Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas – 12 ways to bring your space to life with general light

These smart bathroom ceiling lighting ideas will help you create a well-considered lighting scheme

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas
(Image credit: Future)

Smart bathroom ceiling lighting ideas can transform your sanctuary space. 

Rapid changes in technology combined with an ever-increasing array of finishes, styles and shapes have made bathroom lighting one of the most exciting areas of contemporary design.

And there are so many different bathroom ideas with lights to choose from. So, whether you are looking for a perfect flattering spotlight or a dramatic sculptural pendant lamp, these bathroom ceiling lighting ideas will offer inspiration for every type of space.

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas

Here, we focus on the best bathroom lighting ideas for your ceiling and offer expert advice on how you can get the balance of beauty and practicality just right.

1. Set the scene with general light in the bathroom

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Planning bathroom lighting should be undertaken at an early stage to ensure all the key fittings of your bathroom ideas are illuminated properly. It can have a massive impact on the end result so aim for sufficient task lighting in the shower and vanity areas, plus ambient lighting around the bath and in alcoves and niches.

Use a qualified electrician to install any bathroom fittings. Lighting must comply with European safety regulations and be designed and rated to be protected against the ingress of water. 

There are strict regulations on lighting in the bathroom and you must make sure any lighting products are certified for bathroom use, with an appropriate IP rating – IP44 is for general use in bathrooms, and IPXX for use in wet areas, such as shower enclosures. 

British Standard regulations divide the bathroom into zones based on a perceived level of risk, so consult your electrician before choosing fittings.

2. Focus on placement when it comes to light fittings

bathroom with ceiling spotlights

(Image credit: Jonathan Gooch)

Cleverly placed LED bathroom lighting ideas can create striking design features as well as provide relaxing ambient lighting for a soothing soak in the tub. 

The latest bathroom lighting trends include smart lighting controls, which allow you to pre-programme the settings. 

‘These lighting scenes cover everything from early mornings with lights gradually illuminating the space, to a daytime level, to an evening scene that is dimmed to create a peaceful ambience to relax and unwind in,’ explains Phillip Pini, Residential Business Development Manager at Crestron.

3. Install at least three light circuits

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas with pendants

(Image credit: David Cleveland)

Put task lights, such as the pendant seen here, on one circuit. Opt for a pair of these so that the face is lit on both sides with minimal shadow. 

Add downlights, avoiding a grid format, directly over the bath or basin and finally uplights to highlight details. Symmetry in interior design is always pleasing, and these decorative lights, along with the patterned rug and leather chair, create an excellent focal point.

4. Take a layered approach

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas

(Image credit: Richard Powers)

Layer bathroom lighting with a combination of functional shadow-free options around the mirror, directional downlights to highlight textures, and uplights for drama and mood.

5. Add an unexpected element with a chandelier

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas with chandelier

(Image credit: Mark Bolton)

While not usually found in the bathroom, chandeliers will evoke a sense of grandeur and opulence, and they can work just as well in small bathrooms, too. 

Adding statement bathroom chandelier ideas has myriad benefits: not only do many chandeliers help diffuse light gently around the room in a calming way, they also help to add a high-level, luxurious focal point to a bathroom. 

'A piece doesn’t have to be large to make a statement, it just has to be beautiful,' explains Sarah Hills, Creative Director, Porta Romana. 'If you want to have a stand-out piece, then don’t let the rest of the room compete. The right proportion and color will help it sit within the scheme.'

6. Check building codes before installing lighting

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

In the US, electrical codes for bathroom work are stipulated by local building codes, usually based on the National Electrical Code (NEC), while in the UK fittings are given an Ingress Protection (IP) rating, which defines their level of moisture sealing effectiveness. Different levels of IP rating are required, according to their proximity to wet areas, defined by zones. Choose fittings with the correct IP rating according to the zone where they will be used; your supplier can advise.

Mount fittings slightly higher than the shower, as shown in the walk-in shower idea above. This way, they are out of reach, although modern low watt fittings deliver minimal heat.

7. Use low-level lighting over a shower

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas

(Image credit: Jonathan Gooch)

Lighting is crucial in a bathroom so always ensure that it is sufficient. It is particularly important over the bathroom vanity for makeup and grooming but also consider lighting closer to the floor, too. 

'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,' says Interior Designer Nicky Dobree.

