Bathroom Planning: How to Get Your Lighting Right for Beautiful Bathing
Bathroom lighting both sets the mood and affects usability. Here, three professionals share their top tips on how to get it right
From usage to preferences and even the technical details of choosing the right circuits, zoning and type of lights (don’t worry, you’ll understand all of that by the time you get to the end of the story), three professionals share their top tips for getting your lighting just right.
Professional advice from:
Melanie Shaw of Brilliant Lighting
Natalie Benes of Stiff + Trevillion
Carolyn Trevor of TLA Studio
When planning the lighting for your bathroom, remember that you want it to work equally well at all times of the day and throughout the year, whether it’s dark December or sunny July. You’ll also want to use the bathroom for different purposes at different times.
‘Bathroom lighting has to work on many levels,’ points out Melanie Shaw. ‘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 then you want to wind down in the evening for soaking in the bath.’
‘To help you choose the right bathroom lighting, think about who is going to be using the space,’ recommends Carolyn Trevor. ‘If it’s a children’s bathroom, you might want motion-sensitive lighting that switches on and off by itself. If it’s going to be used by adults, you may want mood lighting or a dimmer, and several different circuits – perhaps a low-level niche light in the shower, floor lighting, overhead lighting and lights around the mirror.’
Lighting circuits enable you to switch individual lighting elements on and off at any time.
‘Consider putting in a range of lighting circuits to suit different moods,’ says Natalie Benes. ‘These could include recessed lights in the ceiling, lighting points at specific areas of the sanitaryware, such as the bath or basin, and perhaps also mood lighting, which could include LED strips or lighting a niche.’
As in this bathroom, LED lighting can be hidden within the wall unit beneath the mirror – giving a softer indirect light that’s still bright enough to be practical.
When you wake up in the morning and get ready to face the day, you’ll want to be able to see yourself in the mirror, so make sure the area around the basin is bright. This can be achieved either through wall lights or cleverly positioned ceiling lights.
‘Some people don’t like wall lights in the bathroom,’ says Carolyn Trevor. ‘So another option we sometimes suggest is to place a couple of lights up above the basin and then angle the beams of light across. If they are behind the person using the mirror and basin, and they are crossing, they offer wonderful reflected light that’s perfect for shaving or applying makeup. You could also consider including a shaving mirror – perhaps a magnifying one – with a built-in light, for extra precision.’
In this elegant mint and white bathroom accented with black, the Art Deco lights look perfectly at home. If you choose to use wall lights to illuminate your basin and mirror, as the designer here has done, you’ll want to get the positioning right.
‘Wall lights can be placed on or near the mirror in front of a basin. Locate these at eye height,’ advises Natalie Benes. ‘This will ensure your face is lit evenly. Wall lights can be a feature of the room, so have fun picking the right fitting.’
‘The colour of your lighting, and the way it renders colour, is very important – you don’t want to look a funny shade when you glance in the mirror!’ says Melanie Shaw. ‘In general, I would recommend a warm white hue for bathroom lighting. But remember that one manufacturer’s warm white may be different from another’s.’
You also want to make sure you choose the right type of bulb. When deciding between halogen or LED, there are pros and cons to both. In the past, halogen lighting has been perceived as offering better lighting properties, but LEDs have evolved to the point where they can now offer an equivalent quality of light. LEDs are also dimmable and highly energy-efficient. ‘The other advantage of LEDs is that you don’t have to change the bulbs, making them an especially good choice for older people,’ points out Carolyn Trevor.
In this dramatic wet room, the lighting plays over the glimmering tiles and bright white of the feature bath, against a background of greys accented with black. Each area is lit separately, with a combination of wall lights, ceiling lights and concealed lights fitted in the shower to give a wash of light.
‘Think about what the light will hit,’ suggests Natalie Benes. ‘If you have a nice bath, this can be a great feature to accentuate. Or we might sometimes make use of big slabs of marble, or dramatic tiling, and make a feature of it using lighting.’
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As well as getting the design right, consider the practicalities, too. ‘An electrician should be able to advise you on essentials such as IP ratings – how well the fittings protect against water ingress,’ says Melanie Shaw. ‘Different bathroom zones will have different requirements, and you will need to make sure all of the light fittings in your bathroom have the right IP rating for the zone they’re in.’
But remember to consider design in tandem with the technical side. ‘A good electrician will be competent with installation, and with meeting regulations,’ says Melanie. ‘But at same time, they won’t necessarily think about your bathroom lighting in terms of focal points, accents or tiles – and this is where you, or a lighting expert, can really add something special by thinking it through.’
This design matches the mirror to the window size and positioning, making both work together well. ‘Use mirrors to balance the light,’ advises Natalie. ‘If there’s a darker area, mirrors can help to create a more spacious feel and bounce the light further into the room.’
See how to make a nautical mirror for less than £20
In this cedar-clad vaulted cloakroom, feature wallpaper is framed by glowing strips of LED lights in a cool white to create an ethereal effect.
LED lighting is versatile, especially when hidden in recesses, and can even be used to create different colours of mood lighting – a warm golden glow, or a calm cool blue, for example – that you can change at the touch of a button. Or the lighting can be set to cycle through various colours, depending on the desired mood.
If your bathroom is lacking in natural light, consider whether a light tunnel (sometimes also known as a sun tunnel or light tube) could help. These funnel natural light down from above, bringing a ray of sunshine to a basement or internal room.
A light tunnel can work well in rooms where you don’t have direct access to a window or roof, but where a light tunnel can be set to reach natural light. Remember that the tunnel will need access to external light for this to work – for instance, in an internal bathroom the tunnel could run through the loft to the roof.
How have you lit your bathroom? Is it successful, or is there anything you would do differently? Share your thoughts and photos in the Comments below.