Small bathroom lighting ideas – 10 ways to make your small bathroom shine

With a few clever design tricks, you can create just the right mood for your small bathroom
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  • Lighting can make or break a small bathroom. Too much and it can feel overwhelming and clinical. Too little and you’ll be walking into a dark hole that’s far from revitalising. Start by researching bathroom lighting ideas – most can be adapted to suit a small bathroom. Many larger lights – such as pendants – will have matching wall light options within the range, which are ideal in a smaller bathroom.

    ‘A smaller bathroom should be treated in much the same way as a larger space to create an equal amount of drama and ambience,’ says Niki Wright, founder of Lights & Lamps. Niki suggests a flush ceiling light that can be dimmed for long soaks at night. ‘Pendants placed next to a mirror will not only illuminate the space but give a small bathroom a sense of relaxed luxury too,’ says Niki.

    Small bathroom lighting ideas

    ‘If you’re short on space in your bathroom, then wall lights are a great way of introducing some personality and a focal point to your bathroom if used around a mirror. Or if walls are not available, a central IP44 flush multi light works very well,’ says Mary Buchanan, creative director of Laura Ashley Lighting & Mirrors.

    ‘If you require brighter lighting, white IP44 LED recess lights will give plenty of visibility for any beauty and self-care routines. You could also consider adding LED sensor lights to drawers and cabinets to give you extra touch of practical luxury.’ Make sure to read up on the IP rating guide before purchasing.

    1. Multitask with an illuminated mirror

    Modern bathroom, grey tiled flooring, wall mounted vanity unit with wood effect doors, white ceramic basin, mirrored wall cabinet, floating shelves for towel storage, grey high gloss unit

    Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme

    Short of wall space yet need more lighting above your basin? Look at a mirror and light combo, which often can be operated independently of your bathroom’s lighting circuit. Team with simple spotlights – less is more in a small bathroom. If you haven’t fitted a dimmer to your spots, then the bathroom over mirror lighting idea should be soft enough on its own for a relaxing soak too.

    If steam is an issue in a small bathroom – especially if window-less – then shop for a mirror-light with demister pads fitted. This helps you to get ready without the fog of a steamed-up mirror.

    2. Reflect a white ceiling

    Closeup of bathroom basin, grey wood panelled wall, mirror and classic uplight

    Image credit: Future PLC/William Goddard

    Use an uplighter wall light to bounce light off a white-painted ceiling. It’s a trick that really works, making a small bathroom idea feel much brighter. Often, we are tempted to use wall lights as task lighting above a basin, but if you need to make a small bathroom feel lighter, try turning the pendant upwards.

    When it comes to finish, shiny chrome touches will always make a small bathroom appear brighter. Keep black and dull metal-finishes for larger spaces or those flooded with light.

    3. Fit spots into a tight space

    Blue bathroom with built in vanity unit, gabled roof, fitted shelving units, rolltop bath

    Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole

    Wall-mounted spotlights are a great alternative to separate wall and ceiling lights in a small bathroom. Choose a design on a bar, with swivel heads that allow you to direct the light to where it’s needed most.

    If you’re small bathroom is in the eaves of a loft conversion, then you might struggle to fix lighting to the ceiling. A wall-mounted spotlight design is a great solution. Try to angle the spots to bounce off a white ceiling or wall if possible – it’s a trick that works brilliantly.

    4. Go for an industrial look

    Wood vanity unit in white loft converted bathroom, wood beam ceiling painted white

    Image credit: Future PLC/Alistair Nicholls

    Lighting in a small bathroom can still contribute to its overall style or look – and you aren’t limited to just spotlights. Here, an industrial-style bulkhead light fitting works brilliantly with the rustic washstand and roll-top. This type of fitting would also work on the ceiling too.

    Don’t underestimate the power of natural light in a small bathroom – if you can, keep windows free of blinds, allowing as much light to flood the space as possible.

    5. Use spots in a recess

    Bathroom with white metro and marble effect tiles, slate floor tiles, white toilet and pedestal basin, large wall mirror and bright blue towels

    Image credit: Future PLC/Oliver Gordon

    Make a feature of architectural details in a small bathroom with lighting. Try fitting simple spotlights to recessed areas, like above a large expanse of mirror, placed above boxed-in pipework. The mirror also helps reflecting the lights – you’ll get double the impact.

    A false wall section can also help fit spots if you don’t have access to the ceiling above (if you live in an apartment for example, with neighbours above you).

