Bathroom over mirror lighting ideas – 10 ways to bathe mirrors in light

Give your bathroom mirror a glow-up with our expert guide to elegant and effective illumination

There's no doubt bathroom over mirror lighting ideas are in the design spotlight right now. A lone ceiling pendant is no longer acceptable in today’s fashion-forward bathing spaces. So now's the time to up your game when seeking out interesting bathroom lighting ideas!

‘We've noticed increased interest in bathroom lighting as people are becoming more adventurous in the design of their bathrooms,’ confirms Niki Wright, founder, lights&lamps. ‘Choosing lighting that complements these exciting schemes and pushes the boundaries of what is normally seen in bathrooms is a fast-growing trend.’

Before you get too carried away, take note that illuminating the mirror (and therefore the basin/vanity area) is just one, albeit very important, part in achieving a successful bathroom lighting scheme. Think about it in much the same way as you might plan living room lighting ideas. Consider task lighting, for shaving and makeup, as well as ambient lighting for setting a relaxing mood. A night-light, activated by motion sensor, is a good safety feature for families, too.

Bathroom over mirror lighting ideas

To help you decide how to best illuminate your bathroom mirror ideas, we have brought together plenty of fabulous design ideas. But there are a few practical points you’ll also need to consider. Read on for expert advice on safety compliance, positioning, brightness levels and installation. As well, of course, as lots of dreamy design inspiration.

1. Customise pendants

bathroom with tiles on wall and commode

(Image credit: Future PLC/Alasdair MacIntosh)

You may have spotted multi-wire spider pendants providing a touch of industrial design flair in small kitchen lighting ideas. Well, they can also work their magic in the bathroom, and getting the look is much easier than you might think. Simply position the ceiling rose – offset can feel more modern – then loop each cable on hooks and adjust to your perfect height.

Take care to comply with the Building Regulation’s Zone 2 safety ratings by ensuring the pendants hang at least 60cm away from the basin taps and bath. Any lighting fittings that sit within Zone 2 must be IP44 rated or above to protect against moisture.

‘Multi-wire spider pendants allow you to position the light source exactly where you need it. They can provide a good spread of light around a mirror to reduce the risk of unwanted shadows,’ says Marketa Rypacek, managing director, Industville. ‘Further individual flair can be added with coloured flex or lightshades. Either to make a statement or complement the décor of your bathroom.’

2. Fix lights directly onto the mirror

bathroom with shower room and bathtub

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Fitting wall lights onto a simple panel of mirrored glass is a simple yet effective way to achieve a smart, contemporary look for modern bathroom ideas. The mirrored glass reflects the shape of a stylish wall light, doubling its design appeal. Look for fittings with sculptural shapes, like Original BTC’s classic Hector range, seen here.

To get this look, you’ll need to get holes pre-cut in your mirror before it is installed. First have your electrician put the lighting cables in place. Carefully measure each position so they sit symmetrically to the basin. Then either ask your local glass company to come out and template for the mirror. Or you can do it yourself on graph paper, again taking careful measurements, and send the template to them. When installing the light fitting, your electrician should take care to use rubber washers and avoid over-tightening, which can damage the glass.

3. Complement period fittings

bathroom with white wall and mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Parmiter)

Period homes didn’t have indoor bathrooms, let alone electric lighting! But luckily there are lots of traditionally-inspired designs that will feel authentic in older properties. Light fittings with ball joints and sconce-like shapes are a good choice. Try companies like The Victorian Emporium.

Opaline shades have a retro look and provide a softly diffused light that can work as ambient illumination when the main overhead lights are off. Get your electrician to wire them on separate circuits so they can be switched independently.

4. Spread the light

bathroom with two mirrors and basin

(Image credit: Future PLC/William Goddard)

His ‘n’ her style double basins are a smart move in bathrooms designed for sharing but it can lead to confusion when it comes to lighting two mirrors. Often, the temptation is to consider them as separate entities and light each mirror separately. But this could result in a bathroom that’s lit up like Blackpool Illuminations!

‘If you have two mirrors, and two basins, that are fairly close together, add one additional light in the middle to spread the illumination across without overdoing it,’ says Ian Cameron, creative director at lighting brand Empty State. ‘This can be in the form of neat wall lights or perhaps a trio of statement pendant lights.’

5. Create the illusion of height

bathroom with mirror and two basin and tap

(Image credit: Future PLC)

In bathrooms with low or sloped ceilings, such as loft and dormer bathrooms, it can help to position task lights above the mirror rather than on either side. This effectively elongates the wash area design.

Go as close to the ceiling as you can, while still making a clear distinction between wall lights and the main ceiling fitting. Use coordinating fittings from the same lighting range to achieve a nice sense of cohesion. In this loft en-suite idea, compact wall lights are tucked neatly above the generous mirror. This draws the eye upwards and makes the room feel more spacious.

6. Buy a mirror with built-in lighting

bathroom with grey tiles on wall and ladder

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Illuminated mirrors have LEDs built-in providing a neat design solution. From an installation point of view, illuminated mirrors are designed to connect to your regular lighting ring (by a qualified electrician). They usually come with adjustable brackets and plenty of cabling to make precise positioning a breeze. Look for extra features like integral de-misting pads, shaver sockets and Bluetooth-connected speakers.

