Illuminate your bathroom like a pro with these clever lighting ideas

Does your bathroom need better lighting? Say hello to back-lit mirrors, illuminated architectural features and grand chandeliers. KBB journo Charlotte Luxford looks at nine beautiful projects to inspire your scheme…

Bathroom lighting is a complex beast that requires careful planning. You need both practical task lighting and sufficient ambient lighting for relaxation. But where do you actually begin?

Start by thinking about the size of your bathroom. Then, consider the natural light it receives and features or focal points you want to highlight within the space. These factors will shape your design.

Dark and moody space with black vanity unit and fluted tiles
Bathroom design by Simply Bathrooms Ltd.

Also, analyse what times you tend to use the bathroom and how you want the mood of the space to change throughout the day. All of this will help you map out whether you would like downlights, decorative wall lights or pendant lights to set the tone.

Remember it’s difficult to retrofit electrical points after your bathroom’s been tiled and the electrical circuit for the room has been certified. To make sure you avoid any costly mistakes take the time to think through these points.

Now, take a look at these real projects to steal a few clever ideas for your own bathroom lighting scheme…

How can I maximise bathroom light in a windowless space?

In this new build, with the help of Warwick Bathroom Company, homeowner Tracy Pullee had to make smart design choices to add some much-needed light into her new bathroom.

As there was no window in the bathroom, a supersized wall mirror was designed to reflect as much of the daylight back into the room as possible. The back-lit mirror also emits a soft glow for relaxing evening baths. It is on a separate switch so it can be used independently from the main downlights.

“The only downside about having a large, low mirror is that we had to be careful about what was reflected; the best place for the WC was opposite the mirror, so the vanity unit within the mirror was carefully placed to conceal it,” explains Tracy.

Bathroom with large round mirror near a wall-hung vanity basin in a black and wooden bathroom
Statement glass mirror by Warwick Bathroom Company.

Make a statement with lighting

Designed by Ozge Caglayan, the wall lights above the basin illuminate the bathroom’s focal point – a white marble vanity and a backdrop of striking De Gournay wallpaper. Practical for cosmetic tasks, the wall solutions also illuminate this area, and the mirrors throw light back into the room to create a calm ambience for evening bathing.

Large double wash basin with gold accents and mirror in a blue bathroom with wallpaper
Crake double vanity in Arabescato marble, £13,450; Coll lever basin mixer with dark walnut handles, £2150; Derwent mirror, £2175; Derwent single wall light £825, and Dalby pendant light (in mirror reflection), £650, all from Drummonds. Photography: Darren Chung.

“As the lights are at eye level, choose a bulb with a lower wattage and soft warm light,” advises James Lentaigne, creative director at Drummonds. “Lights above a basin need to be IP44 rated for waterproofing. Also, you should choose high-quality metal casing that won’t perish or rust in humid spaces. We particularly like the fluted glass shades here, which give a gentle patterned light spill to the surrounding areas.”

Use lighting to create a cosy atmosphere

Emma Scott, director of client design at CP Hart, was tasked with creating a spacious Nordic-inspired family bathroom. To achieve this, Emma chose the Dartmouth Twin wall lights from Astro, installed above the basin to offer a gentle wash of light up and down the wall while softening the harsher lines of the metro tiling.

Round washbasin in white and black details in a modern looking bathroom
Dartmouth Twin wall lights by Astro, £150 each; I Catini Oval basin by Cielo, from £2,446; Mpro wall mixer by Crosswater, £389; Round box mirror by Cielo, £2092, and Norway Melk tiles by Minoli, £80 per sq m, all from CP Hart.

The textured black finish of the light fixtures purposefully matches the black brassware and accessories to create a pleasing contrast against the lighter elements used throughout the monochrome scheme. For a flattering, even and glare-free light, try positioning your wall lights either side of the mirror, with the centres sitting slightly lower, at around eye level.

Illuminate storage niches

The brief for this family bathroom was a modern sanctuary with a Japandi vibe that was super practical. Simply Bathrooms Ltd planned layered lighting for this design, creating a spa-like feeling but also supporting the various functions of this shared space. The main downlighters are functional, and perfect for morning daily routines that require good lighting. A pendant light next to the vanity unit and a back-lit mirror acts as the family’s main night light.

Large bathroom with wooden panels and illuminated recesses.
Flair Ayo framed wetroom panel in matt black, £931.20; Robus strips for niches, £300; Norway Oken wall and floor tiles, £80.64 per sq m, and Museum Surfaces Grow wall tiles, £55 per sq m, all from Simply Bathrooms Ltd.

“We don’t advise leaving electrical mirrors on overnight so an IP-rated pendant that emits a soft glow is always a good idea,” explains Sophie Harrold, owner of Simply Bathrooms Ltd. “We layered alcove lighting towards the back of the room where it was darker to provide a soft, ambient light, perfect for evening showers or winding down at bath time. Smaller IP-rated spots are more affordable than the larger LED kits when doing this. Also, the kits tend to come in cool white or bright white, neither of which create an especially relaxing atmosphere.” 

Add drama with bathroom lighting

A striking chandelier above the bath draws the eye in and adds a touch of elegance to this space. However, there are a few practical considerations to note before you fit one. When placing a light above a bath, you need to ensure it has a minimum rating of IP44 due to the amount of moisture and steam in the bathroom.

