Bathroom lighting ideas – brighten up your space with an efficient lighting scheme

An essential part of any bathroom project, a well-considered lighting scheme will set the mood

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. Read on for our expert advice on bathroom lighting ideas.

WHAT TYPE OF LIGHTING IS BEST FOR BATHROOMS?

A successful plan will combine three types of lighting: ambient, to illuminate the space; task, from specific functions; and accent, for a special touch. Sally Storey, Design Director of lighting specialist John Cullen, advises that when it comes to bathroom ceiling lights, positioning is key.

AMBIENT LIGHTING

The overall illumination tends to be provided by downlights in the ceiling. Positioning is key. 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, engaging the feel of space.

TASK LIGHTING

This is particularly important as a mirror used for shaving and applying make-up. The best way to illuminate your face is with wall lights on either side of the mirror or backlights all around. Dowlighting can accentuate a statement basin, but is less flattering and will also create unwanted shadows.

ACCENT LIGHTING

Consider fixing a linear light source to the underside of a vanity to provide an event, soft effect and give the unit the appearance of floating. Recessed uprights can highlight a feature wall, shutters or a free-standing bath. Put wall lights on one switch, downlights on another, and feature lights on a motion detector so that they can double as nightlights.

BATHROOM LIGHTING IDEAS

1. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: David Lovatti)

As with any design problem, the best way to start is to analyse the space, its properties and how it’s going to be used. Most bathrooms can be easily split into zones: the vanity area, the bath, and the shower. Task lighting is generally concentrated around the vanity. Here, you need bright light but think about installing spots or LEDS in vertical rows down the side of mirrors as opposed to above, to give a more flattering light with less shadows. In compact areas, look at mirrored cabinets with integral lighting as a simple but effective solution.

For more bathroom lighting ideas, see:Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas – bring your space to life with general light

2. SMARTEN UP WITH SPOTLIGHTS

Bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: Jonathan Gooch)

Lighting can have a massive impact and should be planned early to ensure all key fittings are illuminated properly. 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, such as Crestron’s new Pyng system, which is installed without cables and can oversee thermostats, security and audio, if desired.

3. GO FOR A LUXE LOOK

Bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: Victoria + Albert)

Statement lighting is having a moment. Oversized or crystal, all-out glamour is the way to go. This bespoke light fixture from Spark & Bell will take your scheme from zero to hero in an instant.

4. ILLUMINATE A VANITY AREA

Bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: Alicia Taylor)

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 either – downlighters especially have become very popular, with an array of different styles, and are perfect for adding interest and ambience to a focal wall.

5. INTEGRATE LIGHTING INTO THE CEILING

Bathroom lighting ideas

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 and ceilings are great for hiding spotlights and LEDs.

6. MIX MATERIALS

Bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

The latest innovations mean that you don’t have to completely overhaul a scheme in order to make a difference. This quintessential English style has been rejuvenated without losing its classic appeal thanks to this industrial light fixture.

‘Effective lighting can transform your home, defining space, highlighting design schemes and creating atmosphere and interest. Consider materials and function – bone china gives a gentle, ambient glow, prismatic glass exaggerates and intensifies light, while aluminium and other metals bring a more industrial flavour and greater visual impact,' says Peter Bowles, MD, Original BTC.

7. INSTALL A LARGE PENDANT

Bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: Adrian Briscoe)

Gone are the days when lighting was seen as means of seeing in the dark. Like the best art or furniture, it can totally transform a home and is a good starting point for a design scheme.Don’t be afraid to go big. It takes a little bravery, but you can afford to use larger lights than you might at first think sensible. Big chandeliers, drum pendants and giant floor lamps are all very much in vogue for those who like their lighting to make a statement.

8. EVOKE A SPA-LIKE ATMOSPHERE

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Strategically placed mood lighting is the secret to creating a soothing bathroom that’s as indulgent as your favorite spa. Start by working out how you use the bathroom. If you’re a bath person, focus on atmospheric lighting to create ambience near the bath. Waterproof light fittings can be added inside the bath and shower, creating a luxurious spa effect as they shimmer through the water.

9. KEEP IT HIDDEN

(Image credit: Mark Luscombe-Whyte)

Have your mood lighting recessed within cabinetry and niches, so you can’t see the source. These lights must be designed for bathroom use and IP rated according to proximity to water – your lighting designer and electrician will advise. LED lights, which are 50-90 per cent more energy efficient than halogen, are best and available in multiple guises, including uplighter, downlights and LED ropes.

10. GO FOR A STATEMENT PENDANT LIGHT

(Image credit: Jonathan Gooch)

Once a big no-no safety wise, low-slung pendants and statement chandeliers now come in bathroom-friendly designs. It is wise to select designs made from moisture-resistant materials like chrome, lacquered brass and nickel. Fabric shades are prone to mildew.

11. HANG A PENDANT TO DRAMATISE A SPACE

Bathroom ceiling lighting ideas

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

While overhead lights are often used only occasionally, most designers consider them essential. ‘I use them to bridge the gap between floors and high ceilings,’ says Deborah Bass, founder of Base Interior. ‘Because ceilings are a blank canvas, unlike floors, pendants help to link a whole space together,’ adds designer Lee Broom, who also uses them to zone different areas. While not seen as the most atmospheric light source, they can make a space feel cosier, argues Siobhan Kelly, associate director of David Collins Studio. ‘A ceiling in shadow flattens a room.’

DO I NEED A CERTAIN LIGHT FOR A BATHROOM?

Be aware that there are strict regulations regarding lighting in the bathroom. You must ensure any lighting products are certified for use in the bathroom, with an IP rating appropriate to the zone it’s located in – IP44 is for general use in bathrooms with 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.

Small bathroom lighting

(Image credit: David Lovatti)

HOW DO YOU LIGHT A SMALL BATHROOM?

As with any design problem, the best way to start is to analyse the space, its properties and how it’s going to be used. Most bathrooms can be easily split into zones: the vanity area, the bath, and the shower. Task lighting is generally concentrated around the vanity. Here, you need bright light but think about installing spots or LEDS in vertical rows down the side of mirrors as opposed to above, to give a more flattering light with less shadows. In compact areas, look at mirrored cabinets with integral lighting as a simple but effective solution.

Offering far more than mere practicality, a good lighting scheme is a decorating tool in its own right, offering an easy way to transform your home. Light can make a room feel larger and airier, it can play with proportions and disguise less favourable aspects and, of course, it can radically change the mood, running the spectrum from dramatic and enlivening to soft and relaxing. ‘Well-planned lighting can make a room look larger or a basement bathroom feel as if it is above ground,’ says lighting designer and Design Director at John Cullen, Sally Storey.