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From new homes to renovations, the bathroom can be a difficult place to light effectively if you don’t have expert lighting design knowledge. As bathrooms vary much in size, shape and architectural complexity, it’s difficult to prescribe a clear set of rules. That’s also why the cost of lighting design can vary for different homes.

With that in mind, here are some tips for bathroom lighting design that can help turn your standard old bathroom into a beautiful, functional place to spend time.

The three types of lighting to consider

One of the first things to consider when planning your bathroom lighting design is to think about the different layers of light you can use. In traditional bathroom lighting, the idea was just to flood the space with as much light as possible. And that’s pretty easy to do, as most bathrooms are smaller than other rooms in the house. However, modern bathroom light is more about layers.

When designing light for your bathroom, remember that you use that space for a variety of things, such as showering, bathing, shaving, and doing your makeup. With multiple functions comes the need for multiple layers of light. The three main types of lighting you need to consider in this space are ambient, task and accent.

Let’s look a bit further at each of those, with some tips on how to style your light for bathrooms.

Ambient lighting

bathroom lighting

Bathroom ambient lighting consists of the more general-use lights. It’s a crucial bathroom light type because it’s probably the one you’ll use more than the others. In general terms, ambient lighting exists to create a uniform level of light throughout the whole room. That’s not to say it will light every single corner and crevice, but it provides general light.

For instance, if you go into the bathroom to quickly wash your hands, you probably don’t need any particular type of lighting. So, you would turn on the ambient lighting, which would be sufficient for your needs.

Depending on the size of your bathroom, your ambient lighting may come in the form of some conveniently placed bathroom down lighting or even a 3-in-1 light, heater and exhaust fan.

Task lighting

mirror bathroom lighting

Task lighting refers to the lights you install for a specific purpose. For example, bathroom vanity lighting is there to illuminate the area around the sink and mirror. As the name suggests, you use task lighting to make specific tasks easier. Even decorative bathroom ceiling lights can be considered task lighting if installed the right way.

You may wish to include bathroom wall spotlights, bathroom mirror lighting or even mood lights for bathrooms. A popular idea is to have sconces on either side of your mirror or some expertly positioned hanging bathroom lights.

Accent lighting

spa-like bathroom

When we move into accent lighting, it’s more about highlighting the room’s architectural features and décor. Contrary to popular belief, accent lighting isn’t necessarily designer bathroom lighting. It may give the whole room a more designer feel, but there doesn’t need to be anything too fancy about the lights themselves.

With cleverly placed accent lighting to highlight the room’s features, you can give the impression of luxury bathroom lighting without the extra price tag. Whether you choose to illuminate a particular feature with a small light below or behind it or even light up a specific space with bathroom LED strip lighting, you can create some excellent effects.

Make functionality your prime objective

Whether you’re building a new home, renovating a bathroom or simply updating your home’s lighting, planning is key. So, when doing your planning, think about everything you do in the bathroom and what sort of lights you would like to have. All types of lighting are important, but task lighting is particularly crucial in the planning stages.

This is where bathroom lights and mirrors need to be thought through since many bathroom activities revolve around the mirror. The aesthetic appeal of your bathroom is obviously vital, but it should almost be secondary to functionality. If your bathroom looks amazing and has great features like bathroom strip lighting, it won’t count for much if you still can’t see what you’re doing or don’t have appropriate bathroom mood lighting.

Expertly lighting your mirror

When it comes to functionality, the mirror is the focal point of the room. Usually, the mirror is positioned above the sink, which is why it’s known as a vanity mirror. The great thing is that there are plenty of ways to illuminate your mirror. The problem is, there are also some dos and don’ts.

Bathroom light above mirrors can look great, but you need to be wary of shadows. When you install a light over your bathroom mirror, it can cast downward shadows, making it challenging to apply makeup.

One of the best tips is to light both sides of your mirror equally. This means the light on your face and the mirror itself is even. You can do this with a mirror with a ring light or strip lighting all around it. You can also use wall-mounted lights on either side of the mirror to cast light evenly.

Consider the Colour Rendering Index (CRI)

Colour Rendering Index (CRI) gives you an indication of how ‘true’ something will look under the light. A CRI of 100 means you’ll get a 100% accurate picture of what’s in front of you because natural light also has a CRI of 100.

Let’s use applying makeup as an example again because it’s a pretty common activity performed in the bathroom. CRI is critical in this case because if you choose 60 CRI lighting, you only get 60% of the real colour. If you’re applying makeup, this is pretty important!

