3 tips for perfect lighting in a modern bathroom
3 must-read tips for the perfect bathroom lighting scheme
The bathroom may be one of the smallest rooms in a house, but it can also be one of the most complex when it comes to planning its layout and furnishings.
Walls and floors need to stand up to water, sanitaryware has to be chosen based on plumbing practicalities. And lighting needs additional thought here, not only because it’s not unusual for there to be no natural light, but this is the one room where you really do need to be able to see yourself properly in the mirror!
So, what are the key things to think about when you’re choosing your bathroom light fixtures? Are there different guidelines to follow if, for example, in a modern bathroom rather than a more classical type of look?
We’ll take a look at all the things you need to think about when it comes to bathroom lighting, and finish with 3 tips for achieving this in a modern bathroom.
The first thing to consider when it comes to bathroom lighting, is your structural canvas. What sort of bathroom are you working with?
We can divide this roughly into three categories:
- A bathroom with windows
- A bathroom with no windows
- A small bathroom
If your bathroom has windows and plenty of natural light, obviously you’re a step ahead, and can focus on lighting solutions for the area in front of the mirror, so that in the evening or early morning you’ll still have optimal visibility.
However, it’s becoming increasingly common in modern apartments that the bathroom has no windows whatsoever, so any lighting solution has to work extra hard to compensate for the absence of natural light and create an atmosphere conducive to wellbeing. This obviously entails more lighting so spotlights can help avoid a bathroom from feeling dark and gloomy, or even poky, with the beauty being you can place as many as you need.
And, that leads us nicely to the third category, which is small bathrooms. Whether they have a window or not, lighting’s role here is not only to – well, light – but also to create the sensation of a larger, less cluttered space, so here you want slimline fixtures that illuminate every corner.
With that said, let’s take a look at the most popular types of bathroom lights.
In the past, the bathroom was often neglected or undervalued when it came to interior design, but in recent years that has well and truly changed and it is now seen as a kind of haven within the home, a room that should foster wellbeing and relaxation.
As more and more attention is being given to its décor, so too have we seen an explosion in lighting solutions, but in general we can divide them into 4 types:
- Flush bathroom ceiling lights
- Wall sconces or lights
- Recessed spotlights
- Bathroom spotlights
Most common of all is the typical flush bathroom ceiling light which casts a general light over the entire room, making it an ideal solution if there are no windows.
This is an extremely versatile light fixture, usually relatively simple in shape and, as the name suggests, installed on the ceiling with no cord, meaning it’s also very practical for bathrooms with low ceilings. There is no shortage of designer variations if you want something that is not just functional but also adds a touch of style, while, if energy savings are a priority, there are plenty of innovative LED options developed specifically for bathrooms.
Then there is the wall light or sconce as it’s sometimes called. These are usually mounted by the mirror or basin, distributing the light along the wall. If you’re not a fan of glaring overhead lighting, wall lights are a nice alternative as you can place them only where you really need a boost of light, which is usually those areas where you apply make-up, wash your hands and face, shave or simply check the mirror.
They are also a great way to add a design statement to the bathroom as you can inject maybe a dash of colour or an unexpected traditional twist to a modern style, for example.
When it comes to bathroom spotlights, or downlights as they are also called, you have a choice between recessed and surface-mounted. Essentially, they are a type of ceiling light that is often found in more modern bathrooms because they are such an efficient and discreet solution.
What are the differences between the two versions? Recessed lights, as the name suggests, are installed in the ceiling itself, so you end up with a flush surface. Surface-mounted spotlights do the same job, but they have a couple of additional benefits. Firstly, you don’t need to cut holes in your ceiling and secondly, they can be angled so as to direct light into particular areas.
As we’ve seen, the first thing to consider when thinking about lighting is the bathroom’s structural aspect, but there’s another important element and that is how you plan to use the space. Is it a purely functional room, or do you envisage it as a sanctuary where you can shut the rest of the world out and relax?
Depending on your answer, you’ll then be able to think about your lighting scheme, which is based on 3 main types:
- Ambient lighting
- Task lighting
- Accent lighting
Ambient lighting refers to the overall illumination of the entire room, and a flush bathroom ceiling-mounted light is usually the most popular solution as it casts ample light throughout without being too intense, making it also ideal in a bathroom with no windows.