    White bathroom tile ideas, sanitaryware and ceiling will all help make a small space feel bigger. If you need to warm up an all-white space, then try a bolder accent colour for your towels.

    6. Highlight shelves with spots

    Closeup of brown metallic tiled ledge, spotlights, pumice stone, spa bath products

    Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles

    Just as you can shine down from nooks and recessed areas in a bathroom, you can also shine up, with recessed spotlights built into ledges and plinths. Try teaming with a metallic or high-shine tile, creating shimmering corners in a small bathroom, especially if you’ve chosen dark tiles.

    Don’t forget candlelight either – lanterns, votives and scented candles are a great way to create pockets of mood lighting in a small bathroom. Turn off your main light source and let the atmosphere build.

    7. Keep it simple with spotlights

    Wooden shelving storage, in white bathroom, black patterned wallpaper, white floor tiles, sloped ceiling

    Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd Davies

    Spots are often the go-to when it comes to lighting for a small bathroom – and it’s easy to see why. They can be fitted into tight spaces, such as sloped ceilings, and depending on the beam, you can highlight one feature or use to illuminate a greater space. Look for designs that can be tilted, giving you more flexibility.

    When it comes to finish, brushed chrome remains popular, but you can choose to echo your brassware or contrast, with black, white, brass, gold and even copper IP rated spotlights available.

    8. Add a wall light on a different circuit

    Small bathroom with white metro tiles and a walk in shower

    Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme

    While spots are a great way of evenly lighting a small bathroom, you might want to add even more light to darker corners. Try a wall light above a display cabinet, adding to your small bathroom’s style or feel. Here, a traditional ribbed glass wall light enhances the bathroom’s period touches, echoing the showerhead and black tiled edging. A separate spotlight is a great shower lighting idea.

    If you don’t want spotlights to dominate in a small bathroom, choose white-faced ones that will blend into a white-painted ceiling more than contrasting chrome, gold- or brass-effect ones.

    9. Line up downlighters above your bath

    Black roll top bath in a small bathroom with half height white metro tiles and three downlighters

    Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme

    Make your bath the star of your small bathroom with lighting directly above. Place wall lights at the correct height above your bath, following their IP rating. Odd numbers look better than even – a classic designer trick that really works. Use to highlight a favourite piece of art, just as you would in your living room.

    Choose glass and brushed chromed effect lights to echo the period charm of a roll top, while fitting to a dimmer will allow for those more indulgent soaks.

    10. Choose high-shine finishes

    Modern brown metallic bathroom, built in bath, integrated TV, wall mounted towel rail

    Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles

    There are several ways to boost your small bathroom’s sense of light without the need of an electrician. Try swapping window blind ideas blinds for window film, while shimmering tiles to catch and reflect natural light can really lift the mood. Try tiling the two walls that are right angles to your small bathroom’s window with glass or pearlescent mosaics.

    Choose high-shine chrome for brassware and towel rails. Don’t forget tile edging, while mirrored planters and candlesticks help to bounce natural light around.

    What lighting is best for a small bathroom?

    Spotlights are a great option for a small bathroom, freeing up wall space for other bathroom essentials. Choose ones that can be angled, allowing you to direct the light to where you need it. If you do have wall space near your basin or bath, then a wall light on a separate lighting circuit will allow you to create either task or mood lighting independently of your spots.

    ‘In smaller rooms it’s particularly important to consider the positioning of the light. Alongside overhead lights, consider wall lights, either above or either side of the mirror is ideal so that the light can bounce around the room – it will help to extend the light, making it feel much more open and spacious,’ Natalie Mann, new product development co-ordinator, Iconic Lights.

    How many lights does a small bathroom need?

    ‘Try not to rely on a single light source in a smaller bathroom,’ says Peter Legg, lead designer at Där Lighting. ‘Adding wall lights will help the area feel brighter and larger. Positioning is key; placing wall lights either side of a mirror will cast light back into the room and give it a more spacious feeling. Those who are designing a particularly compact space, such as a cloakroom ideas, could consider an illuminated mirror as an alternative.’

    How do you light a bathroom without a window?

    Keep the walls and ceiling light in colour – white always works – and use it to reflect light around a small bathroom. Try a mix of spots and a small pendant or wall light, while LED lighting under niches can create more of a mood when needed. Make sure your bathroom design has a large bathroom mirror idea. Again, the more reflective surfaces the better.

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