Large black and white bath with gold brassware in front of a large window with a chandelier above.
Silver Chain IP44 shallow chandelier by Tigermoth Lighting, £4464, available at West One Bathrooms. For a similar bath, try the Kohler Cléo cast-iron bath, £3328, West One Bathrooms.

You’ll also need to consider the weight, as some chandeliers can be heavy and will need extra mounting. Lastly, the positioning of your chandelier is crucial. If placed above a bath, it is advised that it should hang at least eight feet above for safety reasons, but also to provide enough head height when getting in and out of the bath.

Highlight design features

The owner of this home wanted to avoid standard downlighters and to enhance the distinctive beamed ceiling. To achieve this, John Cullen Lighting opted for hidden linear lighting to illuminate alternate ceiling panels. The same LED strip lighting was also concealed behind the mirror, emphasising the textured wall. “Careful consideration was given to avoid any additional ceiling light sources, ensuring a continuous and uninterrupted ceiling appearance reflected in the mirror,” explains Suraj Francis, lighting designer at John Cullen Lighting.

“When looking to achieve a similar look, ensure that linear lights installed on the ceiling are hidden from the mirror and from eye level,” he says. This scheme allows for party scene at full brightness and an ambient setting to allow for low-level lighting without glare.

Bathroom with bold lighting design with panels and top lights
Concealed strip lighting is a great way of highlighting any architectural features in your bathroom. Contour HD27 LED strip and profile, from £66 per m, John Cullen Lighting. Photography: Duncan Chard.

Layer your lighting

Rachel Lasson, @thepinkcottageadventure on Instagram, knocked through two small spaces to create a more spacious master bathroom in her period cottage. “We have little latticed windows and thick stone walls, which means the windows are deeply recessed, so we had to think carefully about lighting as it can seem dark, especially in winter,” explains Rachel. To counterbalance this, she chose a neutral gloss wall tile to bounce natural light into the room, as well as multiple lighting options to create a variety of moods depending on the time of day.

Large freestanding bath with gold brassware in a earthy spa space with large niche and terracotta tiles.
Senator bath, £5627, BC Designs. Zen natural gloss tiles, £70.40 per sq m, and Brik porcelain floor tiles, from £42.88 per sq m, Mandarin Stone. 

“We chose to raise the tub off the floor to give the illusion of more space, and LED strip lighting under the bath highlights the floor tiles and the statement bath itself,” she adds. Wooden shelving in the recess creates more storage. LED strips embedded in shallow channels carved above and below the top two shelves create a warm, ambient glow.

Clever use of LED strips

The owners of this Solihull home called on Ripples to create a bathroom scheme that would feel warm and inviting. There were multiple areas of existing boxing to contend with but instead of trying to hide them, they were turned into a feature. The boxing behind the shower not only concealed the components and pipework but also created enough depth to add a niche. This boxing was replicated behind the WC, again allowing room for a storage niche and creating a sense of symmetry.

“Mood lighting was incorporated through the use of LED strips around both boxed areas, to enhance the design and pour light into a room with very little natural daylight,” explains Gurnaam Sharma, senior designer at Ripples Solihull. LED strip lighting was also used to frame the shower area and within the in-shower storage niche to draw the eye in.

Large vanity unit with a large mirror in a modern bathroom with black accents.
When considering strip lighting always opt for subtlety, especially in a small space. LED tape, £13.16 per m; framed mirror with anti-mist pad, £735.28, and vanity unit, £740.81, all from Ripples. Photography: Adam Carter.

How can I boost natural light?

With lots of natural light flooding the bathroom, the homeowner was keen to keep the space looking light and airy. They opted for a contemporary yet classic scheme that will stand the test of time. To enhance the natural lighting within the room, a number of additional light sources were incorporated, including the decorative pendant lights and matching fluted wall light by the basin.

White and gold design with large mirror and drop lights
Single porcelain basin, from £484; Wall-mounted vanity unit, from £1489; Bell fluted glass pendant light in brushed brass, from £354; Bell fluted glass wall light in brushed brass, from £454.80, and LED downlight with motion sensor, from £241, all available from Ripples. Tiles are from the Long Island Marble tile collection at Ca’ Pietra. Photography: Adam Carter.

LED strip lighting was also added inside the vanity drawers and on a sensor underneath the unit. It creates the perfect ambient lighting for any middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. Storage niches were built into the shower and the bath area, providing a handy place to store and display bathroom products. These areas were also finished with LED strip lights for added atmosphere.

What do I need to know about IP ratings?

Water and electricity obviously don’t mix. It’s crucial to consider the IP rating of your light fixtures before you buy. The IP rating (which stands for Ingress Protection) indicates how well the product can safeguard itself against exposure to water and moisture. The highest rating, IP67, is for fully submersible fixtures but unless you plan on including underwater lights in your bath, you probably won’t need it.

IP65 withstand direct water exposure and are required for lights within your shower enclosure. Typically IP44 is the rating required for general areas of the bathroom that are not in direct contact with water but might be prone to splashes. Any fittings outside of a 60cm radius of a water source and height beyond 2.25m won’t have any rated requirements.

If you’re unsure, consult an electrician for the most up-to-date guidance, as building codes can evolve.

Three lighting options for bathrooms with high IP ratings
1. Ledbury wall light with ribbed glass, £210, Fritz Fryer. 2. Orbit wall light in Green Marble, £450, J Adams & Co. 3.
Roddy wall light in Brass, £142, Pooky.

Enjoyed this post? Click here to find out how to use cosy lighting in your design

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