Bathroom lighting ideas – 16 ways to brighten your bathroom

From wall lights to spotlights take inspiration to light your bathroom in style, and above all safely
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  • Bathroom lighting ideas can have a massive impact and should be planned early to ensure all key fittings are illuminated properly. In areas where lighting fixtures might come into contact with water, such as the bathroom, you’ll need to look at IP ratings. IP stands for Ingress Protection, meaning that the more susceptible to water penetration light fittings are, then the higher the ‘IP’ rating they are required to have.

    There are three key zones to keep in mind when selecting lamps and fixtures for your bathroom:

    • Zone 0, is inside the bath or floor of the shower. Any fitting used in this zone must be low voltage and be rated at least IP67 which is total immersion proof.
    • Zone 1, is the area above the bath or shower to a height of 2.25m from the floor. A minimum rating of IP45 is required, but it is generally accepted that IP65 is to be used.
    • Zone 2, is the area stretching 0.6m outside the perimeter of the bath and to a height of 2.25m from the floor. In this zone an IP rating of at least IP44 is required. In addition it is good practice to consider the area around a wash basin, within a 60cm radius of any tap to be considered as zone 2.

    For any bathroom area outside these zones, an IP rating isn’t a requirement, although a minimum IP44 rating is still advised.

    Bathroom Lighting ideas

    As a room where we spend our time either refreshing or relaxing, the right lighting is key to create the correct ambience for either. Aim for sufficient task lighting in the shower and vanity areas, plus ambient lighting around the bath and in alcoves and niches.

    The latest smart lighting controls allow pre-programmed settings. Look out for wireless lighting controls, which is installed without cables and can oversee thermostats, security and audio, if desired.

    1. Layer lighting throughout the bathroom

    Marble Bathroom with wooden flooring marble shower enclosure wall lights and marble sink

    Image credit: Mermaid Panels

    The best lighting schemes rely on light coming from several different sources to create a relaxed and rounded scheme, but one that is functional too. Try to include the three main types of light – which are ambient, task and accent lighting.

    Start with recessed spotlights mounted into the ceiling to provide general background lighting. Neat and unobtrusive, they give a uniform level of ambient light and a wide spread so you can manoeuvre the bathroom safely and easily.

    After ambient lighting, think about task lighting and specific areas that need to be illuminated so that you can see what you are doing, such as around the mirror or in the shower.

    Finally, use accent lighting to highlight decorative features such as shelves, artwork or greenery. Accent lighting helps set the mood in a bathroom and will add depth and interest.

    2. Focus lighting around the mirror

    Bathroom lighting bulb strip lights around mirror

    Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole

    A well-lit bathroom mirror is essential so you can see what you’re doing properly, whether putting on make-up, brushing teeth or shaving.

    Avoid placing ceiling lighting directly above and in front of the mirror which can create glare and cast unflattering shadows. If your mirror is centred above the sink, position light fittings on either side of the mirror at eye level and as close to your face as possible, which will give a more flattering, even glow.

    Mimic the effect of natural light at a bathroom mirror, by opting for bulbs that offer clear, bright light that won’t appear yellow or dull.

    3. Create symmetry in a twin bathroom

    Wooden bathroom twin vanity unit with wall lights and twin mirrors

    Image credit: Davey Lighting

    Ensure that there is adequate lighting at twin basins and vanity units by installing extra wall lights, either side of each mirror, to cover the full width of the area. Neat column wall lights won’t protrude into the space too much and will cast light evenly up and down the face.

    Alternatively, if you have a very wide bathroom mirror with no breaks in between, opt for a pair of column lights positioned horizontally above the mirror, or one single bar-style fitting running the full width of the mirror.

    4. Enjoy all the mod cons with an all-in-one mirror

    Grey slate bathroom with light up mirror above shallow sink

    Image credit: HiB Ltd

    Instead of installing separate light fittings to illuminate the mirror area, opt for a mirror with built-in lighting. Incorporating lighting into the mirror ensures even distribution of light around the mirror and it will cast a subtler glow than harsh overhead lighting.

    Make your mirror state-of-the-art, by choosing a design with other intuitive features. This one includes colour temperature changing LED illumination so you can alter the mood at a touch, plus Bluetooth connectivity so you can play your favourite bath time tunes through its integrated speakers. A heated pad helps keep the glass steam-free too.

    5. Make night time visits easier

    White tiled bathroom with vanity unit freestanding bath and flush ceiling light

    Image credit: Lighting Styles

    Navigating the bathroom in the middle of the night can be tricky when you’re trying not to wake up the rest of the family. Skirt the issue by installing motion-sensitive lights that have a passive infrared sensor that turns them on automatically when you enter the bathroom. That way you won’t be left fumbling around for the switch whenever you visit the bathroom after dark.

    6. Enjoy leisurely soaks after dark

    Black tiled bathroom lighting on shelf behind bath

    Image credit: Future PLC/Tamra Cave

    Instead of surrounding the bath tub with candles – which can be a fire hazard if you’re not super-careful – set the mood at night-time with discreet accent lighting to illuminate the bath area instead.

    Aside from casting a cosy glow after dark, adding lighting around the tub area will give extra illumination for bathing and is essential in larger bathrooms, where overhead lighting might not be sufficient. Concealed LED strip lighting set into a recess or running along a shelf is discreet and easy to install. Just remember to keep IP ratings in mind when choosing lighting for the bath or shower area.

    7. Illuminate sink-side surfaces

    Bathroom lighting ideas with under cabinet light and basin

    Image credit: Mermaid Panels

    Layering lighting throughout the bathroom will enhance the overall mood and provide extra useful illumination in key areas. Installing concealed lights above and below a mirrored cabinet will create a soft ambient glow for putting make-up on, but also come in handy for lighting the area around the basin too.

