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Bathroom Lighting Design Ideas

Updated on November 13, 2013
Even in the day time, having the right lighting can help you with your morning routine.
Even in the day time, having the right lighting can help you with your morning routine.
There are many types of bathroom lighting.
There are many types of bathroom lighting.

For most people, the last place they think of when it comes to lighting is the bathroom. The bathroom just doesn’t seem as important as other rooms, like the kitchen, living room, or dining room, when it comes to lighting. For many folks, bathroom lighting doesn’t quite seem to justify the thought or the cost like other parts of your home. And yet, the bathroom is in many ways the most important of all the rooms in your house. Isn’t it the first room you travel to each morning? Isn’t it the last room you spend time in before heading to bed? You take your showers in the bathroom, you shave in the bathroom, you put your make up on and brush your hair and your teeth in the bathroom. You spend a lot of time in there!

Given the amount of time spent in the bathroom and the important things you do while there, you really should consider how the bathroom is lit. A well lit bathroom is a pleasant place to be. It’s also a place where the critical tasks of grooming can be done right. You need a bathroom full of light and of the right kind of light.

Bathroom Lighting Strategies

There are a number of ways a bathroom can be lit, and the best lit bathrooms are those that use a combination of light fixtures. Simply placing an overhead light in your bathroom may get you by, but your bathroom can be a more beautiful and functional place to spend time in with a little more planning.

To begin with, consider what kind of light bulbs you want to use. There are a few types of lights you can use - flourescent, incandescent, and LED - and some people have even gone so far as to use halogen lights in their bathroom depending on the feel they would like. Flourescent lighting is one of the most popular at the moment, but LED is becoming more and more popular. There are a lot of advantages to LED lights, including energy efficiency and eco-friendly lighting, but the choice if up to you in the end. Just be sure you will be happy with your choice, or choose fixtures that offer the possibility to change your types of bulb should you choose.

A very modern bathroom.
A very modern bathroom.

Vanity Lighting

First of all, you should consider the vanity lighting around or above the mirror. The mirror is where you will need the most light for grooming, so it is there you should start your bathroom lighting plans. Many bathrooms have lights above the mirror, which shine down on your face. Depending on how this light is positioned, this can work well. However, in many cases this over-mirror position will cast shadows on the face, especially below the eyes and nose, making it difficult to shave or put on make up. Often better is to place two vertically oriented lights on either side of the mirror. This positioning will bathe the face in light without shadows.

If the mirror is too large or there is not enough room for side mirrors, the over-mirror light should be placed approximately 5.5 to 6.5 feet above the floor. Be sure to choose a light that can handle a bulb of 150 watts at the minimum. This will provide strong enough light to see for close up grooming. Halogen lights provide the strongest lighting for bathrooms, and, although they are more expensive than incandescent lights, they will last quite a bit longer. Newer kinds of fluorescent bulbs cast a more natural light than the older variety, so these can work well in bathrooms too.

Shower Lighting

Next, you will want to think about bathroom lighting for the shower. Lighting this area of the bathroom is often done well using recessed lighting positioned in the ceiling at the approximate center of the shower area. This should give you plenty of light for showering tasks. If you have a glass door on the shower a recessed light might not be absolutely necessary, but it will be a nice addition to your bathroom lighting strategy.

If you are looking into other sources of lighting for your shower, you'll want to be careful about placement and wiring. When it comes to lighting so close to a major water source, be sure to get the help of an electrician (if you are a do-it-yourselfer).

For lighting directly in the showers, you will want to look for water-proof lighting. This will provide you with a lot of illumination in such a small space while keeping you safe. You can also go so far as to get submersible lighting for inside of your tub or on your shower floor. It's definitely stylish, and will definitely need a licensed electrician to install if you want to make sure your lights stay submersible.

Creative Bathroom Lighting Ideas

1) How about a chandelier? Not often associated with the bathroom, a quirky bathroom might benefit from unconventional lighting choices!

2) Cute sconces aren't exactly the ideal vanity lights, but with the choices available, you can add a lot of attitude to your bathroom with one on either side of your mirror!

3) Sconces with shades can also be changed out to provide a different look whenever you change up your style! You could even buy shades to match the towels you use, if you are so inclined.

3) If you have an island vanity, consider getting a pendant light.

4) Mirrors can do wonders in regards to lighting! Having bright lights next to mirrors will reflect more light around your bathroom.

5) Never underestimate the power of natural light! Skylights can not only allow or natural lighting during the day, but can also be opened up to provide a nice breeze during hot days.

6) Light tubes are great for the vanity, and positioned correctly, can really help to illuminate the entire bathroom. Plus, they look very modern.

7) Try a backlit mirror for an ambient feel.

Ambient and Accent Bathroom Lighting

Another nice addition to the bathroom is to install ambient lighting to bathe the entire room with light. This can be done with a typical overhead light, or you may choose something like a nice chandelier or mini chandelier or some variety of pendant light fixture. This will add a touch of elegance to the bathroom and provide a bit of sparkle to the room. Cove lighting is another idea, in which lights are concealed behind special molding just below ceiling level.

Accent light is ideal for making the bathroom a truly special room, as special as any other space in your home. You can install spot lights or focused recessed lighting to highlight artwork hung on the bathroom wall or to light a special shelving unit holding candles, fancy bath salts, pictures, and the like. You may wish to highlight special tiling in your bathroom as well.

Of course, however you light your bathroom, you should consider the important fact that electricity and water should never come in contact. Lighting and wiring must be properly installed and laboratory rated for wet conditions. Given these precautions, your bathroom lighting can be beautiful, unique, and charming.

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    • relica profile image

      relica 7 years ago from California

      Thanks for an execllent article. Bathrooms are one of the most important rooms when it comes to lighting, because you need decent light when you are grooming.

      Nice hub.