‘Bathroom mirrors with integrated lighting not only provide great lighting to look at your reflection in, but also help to combat the glare that is sometimes reflected when installing separate lights,’ adds Trinity Owhe, Design Expert, Victorian Plumbing. Choose a design with LEDs around the full perimeter of the mirror to illuminate from every angle.

7. Pick pendants for a simple retro-fit

bathroom with grey tiles mirror and basin

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Adding mirror lighting when you’re in the midst of a major reno is rarely a problem as new wiring can be installed before the walls are plastered. ‘If you don’t want the disruption of running new wires inside nicely plastered walls. Or an in-wall install is going to be tricky for whatever reason, you can hang pendants from the ceiling adjacent to the mirror, so that they act as wall lights,’ says David Amos, CEO, Amos Lighting + Home.

Connecting new lighting through the ceiling is far simpler and less messy than drilling out walls, assuming there is an accessible loft space above. It's very likely there'll be lighting cables already up there that your electrician can easily connect into. ‘Pendants used in this way are also a stylish choice, providing a beautiful aesthetic that frames the mirror,’ adds David.

8. Make lighting part of the furniture

bathroom with mirror with basin and bathtub

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Many bathroom furniture collections include built-in lighting that is perfectly poised above the mirror. Incorporated into a light pelmet, downlights can be operated with the main bathroom light switch or separately on a pull-cord for extra flexibility.

Look for furniture incorporating LED downlights for energy-efficiency – a great way to save energy at home. Choose lamps (a.k.a light bulbs!) with a colour temperature that suits your needs. For applying makeup, aim for lamps rated 4800-5000K, which is considered best for achieving naturally day-lit results. If you’d prefer to see a healthy glow when you look in the mirror aim for 2700K.

Above all, avoid cold, white LEDs, above 5000K. These will make skin appear sickly no matter how much blush you layer on!

9. Position wall lights on either side of your mirror

bathroom with basin and tap

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Parmiter)

There’s nothing wrong with lights above your mirror, provided they are close enough to the wall. This ensures you’re not overshadowing them with your head when you lean in. But for optimum illumination of the face, with no dark eye-bags or five-o’clock shadows, side mirrors are the way forward.

‘Task lighting at the bathroom basin area is really about the lighting of the face,’ says Sally Storey, creative director of John Cullen Lighting. ‘Without doubt the best solution is two wall lights either side of the mirror. This gives the correct side light that will balance the face.’

10. Splash out on designer lighting

bathroom with circle shape mirror and basin

(Image credit: The Watermark Collection/Matt Clayton)

Some light fitting designs have become so iconic they will never date. And so the investment is one that will last for years to come. Plus, you can always take expensive light fittings with you should you move home! Designer brands known for timeless lighting include Flos, Louis Poulsen and Artemide.

Splashing out may not cost as much as you think. If you choose the right designer fitting, just one can go a long way. In this compact cloakroom the mirror is illuminated by a single IC light, designed by Michael Anastassiades for Flos. It has enough design impact to make a strong impression all on its own.

Do you need lights above the mirror in the bathroom?

There's no doubt that mirrors in the bathroom benefit from task lighting. Where exactly you position task lights really depends on what you are using the mirror for. In family bathroom ideas where the mirror is used to quickly check clean faces or spot spinach in teeth, the lights can be above, to the side or all around the mirror.

However, if you use the mirror for close-up work like applying makeup, shaving and plucking brows, good results are key. The lights should be on both sides of the mirror, at roughly eye-level. You can also have a light above of course.

‘This is because placing a light on either side of the mirror evenly illuminates your face, whereas only having a light above the mirror will highlight the top part of your face, which can create unflattering shadows around your eyes and nose,’ explains Matthew Currington, Technical Director, The Lighting Superstore. ‘The amount of light you’ll need will depend on the mirror size. For a general guide, 1200 lumens is the ideal brightness – this is around 80 watts for incandescent lamps or 15 watts for LED.’

What’s the best way to light a bathroom mirror?

Ideally, you should aim for multiple layers of lighting in your bathroom, including the main ceiling lights, atmospheric mood lights and of course a light or two to make it easier to see your reflection in the mirror. ‘Wall lights on either side of a mirror are the most flattering. But, in a small bathroom layout, these may make a space feel cramped, so it’s important to choose lighting that suits its size,’ says Matthew Currington, Technical Director, The Lighting Superstore.

‘In a small space, consider placing LED strip lighting above the mirror to illuminate the space above it, as this creates a great atmosphere and gives the illusion the room is larger than it is,’ adds Matthew. ‘Backlighting a bathroom mirror is a great way to add an extra glam factor to your space, while providing essential lighting. Consider using dimmable lights which will be bright enough to do your makeup or grooming but can be toned down to create a more relaxing atmosphere.’

How high should bathroom light fixtures be above mirror?

If you’re opting for wall lighting on either side of the mirror, ensure the light fittings are no more than 30cm away, to optimise their effect.

‘If you’ve gone for a wall fixture above, hang this between five and 10cm, centred above the mirror. For overhead lighting, consider using LED downlights to create a softer illumination. Avoid light bulbs that are too bright, as they will create harsh shadows,’ says Matthew Currington, Technical Director, The Lighting Superstore.

Linda Clayton

 Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist, and has specialised in product design, interiors and fitness for more than two decades. Linda has written for a wide range of publications, from the Daily Telegraph and Guardian to Homes & Gardens and Livingetc. She has been freelancing for Ideal Home Magazine since 2008, covering design trends, home makeovers, product reviews and much more.