    In a sink-side area like this, lights will need to be splashproof, which requires a minimum IP44 rating. Consider flexible LED strip lighting that simply sticks to the underside of a cabinet or a concealed under-counter strip light that is easily attached.

    8. Light the way in with low-level lighting

    Bathroom lighting ideas with floating wall unit and copper mirror

    Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole

    Create dramatic effects by installing floor-level bathroom lighting ideas. Positioned underneath a wall-hung cabinet lighting can create a ‘floating’ effect or can be set up to wash light across the floor and show off the surface of decorative tiles.

    Low-level PIR lighting that comes on automatically as you enter, provides ideal lighting for night-time visits to the bathroom. You can navigate the bathroom without having to switch on the main lights, plus it isn’t as harsh on the eyes, which makes it easier to get back to sleep afterwards.

    9. Splash out on extra lighting in the shower

    Bathroom lighting ideas with green leafy shower enclosure

    Image credit: Shower Wall

    Shower cubicles and walk-in showers will generally need some form of additional lighting to supplement the main lighting source. This could be ceiling spots or indirect lighting set into the walls lower down.

    When it comes to overhead shower lighting, recessed lights are best, but they must be designed for use in wet and damp environments. Recessed lights sit flush to the ceiling which ensures damp does not build up and attract mould and they are easy to wipe over and keep clean.

    Safety is key in a shower area, with the ceiling height dictating what grade of lighting is safe. Generally speaking, IP65 rating lights are suitable, but your electrician will be able to advise.

    10. Be safe with bathroom pendant lights

    Bathroom lighting ideas with blue wall and black pendant lights

    Image credit: Garden Trading

    Chandeliers and pendant lights can be used in bathrooms as long as they are not positioned close to water sources (and out of the designated zones). However, generally speaking, lighting with an IP44 rating is always advised in bathrooms.

    A pendant light with an IP44 rating, like this one, is splashproof (though not fully waterproof) so can be safely fitted in a bathroom provided it is 60cm outside the perimeter of the bath and to a height of 2.25m from the floor.

    11. Opt for multifunctional bathroom lighting

    Bathroom lighting ideas with towel rail light

    Image credit: Big Bathroom Shop

    Provide extra lighting in darker areas of the bathroom with clever multifunctional fixtures and fittings. This neat LED wall light has a toughened glass shelf on top that will hold essential toiletries, plus an integral rail below, that has moveable hooks for hanging towels and robes.

    12. Look to different light sources

    Bathroom lighting ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme

    With the correct lighting, your room can take on different looks throughout the day, night and seasons. In most rooms, you’ll likely need several types of lighting, as one central light source won’t do every job. This is easily achieved through light layering, where you make use of different types of light sources in each room to suit your needs.

    Don’t overlook wall lights – downlighters especially have become very popular, with an array of different styles, and are perfect for adding interest and ambience to a focal wall.

    13. Incorporate hidden lighting

    Bathroom lighting ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Douglas Gibb

    Bathroom lighting has to work on many levels. Think about how you will use the bathroom at different times of day. You want your bathroom to be bright and functional in the mornings, especially around the mirror area, but you also want to be able to wind down in the evenings with a nice relaxing bath.

    Fairly bright lights pointing in all directions make this a bathing space that is perfect for relaxing soaks with no danger of dazzling beams. Reccessed walls are great for hiding spotlights and LEDs.

    14. Set the scene with wall lights

    Traditional country bathroom with blue painted wall panelling vintage sink unit and Victorian taps

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Parmiter

    Lighting is crucial in a bathroom so always ensure that it is sufficient, particularly over the basin area for makeup and grooming. Something that I find very useful is to fit low-level lighting on a sensor for use in the middle of the night, when you want to avoid the harsh glare of main lights.

    15. Take lifestyle into consideration

    Bathroom lighting ideas

    Image credit: Oliver Gordon

    To help you choose the right bathroom lighting, think about who is going to be using the space. If it’s a children’s bathroom, you might want motion-sensitive lighting that switches on and off by itself. If it’s going to be used by adults, you may want mood lighting or a dimmer, and several different circuits – perhaps a low-level light in the shower, floor lighting, overhead lighting and lights around the mirror.

    16. Amp up ambient lighting on shelving

    Bathroom lighting ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Tamra Cave

    Combat a windowless bathroom with lots of ambient light. Subtle led strip lighting attached to the mains looks sophisticated running under a mirrored cupboard for a clean, streamlined look, while a pair of wall lights either side will strike a classic note.

    What is good lighting for a bathroom?

    Essentially good lighting for a bathroom is lighting that serves all purposes. Because we use bathrooms everyday, at all times of the day, the right bathroom lighting idea will ensure you have sufficient light at all times – whether showering or relaxing in the tub.

    When planning the lighting for your bathroom, remember that you want it to work equally well at all times of the day and throughout the year, whether it’s dark winter mornings or sunny summer evenings.

    Choose task lighting, such as overhead spotlights in the shower and around sink units to add maximum coverage. Wall lights and mirror surrounds can welcome focused directional light when using the vanity. Add ambient lighting around the bath and in alcoves and niches, dimmers or adjustable lighting is key for being able to control the amount of light throughout the day.

    Modern smart lighting controls allow pre-programmed settings to make life easier. Try wireless lighting controls, which are installed without cables – a safety consideration to take into account.

    Should bathroom lights hang over mirror?

    Bathroom lights over and around mirrors are key for providing focused task lighting when using the mirrors. Whether choosing wall-mounted lights around or above the mirror or incorporating lighting as part of the mirror, as many modern designs will do, illuminating mirrors is key to a well-functioning bathroom space.

    Will you be using these bathroom lighting ideas to illuminate your scheme?

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