 ranch). It looks a lot like the $22.97 model you feature from Home Depot. So, it shows that you can get an authentic (but rather plain) retro look even on a tight budget. (I’m still aggravated with myself for not snapping up the same-sized glass cover with a filigree design that I saw at the ReStore, that would have added a bit of pizazz to our light fixture.) This sized light fixture provides plenty of light around the sink area in our rather small bathroom, but, it would be nice if we had a bit of supplemental lighting over our bathtub/shower.

    I love the look of sconces flanking a bathroom mirror. We don’t have space for them, however. Those orange ones are gorgeous.

    1. Kate says:

      I agree JKaye, It is great that there are still “retro” styled lights available! I will be hitting up the ReStore and checking out Ebay, Etsy, Craigslist many times before I can officially decide which lights to use in my master bath remodel! The orange sconces are gorgeous…perhaps one of my mood boards will have to have an orange color scheme! 🙂

  5. Brad Smith says:

    Unless you want to hate yourself on a daily basis, I would avoid most of those direct overhead lights, especially the barebulbs. Down light casts really unflattering shadows, highlighting all your bags and wrinkles…..yuck!

    Wall sconces work great for more user-friendly light in the br.. I actually installed your first choice, that Glomar Home Depot bargain, on the wall above the med cab in one bath. The white glass globe puts off a nice indirect, diffused glow and flatters the face nicely.

  6. Just another Pam says:

    Nice lighting! There was one when I was looking a couple of years ago quite like the one by Alder but at a third the price, a quick check didn’t find it. I toyed with it but found some first generation ball fixtures so that solved that problem.

    The ones below are some of the ones Canadians can get easily and at excellent price points. So many nods to retro these days….what a difference a couple of years makes.

    [Just Another Pam, the links did not work so I took them out – The First Pam here on the Blog.]

    1. Just another Pam says:

      Don’t you just hate when that happens? Sorry ’bout that, Number One!

      Rona, for the Canadians, usually has an impressive selection of retro inspired lighting and most of their price points are good to excellent. During the mid-century/retro years there were lamp factories making all kinds of amazing lighting in P.Q. so they are carrying on a tradition I suppose.

  7. lynda says:

    When I choose a light fixture, I do try to think about how easy it is to clean and if it is easy to change the bulbs without the possibility of breaking anything. Easy tends to be best the older I get!

  8. We have a couple of those Nuvo bar lighst in one of our bathrooms over the mirrors. They’re really nice and well made and totally look vintage. They do however come with these huge daisy shaped screw covers that it’s hard to see in the photos online. That makes them look kind of flower power retro. It can easily be fixed by a trip to the hardware store and a few bucks for screw covers though if the flowers are too flashy. I’d highly recommend those lights.

    We had the Jonathan Adler High Nickel wall sconces (the ones with the metal overlay with the squares) at our old house and they were just beautiful. I’d recommend those too.

    1. Cynthia says:

      We also have the Nuvos over the medicine cabinets in our master bath. The medicine cabinets, sinks, and vanity (as well as our tub) were all salvage from another house (the bathroom itself is new construction; we added onto the house). The Nuvo lights blend wonderfully with the salvaged pieces. I have been meaning to replace the flower caps for a long time, but have not gotten around to it…maybe someday, but they do not bother me enough to make it to the top of my to-do list. But I do love the lights. We used salvage lights in other bathrooms that we remodeled, and our contractor was surprised that these were not also salvage, as they looked as authentic mid-century as the salvage ones we used elsewhere.

  9. Stacy says:

    We went with a NOS light bar with a pattern. In our case I think it gave some authenticity to all of the new matierials we chose, which all had some vintage style. And it’s one place where you can have something “unique” that you won’t see in your neighbors’ houses. I wanted to tone down the sleek and new feeling, and I think it worked well. But there are so many good choices, it’s hard to go wrong.

  10. Max says:

    These are all fantastic options – I don’t envy your position! My favs are also the Jonathan Adler pieces. The styling is geometric enough to be harmonious with a Mid-Century design yet retains that modern, luxurious feel you might find in an upscale hotel.

    My old house had fixtures similar to those 4-light sconces from Home Depot in both bathrooms, but they were original to the house, so the bases were chrome plated and they had beautiful shades – frosted with a raised/embellished starburst detail. If you’re leaning towards the economical side, these might be a better option, and because they’ve been around for so long it might be easier to find retro shades for them.

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