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Plan your bathroom lighting

Functional and decorative, bathroom lighting can also create an ambience. Adequate lighting is essential for daily grooming, makeup, and shaving, but your lighting choices will lend personality and interest to the decor as well.

Whether general or task lighting, each area must be adequately illuminated and comply with safety regulations. Learn how to carefully plan your bathroom lighting according to the range of lights available. Find out about the different bulbs, their output, and their colours, so that you are happy with your bathroom’s functionality and look.

Follow the guide to help you plan your bathroom lighting.

Bathroom lighting plan

Before starting, it’s important to understand the needs.
  • How big is your bathroom?
  • Who uses the bathroom?
  • Which areas require lighting?
  • What lighting effect do you want to achieve?

Lighting types: ambient, task, and accent

There are three types of lighting for the bathroom: ambient (general), task (specific), and accent (decorative). Accent lighting can be used to enhance the mood of the room and add a touch of intimacy to a particular area.
  • Essential in a large bathroom, ambient lighting infuses the whole room. Whether provided by recessed, track, or ceiling lights, this type of lighting resembles daylight the most. In small bathrooms, the lighting can be restricted to mirror lighting.
  • Task lighting focuses on a specific area of the room. In a bathroom, lights may be trained on the mirror, shower, or tub, or they may light the toilet or laundry area.
  • Accent lighting can be used to enhance the mood of the room and add a touch of intimacy to a particular area. Create a focal point with a wall light placed above a piece of art.

Mirror lighting

Lights near the mirror are essential and make your morning beauty treatment easier. They shed a bright, shadow-free light, making it clearer for shaving, applying makeup, and grooming.
  • Avoid aggressive, dazzling lights. A warm tone, such as given off by halogens, is the best.
  • Choose either outward-facing lights flanking the mirror or fixed directly on the mirror if it is large. For grooming, makeup and shaving, lights mounted 60" off the floor are most effective. Over-the-mirror wall lights are also popular although not recommended if the mirror is used for makeup.
  • Choose adjustable lights on a track and direct the light vertically, towards the face. Lighting placed directly above the head creates shadows and dark circles around the eyes.
  • Large mirrors are best lit by several lights.
  • Wall sconces at face height, on either side of the mirror, give the best results for shaving and applying makeup.

Shower and bathtub lighting

Practical and essential solutions which deliver adequate light to the shower and bathtub make daily grooming tasks easier.
  • Opt for strong lights for shaving and reading shampoo labels, for example.
  • Choose fixtures and bulbs that are suitable for damp areas. Caution: it is important to use lights that meet safety standards.
  • Lights that can be pivoted are practical.
  • Dimmer switches are a great way to modulate the mood.
  • Play it safe with low-voltage lighting.

Lighting near the toilet

When the toilet area is separate from the rest of the room, it is important to give it its own lighting.
  • Consider recessed lighting on the ceiling or a wall light that will provide the desired level of brightness.
  • Add a small LED near the toilet itself for safe night-time use and energy saving.

Laundry area lighting

Shed light on the laundry area and lighten your laundry chores.

Types of shades

The shades you choose can significantly alter the feel of a room. The main types of shades available are:
  • Clear glass: allows the clarity and original brightness of the bulb to shine through.
  • Frosted glass: softens the light, giving a more mellow feel to the room.
  • Frosted and coloured: softens the brightness of the bulb and allows a tinted light to set the mood. A yellow or beige shade, for example, bathes the area in a cosier, more soothing light.
  • Patterned: The patterns cast around the bathroom by the shade add an original touch.

Pro Tip

Choosing the right lightbulb is just as important as choosing the right fixture.

The Kelvin (K) is the unit used for measuring the temperature of a light source. Incandescent bulbs emit a warm light which varies between 2700 and 3000K. The greater the Kelvin, the cooler the light and, consequently, the more bluish the light appears. For lighting which resembles natural daylight, choose a bulb of greater than 4,000K.

The colour rendering index, or CRI, is the measure of a light source’s ability to render the colour of the objects it illuminates. An index of about 100 CRI resembles natural daylight and is perfectly suited for furniture, the skin and clothes.

Universal design and safety standards

Adapt the layout of the bathroom for children or for persons with reduced mobility, making everything in the bathroom accessible.

  • Install switches everyone can reach.
  • The mirror and its lighting might need to be placed lower on the wall, at the user’s face height.
  • Leave the area under the washbasin free, for more leg room.
  • Consider installing grab bars.
  • Provide small stools so that children can see themselves in the mirror or when they wash.

The wet environment of the bathroom dictates where different light fixtures can be installed. A light fixture should not be fitted near the shower simply because it looks good; special safety regulations protect the bathroom’s users and guard against electrical shocks.

Each light has a protection rating (IP code) consisting of two numbers. The first number indicates the level of protection provided against solid bodies and the second, the level of protection against water. Lights above the shower or bath must have a minimum IP24 code. General bathroom lighting rated IP21 or higher provides sufficient protection.

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