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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 too.
Learn how to carefully plan your bathroom lighting according to the range of lights available and their features. Whether general or task lighting, each area must be adequately illuminated and comply with safety regulations. Find out about the different bulbs, their output and colours, so you are happy with your bathroom’s functionality and look.
Follow the guide to help you plan your bathroom lighting.
How big is your bathroom?
Who uses the bathroom?
Which areas require lighting?
What lighting effect do you want to achieve?
There are three types of lighting for the bathroom: ambient (general), task (specific) and accent (decorative). Ambient lighting provides general light for the entire room, whereas task lighting accentuates a specific area such as the mirror, sink or bathtub. 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.
Bulbs with a yellow-red glow are preferable since they flatter the complexion and prevent the skin looking grey.
Task lighting focuses on a specific area of the room. In a bathroom, lights may be trained on the mirror, shower or tub, or may light the toilet or laundry area.
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.
Best are 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
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.
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.
In the laundry area
Shed light on the laundry area and lighten your laundry chores!
A clear bright light is best for showing up laundry stains.
Recessed and adjustable lights make life easier.
The advantage of compact fluorescent bulbs is that they project a white light and are energy efficient.
Ambient or decorative lighting softens the tone and creates an intimate and soothing atmosphere.
A few candles lit near the bathtub invite relaxation.
A side lamp in the bathroom softens the light and gives an intimate feel.
Create a focal point with a wall light placed above a piece of art.
Light fixture types
Suspended by a cord, chain or cable.
Used for ambient lighting in rooms with high ceilings where they are best mounted in a central position.
The lower the pendant is placed, the more the beam is concentrated.
As the name implies, these fixtures are mounted on the wall. The heads can be fixed or adjustable.
Ideally used as complementary lighting.
Come in several models, such as recessed lights, fluorescent strips and LED bulbs.
Useful for brightening dark areas near the floor when installed in the toe spaces beneath low cabinets, or when placed near vanities or under wall cabinets.
Practical in small bathrooms, the lights form part of the bathroom fan.
Used for general lighting purposes.
Suit all bathroom styles.
Sleekly embedded in the ceiling, they blend into the background and furnish general overhead lighting.
As the name suggests, with track lighting, the lights are attached to a track. The individual heads can be fixed or can swivel.
Tracks fitted with mobile spotlights create an intimate atmosphere by directing light onto decorative objects or projecting direct beams of light.
Add a decorative element to the room.
For accent lighting.
Often fitted into the fan, heat lamps are great when you step out of the bath.
Provide accessory lighting.
Mounted close to the ceiling.
Radiate uniform ambient light.
Semi-flushmounts are mounted close to the ceiling. They can be round or square or even have several lamps.
Used for general lighting.
A variety of shades are available and each can alter the feel of a room.
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.
There is a vast selection of bulbs on the market which allow you to adapt the atmosphere of your bathroom. Each bulb emits a particular light, from soft warm pink to hot or cool white. The first and second tones give the room a warm comfortable feel whereas cool white light is more dynamic. Some bulbs even imitate daylight. Here are the most in demand:
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 300K. 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.
Tones and colours
For an inviting light, choose warm or soft white.
Ideal for flushmount or semi-flushmount ceiling fixtures or for wall sconces.
Comes in a vast range of colours in the blue-purple-red spectrum.
Highly versatile, LEDs can be fitted under vanity units, under cabinets, around mirrors or near the floor for night-time bathroom visits.
Comes in a wide choice of colours.
Can be used everywhere in the bathroom providing safety regulations are respected.
Comes in a vast selection of colours.
Can be used everywhere in the bathroom, providing safety regulations are respected.
Can create warm (yellow light), neutral (white light) or cool (bluish light) ambiences.
Excellent for the laundry area.
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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