Google+ House Revivals: E is for Electricity and Bathroom Chandeliers

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

E is for Electricity and Bathroom Chandeliers

 Electricity and water don't mix.  At least not in any sort of healthy way....
 Photo courtesy Country Living.
Here, a photo stylist uses a chandelier as a prop over a claw footed tub.

This is why very special, sealed light fixtures are used in pools and spas.

It is why special shower rated recessed cans are used over tubs and showers.
You may be able to find some really lovely shower rated fixtures, like this one, from The Bath Tub website.

We all learned, in grade school, that electricity and water are a potentially deadly combination.  And yet, we still see pictures like this on design blogs, and in magazines.

This bathroom design is the work of the very gifted furniture and textile designer, Barry Dixon.
Barry Dixon has worked in the decorating industry for many years, and his talent as a decorator is remarkable. 
 I see loots of folks trying to emulate this look, but I suspect -- I f the camera were pulled back -- we would 
the chandelier was not over the bathtub at all, and that it is a trick of the camera.

Many of these images are absolutely stunning, and are the work of very gifted stylists. There is a big difference, however, in a space that has been styled to look pretty in a picture, and a space designed for living.
This bathroom was styled by decorator to the stars, Nate Berkus. 
Nate Berkus is personable, and fun, and his styling is absolutely beautiful.

These bathroom vignettes were most likely styled 
this way for the sake of photo composition. 

It is highly likely that the chandeliers in the spaces shown above were lowered for the photo shoots, and raised or removed afterward.  At least, that's what I would prefer to believe...

The National Electric Code, in the United States, reads:
410.4(D) Bathtub and Shower Areas. No parts of cord-connected luminaires (fixtures), hanging luminaires (fixtures), lighting track, pendants, or ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans shall be located within a zone measured 900 mm (3 ft) horizontally and 2.5 m (8 ft) vertically from the top of the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold. This zone is all encompassing and includes the zone directly over the tub or shower stall.

In the bathroom shown above, the chandelier is placed in an acceptable 
location, offset from the area directly over the tub by several feet. 

Baths and showers are considered wet locations, and there is risk of steam from your bath condensing on the fixture, creating a short that could make the entire fixture "hot".  Additionally, just the tiniest little splash of water could result in a hot bulb shattering, and sprinkling the tub with tiny shards of broken glass!

Perhaps Lette Birn, of the Form+Function Bright Ideas blog, said it best:
Electricity and water do not mix. Period! Someone might just one day reach up and touch the chandelier. You can’t tell from looking at it if  it is properly grounded or not or if it has a short that’s otherwise not obvious. Standing well-grounded in a bathtub full of water, THAT’s a recipe for disaster!

Ok, ok, YOU of course won’t EVER think of doing that, but what about your house guests? Another point to think of:  Working day-to-day in a lighting showroom and seeing first-hand what a mess it is when a light bulb breaks, I for sure don’t want to share my bath water with those little sharp pieces! A single drop of water hitting a lit bulb can easily cause a light to burst. 

You might consider a non-electrified chandelier, if you really have your heart set on having one.

Chances are, if you live in a jurisdiction that has adopted a building code, NEC410.4(D), or something similar, is being enforced.

If your architect, contractor, or interior designer 
suggests that you add some sort of hanging fixture over 
your tub, you may want to verify their professional 
credentials, as well as check into your local codes.  

It is remotely possible that your local building codes (or lack of) will permit the installation, but most qualified design professionals will still advise against it for safety and liability issues.

image courtesy Coastal Living website

If you really want to "romance the bathtub", how about this lovely mosquito net -- or some candles?

Of course, you can use a chandelier in the bathroom, just remember to keep at least eight feet between the top of the tub and the bottom of the hanging fixture or stay at least three feet away from the "footprint" of the tub, if you want it to pass the electrical inspection.

Beauty + Function + Health and Safety 
= Good Design

And remember, there are lots of people in the design industry who are not qualified interior designers, kitchen or bath planners, contractors, lighting designers, or architects.

There are room stylists, photo stylists, set designers, shelter magazine editors, decorators, design bloggers, television show hosts, and consultants -- with backgrounds in everything from fashion to law.  They may be incredibly talented artistic contributors to the design industry, but they may not have a familiarity with relevant local codes, being more aware of the beauty side of the design equation, than the health and safety aspect.

This is just a little food for thought, as you peruse books, magazines, and blogs that may feature these types of installations.