Next up is task lighting, which as its name suggests, fulfils a specific role, illuminating a specific zone of the bathroom, most usually wherever the mirror is positioned.
As mentioned earlier, wall lights come into their own here, but in modern bathrooms, backlit mirrors are becoming increasingly popular as lighting technology becomes more and more sophisticated. They not only offer a very clean, understated aesthetic, but also distribute the light evenly.
Perhaps less common, but very effective in creating atmosphere is accent lighting, used to highlight particular features or areas of the bathroom. The difference between this and task lighting is that the light is softer and becomes more of a design element, casting a gentle glow on items such as the vanity unit, for example, by using recessed lights at floor or skirting board level. Or, a top-down approach, using a ceiling spotlight angled toward the bathtub creates a lovely intimate corner and mood lighting for those long hot soaks after a stressful day.
Contemporary bathrooms of today are nothing like their predecessors. Forget sterile, bland, purely functional standard bathrooms and think elegant, stylish and relaxing havens where you are happy to linger. Clean lines and natural materials such as stone are a winning combination for achieving that atmosphere and creating a feeling of being at one with nature. After all, stone and water have been almost inseparable since time began.
Without doubt, lighting is an integral element, and will contribute enormously to both the functionality and look and feel, so let’s take a look at 3 examples of modern and stylish bathrooms to see great lighting design at work.
When thinking about wall lighting rather than using fixed wall sconces, why not opt for an adjustable version so that you can play with the direction of light depending on where it’s needed at a given moment or the mood you want to create?
In this example, the twin-armed wall light with its sleek design and dark colour dramatically breaks up the minimalist white décor of Bianco Carrara marble in Stone Parquet on the floor and honed on the walls, working as both a design feature and a versatile lighting fixture.
The adjustable light can illuminate the left-hand area of the vanity unit made up of Balnea modular drawers and basin, or can be tilted upwards for a touch of mood lighting.
Then, when it comes to the Mirari mirror, you are spoiled for choice as you can switch on its soft built-in LED lighting for a close up, or opt to angle the wall lights that way.
The smallest details also deserve to be highlighted, and the table mirror, toothbrush holder and soap holder, all from the Fontane Bianche collection, sit atop the vanity, ready to bask in the glow of the spotlight once it’s turned towards them.
One of the trends of modern design has been the increase in showstopping pieces of furniture, and the bathroom is the perfect stage to showcase them, with freestanding elements such as Kengo Kuma’s striking Ishiburo bathtub and the ethereal Balnea basin born for the spotlight.
If you have the room, why not create a piece of theatre in your own home? This is where you can let your imagination go wild and be dramatic with your design in a way that maybe you wouldn’t dare to in other rooms. And, of course, there is no show without great lighting, and this photo is the perfect example of what you can achieve with just a couple of simple elements.
The total look in natural stone creates a warm, inviting environment with no barriers, no restrictions, and the Filo raised shower tray with its dramatic downlighting transforms a simple shower into an extraordinary and special ritual.
This last piece of advice may sound like a bit of a contradiction. Why hide light when it’s all about visibility? The answer is that when it comes to modern design, and particularly in the bathroom, it’s all about clean, essential lines. And while there are many lovely designer light fixtures available, if you can hide them in some strategic way so that you only see the light itself, you can create a truly stunning effect where the light gently washes or grazes the surfaces of the room.
This bathroom in the delicate creamy tones of Crema d’Orcia limestone shows exactly how concealed lighting can create a magical atmosphere.
The top-down lighting illuminates the side walls and throws the Bamboo texture of the rear wall into relief, setting off the Alfeo basin and Ciane drawer combination to perfection, while the Archimede mirror creates the illusion of a window.
So, a quick recap. Bathroom lighting is one of the key ingredients when it comes to creating a functional and gorgeous bathroom and there are a handful of basic – but important – aspects to consider when you’re thinking about your lighting scheme. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a chat with experts who really understand the ins and outs of lighting design.
On that note, we would love to hear from you if you’re renovating your bathroom or just want to give it a bit of a makeover. Our online shop is filled with photos of gorgeous bathrooms and lighting is always something we give a lot of thought to, so we’re sure you’ll find plenty of inspiration.
Then, once you’ve got a few ideas, why not organise a free consultation with one of our design experts and we’ll design a dream bathroom together!