Well-planned lighting will enhance your bathroom, making it beautiful to look at and easy to use. Take a look these ideas for plotting the perfect scheme with lights. 

 narrow bathroom with lighting scheme ideas - grand designs

Image: Downlighters in this bathroom by Day True help draw the eye through the narrow space.

How you use lighting in a bathroom can transform how you experience the space, and as these bathroom lighting ideas go to show, creating the perfect scheme requires layers and levels of lighting. 

When it comes to choosing lights for the bathroom, you have to remember that electricity and water don't mix, so you'll need to ensure you have a design with the right IP (or Ingress Protection) rating for the task, depending on its location in the bathroom. 

You can use the guide at the end of this article to check which IP rating you need, but if you're unsure, always refer back to your electrician for advice. 

Once you're over that hurdle, it's time to get creative with your lighting choices, which are more diverse than ever, thanks to versatile, energy-efficient LEDs. ‘They can last up to 15 years, so shouldn’t require changing very often,’ says Charlie Bowles, director at Original BTC

bathroom with multiple light sources - grand designs

Image: A complex lighting scheme, as in this bathroom design created usng Sensio products, will create a space that can tailor its lighting to suit any task or mood.

Layering lighting in the bathroom

By incorporating layers of light from different sources working together, you'll be able to build up a functional, adaptable lighting scheme.

Use separate circuits and controls for task, accent and ambient fittings – this lets you fill the room with light or draw attention to certain areas. Installing dimmer switches also allows for greater control in setting the light levels, but be sure that your design is compatible with dimmer switches before you commit. 

Task lighting 

Task lighting is required for specific functions, ambient lighting provides background illumination, and accent fittings highlight particular features. Hiring a lighting designer can help ensure a perfectly balanced scheme.

Good task lighting is essential when using a mirror for shaving or applying make-up. Wall lamps on either side give shadow-free illumination, or you could install an elongated fitting above.

 Microcement bathroom with modern wall lights - grand designs

Image: This symmetrical design uses Nuura Lila wall lights, available from Viaduct.

Wall lamps beside a mirror should be at eye level to ensure a uniform illumination across the face. Fittings rated less than IP44 will need to be at least 60cm away from a water source to conform to safety regulations.

Adjustable task lights offer flexible and focused illumination for a variety of daily grooming routines. Extendable, jointed wall lamps may be all that is needed, but a supplementary wall-mounted magnifying mirror with integrated LED adds extra versatility.

Non-direct lighting  

bathroom with wall lights mounted onto a mirror - grand designs

Image: In this design by Catherine Wilman Interiors, Original BTC wall lights have been mounted onto a mirror, while under cabinet lighting adds a diffused flow to the space.

Concealed accent lighting adds atmosphere by casting a glow across walls, floors, countertops and basins. It creates a diffused light for the space, which is less suited to completing tasks, but perfect for when you're looking to relax in a bath or wind down at the end of the day. 

Fit discreet LED strips under wall-mounted cabinets or a vanity unit to create the impression that the fixtures are floating. Back-lit mirrors give a similarly luxurious look.

Strategically placed mood fittings are the secret to a striking scheme. Linear LEDs and plinth lights can draw the eye into the room, denote level changes or define specific areas or fixtures. House flexible strips in recessed profiles with a frosted cover to help diffuse any spotting or glare.

bathtub with led lighting underneath - grand designs - bathroom ideas

Image: Knief & Co Shine freestanding bath in solid surface Kstone is illuminated with built-in LEDs. Available from West One Bathrooms

Integrated LEDs under the rim or base of a bath give a theatrical look. Co-ordinated ranges may include matching basins, along with colour-changing and remote-control options.

Fitted in the ceiling or floor, continuous linear LEDs and architectural wall washers illuminate vertical surfaces, providing ambient lighting with a soft, diffused glow that can be used to balance proportion, highlight structural features and add atmosphere.

Read more: Spa bathrooms: how to create a therapy room

vitra illuminated mirror in a bathroom - grand designs 

Image: VitrA Equal Illuminated Round Mirror, UK Bathrooms

Integrated lighting

Mirrors with integrated LEDs and touch controls are sleek and practical, giving an even light that eliminates shadows. 

LEDs are low voltage and cool to the touch, making them ideal for use in cabinets and drawers. Many bathroom furniture ranges include the option of integrated fittings. For a retrofit solution, look for wired or rechargeable battery-operated options.

A motion-activated sensor linked to a low-level lighting circuit or integrated within mirrors and sanitaryware comes on as you approach to provide a convenient nightlight for nocturnal visits. ‘It’s a practical solution if your kids can’t reach the switch or leave the lights on,’ says Ana Rezende, senior designer at Ripples.

 bathroom with strip diffused downlighting - grand designs

Image: By concealing the LED strips from sight, this bathroom created by Rise Design Studio recreates the idea of natural light from a roof light above.

Which IP-rating do I need for the bathroom?

The installation of bathroom lighting is covered by national wiring regulations BS 7671, and adherence is dependent on using the correct IP-rated lights within each of three specified bathroom lighting zones. An Ingress Protection or IP rating relates to how resistant the light fitting is to moisture – the higher the rating, the more watertight the fitting. Paul Collins, technical services manager at the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting, explains how they're applied to bathroom zones. 

Zone 0 covers the area inside a bath or shower tray. Lights must meet stringent requirements and only certain IPX7 fittings can be used. These may be listed as IP67.

Zone 1 includes the area directly above a bath or shower, up to 2.25m from the floor. Lights must be fixed, permanently connected, and require a minimum rating of IPX4, and IPX5 if exposed to water jets. These may be listed as IP44 or IP65.

Zone 2 covers the area around the basin or bath within 60cm. Again, lights require a minimum rating of IPX4 and may be listed as IP44 or IP65.

Lights outside these areas do not require any specific IP rating – although they should still be suitable for use in the bathroom.

Wattage (W) specifies how much power a lamp will consume. A higher wattage used to indicate a brighter lamp, but this is not the case with LEDs. You will still need to check fittings for maximum wattage capability as using a higher wattage bulb than recommended can cause damage and be a potential fire risk.


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