The  bathroom is probably one of the most visited rooms in the house, and the one where we’re encouraged to lock ourselves inside! With that in mind it makes sense to think of our bathroom as a private sanctuary, a place that can be a luxurious refuge – so make the most of it and get the perfect atmosphere by lighting it properly.

Lots of different things go on the bathroom. It’s where we shower, clean our teeth, shave, get dressed,  put on make-up and luxuriate in the bath from time-to-time. So there are a number of things the lighting has to make easy.

The types of lighting designers talk about fall into three categories – general, task and accent . See tips on Lighting Design for what these are and how they should be ‘layered’ to create a perfect ambience.

Bathroom Task Lighting

The key tasks that happen in the bathroom usually revolve around the mirror so this needs lighting appropriately with the right fittings and light bulbs. The top tip is to light the mirror with two light fittings at the side. This will provide shadowless illumination, which is the best for putting on make-up and shaving.

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Effective way to light a bathroom mirror

A tip given by lighting designers is not to add a light above the mirror. This includes recessed lighting in the ceiling. The reason is this throws strong light onto your forehead and creates shadows below the eyes, nose and chin which apart from not being very effective for makeup application or shaving, also visually ages you 10 years. As often the first image we have of ourselves in the morning, is in the bathroom mirror, it’s important to start the day out right. There’s no doubt that proper lighting in the bathroom can help you feel better about yourself and promote confidence. It’s also a good idea to put the lighting on a dimmer. This will help you adjust first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It’s also important to bear in mind that without natural light, women tend to inadvertently put on more make-up – so use natural light where possible as part of the lighting design.

Wattage: in bathrooms use fixtures that provide between 75 and 100 watts of illumination. You can get this level of light from 20-25 watt LED light bulbs or 24-26 CFL light bulbs. A lower wattage can be provided in downstairs cloakrooms as it’s unlikely that people will be doing their morning routine in there. Lower wattage provides a more relaxing and softer ambience for guests.

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Ambient Lighting for Bathrooms

This is also known as ‘general’ lighting, and it provides the overall general illumination that all rooms needs after dark. There are lots of options from spotlights and globes to pendant lights. If you opt for spotlights, make sure you get the colour temperature right. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re in an operating theatre. Take a look at our Guide that explains the ‘temperature’ of various light bulbs. If you don’t want to bathe in harsh light, then think about having  gentler, lower wattage ambient light provided by light bulbs with a lower Kelvin rating – perhaps on a dimmer.

Important: bear in mind that for safety reasons, you are not allowed to have wall mounted light switches in the bathroom. So if you want a dimmer, it will have to be on the outside wall of the bathroom. But for those peaceful meditative baths, a dimmer is definitely a good idea and can save on candle costs!

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Robus Square IP44 Crystal Bathroom Ceiling Light – Chrome

Accent Lighting in Bathrooms

If there’s a feature you want to emphasise, then it’s a good idea to make sure it has special illumination. This can be provided in a number of ways, from downlights (e.g. for a specific alcove that contains glass shelves with perfume bottles and other ‘decorative’ cosmetic items) to spotlights that are angled to pick out a particular feature or item. This kind of lighting is very effective and can also help detract attention from less attractive features you may have in the bathroom.

Interior designer Katie Anderson used lighting as one of the more significant ways to transform this dark bathroom into an evenly lit and very inviting space. See the Before and After pictures below!


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Dark bathroom before the lighting treatment


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Bathroom transformed with great lighting

This shows you what’s possible with a well thought out lighting design using the appropriate light fittings and light bulbs!

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