Use LED strip lighting effectively

LED lights in bathrooms are becoming more popular. Not just any LED light; we’re talking about bathroom strip lighting. One of the best places to use strip lighting is under the vanity or mirror, even in wall niches. You can even get creative and use them down the sides of mirrors.

The beauty of LED strip lighting is that it’s getting smaller and smaller, which opens up more opportunities to use it in places previously thought impossible. If you’ve got areas in the bathroom that are usually prone to shadowing, a strip light can work beautifully there. One tip is to ensure your strip lighting is symmetrical (depending on the shape of your bathroom).

Minimal use of downlights

As professional lighting designers, we often get asked, “How many downlights in bathrooms?” The difficulty is that there’s not really a right or wrong answer. It all depends on the size and shape of the room itself. However, in general terms, you don’t want too much downlighting in your bathroom.

While downlights are fine for ambient light, they tend to create face shadowing, so you want different types of lights around the mirrors, as previously mentioned.

Ambient light on a sensor

A bathroom is a place that many people visit during the night, albeit only briefly. It may be for the toilet or washing your hands, but you’ll still need a bathroom night light. Rather than fumbling around in the dark for light switches and being blinded by light, there are alternatives.

Consider an automatic bathroom light switch, essentially a light on a sensor. Ideally, this will provide low-level bathroom lighting suitable for those middle-of-the-night visits without waking you up too much. That way, you can get in and out with a relaxed, comfortable light to guide your way.

Careful use of fan or heater fixtures

Most homes have a 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 bathroom fixture, which provides a combination of light, heat and exhaust fan functions. These are useful for warming up the bathroom on a cold morning and also extracting steam while showering. However, the older ones can look very bulky and out of place in a modern bathroom.

When designing your bathroom’s lighting, consider central placement for your 3-in-1 light, and look for modern designs. Newer versions come in a slimline design that won’t look out of place with your other designer bathroom lighting.

Keep your lighting sleek and modern

When you want your bathroom to look amazing while still being perfectly functional, you should consider engaging an architectural lighting designer. This is especially crucial if you have something other than a standard four-wall bathroom. If you have any architectural features or want to decorate the bathroom and light it accordingly, expert help is always useful.


Modern style dictates that we move away from flooding the bathroom with light and instead opt for beautiful light layers for different purposes. Above all else, it should be modern with all light fixtures and fittings following the same style.

Remember bathroom light safety

In the UK, there are guidelines that outline how to safely install different types of lighting in your bathroom. This is because the bathroom is considered a ‘wet area’, and rightly so. There are three main zones of the bathroom, with different lighting requirements for each. If you’ve heard of an IP rated bathroom light or IP bathroom lights, these are lights with an IP rating (meaning how waterproof they are).

Zone 0

This is the area inside the bath or shower itself. You can only use low-voltage (maximum 12 volts) lights, and they must have an IP67 rating, which means they are completely waterproof when fully immersed.

Zone 1

This is the area above the bath or shower, up to a height of 2.25 metres from floor level. The light fittings in this zone must have an IP rating of 44.

Zone 2

This zone stretches 0.6 metres outside the perimeter of the bath and also above the bath or shower if over 2.25 metres. It also refers to an area of 0.6 metres around the taps and above the sink.

Aside from these zones, you can install any types of lights you want as long as they aren’t listed as unsuitable for bathrooms.

Contact us for expert bathroom lighting design

If you’d like to know more about bathroom lighting design and get some advice from a team of experts, contact Hampshire Light today.

We specialise in luxury lighting design for modern homes, and we’d love to be a part of your build or renovation. We work closely with interior designers to achieve amazing lighting results, so contact us today for any assistance in expert bathroom lighting design.

I hope the tips we have shared with you will help you make a better choice for lighting your home.

Are we the right choice for your new build or extensive refurb project?

We believe we are because we have been lighting prime properties for the past 25 years and have earned many accolades. 

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Best of Houzz Design Awards: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 

More importantly, people choose us for three reasons:

  1. End-to-End Service
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End-to-End Service

We provide end-to-end service. It means we take complete responsibility right from the design to the fitting of your lighting. We also offer interior design services and blinds. This saves you time and makes your task simple. You just have to deal with one company (not 3-4 companies) for your all lighting needs.

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You get a 100% Design Guarantee - a full refund on your design fee if you’re not satisfied with the design once the design process is complete. (In our industry, no one has this strong a guarantee.)


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Part of your design process ensures that the total project ends up within an affordable budget without sacrificing quality. We have a history with a wide range of suppliers worldwide, which means we can provide options on the lower level, mid-line and premium fittings for you to make educated financial decisions for your project.

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