8. Choose a sculptural pendant 

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas chandelier

(Image credit: Richard Powers)

A fitting doesn’t have to be big and bold to add wow-factor to a scheme. Just by being creative with shape, proportion, volume and materials, you can instantly transform your room.

A pendant light works well over a double-height space. This can be a long-drop chandelier that lights the floor below or alternatively a fitting with a shorter flex that brings life to the upper story.

9. Light the bathtub

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas with LEDs

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Recessed LED downlights make it possible to read in the tub, and highlight its striking shape. 'Install dimmer switches on all general lighting,' advises Sally Storey, Design Director at John Cullen. 'This will allow you to instantly adjust the mood.'

10. Add lighting to your vanity area

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Bathroom vanity and powder room vanity ideas require well-positioned lighting. Recessed LED downlights illuminate the basins, while wall lights provide sideways light to the mirrors, for the most balanced and flattering effect on the face.

'If you don’t have room for wall lights, then use two downlights in the ceiling, rather than one, to avoid shadows and to light both sides of the face equally,' says Sally Storey.

11. Create a luxe look

Bathroom ceiling pendant light

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Bathroom lighting need not be confined to spotlights. Instead look for a brave fitting that is a little out of the ordinary. 

This vintage Thirties-style pendant light makes a statement not only because of its elegant curves and unusual style, but also because it is a surprising addition to this space.

12. Curate an installation with pendants

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas

(Image credit: Montse Garriga Grau)

This curated group of pendant lights has an art installation feel to it. Playing with height and shape, the shades add real impact to this otherwise simple white bathroom idea.

Keeping the tone and style similar actually makes the statement greater while still maintaining a sense of harmony. Different styles or colors would look chaotic.

What is the best bathroom ceiling light?

Lighting is such an integral design element these days that it should be planned at the start of a project, and nowhere is this more important than in the bathroom.

Here, fittings are generally built into the very fabric of the room, providing not only bright, general light to help with tasks such as shaving, but also ambient light for mood, which may involve a number of applications.

‘The overall illumination tends to be provided by downlights in the ceiling. Rather than having a regular grid of downlights, use them to create feature and focus. 

Consider installing a row of two or three at the back of the shower or bath, instead of over the centre, so the shafts of light create an effect almost like running water down the wall. The light will also reach the extremities of the room, enhancing the feeling of space.’

What lighting is best for bathrooms?

If you're pondering what lighting is best for bathrooms, you've come to the right place.

Try to plan the lighting scheme at the start of your project, so that it can be integrated into a lighting control system, if you have one,’ advises Emma Scott, Principal Designer at C.P.Hart. 

‘Good lighting can transform a room, so spend time working out which features you wish to highlight, where you need bright lighting and how you can switch to softer lighting to relax.’

‘Consider the main source of light in the room, which could be a central ceiling light pendant, a series of downlights, or a combination of the two. Fix all the lights with dimmer switches, so that you can simply control the mood, from full brightness for cleaning the bathroom to soft light for a long, tranquil soak in the tub.’

Mix light sources to alter the atmosphere from ‘getting-ready-for-work’ practical to ‘late-night languor.’ 

Interior designer Harret Forde advises: ‘Bathroom lighting needs to be flexible. You can have a combination of wall and overhead lighting, but there are specific areas that need highlighting, such as sinks, showers and baths. For mirrors, position lights carefully either to the side or in front of you to eliminate shadows.’ 

Low-level sensor LED lighting can be useful for nocturnal visits while ‘washing’ a wall with light adds texture to flat surfaces and setting spots into niches adds contrast.

What is the best bathroom lighting for high ceilings?

It's important to think about the best lighting for high ceilings, but the good news is there are plenty of options; from traditional pendant lamps and downlights to large sculptural designs and LED spotlights built into the very fabric of the ceiling.

As lighting choices become more complex, it can make sense to employ a specialist designer. ‘Our job is to simplify the process and help people use lighting in a more interesting way,’ explains Sanjit Bahra of Designpluslight. 

‘We also provide objective information on good brands. LEDs vary hugely in quality and you definitely get what you pay for. We advise clients to consult us at the start of their project, at around the same time they are starting to think about the plumbing.’ 

Costs vary but you can expect to pay from around $250 for a one-room design service.


Jennifer Ebert
Deputy Editor (Digital)

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.