I need to seriously increase the amount of light from a bathroom vanity cabinet. The picture below is a little blurry because I didn't have a tripod handy, and it took a 1/10 second exposure to take a picture of a powered-on light bulb:

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The actual amount of illumination is pathetic. I need to increase both the indirect lighting toward the ceiling and the direct lighting downward toward the sink area.

The light is produced by a simple strip fluorescent tube fixture mounted to the wall behind the top of the cabinet. It was originally a 36" fixture centered over the open area in the middle with the mirror. I replaced it with a 48" fixture. Downward light from most of the extra length is blocked by the side cabinets, but it adds some light toward the ceiling.

Roughly the upper third of the fluorescent tube emits light toward the ceiling that clears the top of the cabinet for indirect light and general room lighting. Maybe the bottom quarter of the tube emits light to illuminate the sink area below. The rest of the light is blocked by the front of the cabinet.

I could line the top front of the cabinet with aluminum foil to reflect the wasted light, but that won't come close to what's needed. A double-tube fixture would double the light output, but would be wider, so the top of the fixture and upper bulb would be visible over the top of the cabinet. That also wouldn't add a lot of downward light.

I contemplated cobbling together two single fixtures, each with an LED fluorescent-replacement bulb. They're very directional, so it would require one facing down to light the sink area, and one facing up or diagonally up for the ceiling. That will take a little engineering to deal with mounting brackets, the ability to replace the bulbs if needed, etc.

There's a second, matching vanity and cabinet on the same wall, so I will need to duplicate the solution there. I also hope to avoid a "remodeling" effort, installing different fixtures in other locations.

Before inventing a new light fixture, I was hoping people here might have a better idea on how to get seriously more light in this area.

  • 2
    I'd go with some LED strip lighting. If one strip is not bright enough, add a second, one aimed up, one down. I use one over my workbench, it's very effective. Took down the fluorescent fixtures which were not working very well anymore, and replaced them LED fixtures as well.
    – CrossRoads
    Oct 31, 2019 at 17:29
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    Have you thought about some trac lighting with a few led flood lights angled slightly away from the wall and a couple led spots directly downward?
    – JACK
    Oct 31, 2019 at 17:36
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    you can get high density LED strip with 240 LEDs per meter, still a centimeter wide. if you can't cram enough watts into that kind of space with such a strip, you are beyond help. 1 meter long by say, 12 strips wide, at 58 watts a meter, is 700 watts of LED, or 7000 watts of incandescent equivalent. That's like alien-abduction brightness, likely more than the sun around the cabinet. Realistically, try a length of 1/4 round with two strips on each flat side, and a white wall on the wooden front, should be plenty of lumens.
    – dandavis
    Oct 31, 2019 at 17:37
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    I did something similar to what @JACK suggested on a beam running through a cathedral-ceiling room. I put some small fixtures on the topside of the beam, aimed up at the ceiling. You can't see the fixtures from below & they do a great job of spreading light. You just need to find some LED or small-bulb spotlite fixtures for your cabinet. Oct 31, 2019 at 17:39
  • Hey, everybody. Some great ideas here. Consider putting them in answers so I can upvote them. :-)
    – fixer1234
    Oct 31, 2019 at 17:42

2 Answers 2



Cram more tubes in there. Don't use T12 tubes, they are too bulky. You can get four T8 tubes in that space if you really cram them tight. Better still, use T5 tubes, which are almost half the size of T8. All are equally bright to the old T12.

48" (45-something for T5) is a good length as this will be the most common tube and ballast.

You need ballasts matched to the length and T-code (which is the diameter in eighths of an inch).


Using low voltage LED strips, you can out an essentially unlimited amount of light in there - just a case of how much 12/24V power you want to supply. The low voltage LED strips are cheap Chinese but they are unlikely to give any trouble. Use a UL listed power supply such as a GE or Meanwell.


Have you thought about some trac lighting with a few led flood lights angled slightly away from the wall and a couple led spots directly downward?

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