How to Choose Bathroom Lighting

Primp and prep under a flattering light.


Double vanity bathroom with wall sconce lights above each mirror.

Want to nix nicks, prevent shaving cream spills and perfect the use of a mascara wand? Upgrade your bathroom lighting. All the time spent primping and prepping in front of the mirror before heading out into the world should be done in the best light possible. Additionally, proper mood lighting will only enhance the relaxation that comes with a shower or bath. When looking into bathroom lighting options, consider placement of fixtures and the style of your home. This will help you make the brightest and best lighting choices.

Lights, Camera, Location

Where running, splashing water is a major feature of any bathroom, location of light fixtures is an important consideration. All fixtures placed in your bathroom should have an appropriate rating for the wiring of your home, but be especially careful about placing fixtures near any water source and check those ratings closely. Location is also imperative factor in choosing a type of lighting because of the mood the placement can set. While an overhead light can shine brightly, casting shadows down, a wall mount sconce beside a mirror will provide a soft light for both optimum vision and relaxation.

Celing Lighting

Flush-mounted lights are installed in a fixture close to the ceiling (almost flush) and are excellent for use in rooms with low ceilings. These fixtures are a common choice for their simple, clean appearance. They provide an even, overhead light.

For larger bathrooms, a small chandelier can add a decorative element to your bathroom that makes bathing a relaxing, aesthetic experience.

Recessed can lights, most common in commercial or public bathrooms, are ideal for placement near the shower, especially when used with a warmth-generating heat lamp. These fixtures do not provide the most ambient bathroom light.

For high efficiency, install a combination ceiling light and ventilation fan, which saves space and offers two separate, necessary effects.

Wall Lighting

The most common bathroom lighting choice is a wall mount fixture. Ceiling lights tend to cast shadow toward the floor, offering less visibility at face height. Wall mounting fixtures are especially effective when paired with a minimal amount of ceiling light. Flush mount wall lights point light upward, casting shadows for ambient light. Wall sconces are both practical and stylish, providing a dimmer light that complements reflections and gives the bathroom an aesthetically calming edge. Sconces and brackets are available in hundreds of designs, materials and socket quantities.

Double vanity tile bathroom with ceiling lights above the mirror.

Broadway lights are also technically wall mounted, but along a platform. These popular fixtures run along the upper edge of the mirror and are generally fit multiple round bulbs, either on a mirror platform or other style choice.

Accents

If placing permanent fixtures on walls or ceilings isn’t in your style plan, adding small accent lights like table lamps or candles can provide both ambiance and function. Consider dimmers to create the same type of light with a permanent fixture.

Small sink with two wall sconces above on either side of the mirror.

Bright Beauty

Because the bathroom is a space with all its own style, homeowners often choose to contrast the style with the rest of the house’s theme. However, if you want to keep a theme going throughout every room, choosing a lighting style similar to that of the rest of the house is recommended. The following descriptions of some specific style types will help you match your new bathroom lighting to the rest of the home.

Large open bathroom with tub at far end in window nook with chandelier and recessed lighting in the ceiling and wall mounts along the mirrors.

The arts and crafts style emphasizes sturdy materials, like iron and bronze, and uses strong, plain lines, much like Art Deco, which features a classic, simple appearance.

The Mission style is generally characterized by the use of strong geometric shapes, but in bathroom lighting, these shapes are often softer, possibly containing curved elements.Rustic pieces are designed to appear old-fashioned. Even metal rustic fixtures feature a twiggy, wood-like appearance.

Ornate Victorian fixtures pay homage to the gaslights used during Queen Victoria's reign. The stems tend to be thick and create distance from the wall, as the original lights needed hollow tubes to carry gas.

Large shower in tile bathroom with recessed lighting in the ceiling.

Remember, the material you choose for any of these fixtures will greatly affect the overall style of the room’s lighting. Many manufacturers offer each design in a variety of materials and finishes. From chrome, nickel, stainless steel, bronze and brass to the sturdier, often more expensive pewter, iron, platinum, and gold, there is a light fixture material to fit your needs.

Bathroom Lighting Costs

Bathroom light fixtures, like all types of light fixtures, vary in price based on material, craftsmanship and overall quality.

Many good quality bathroom light fixtures cost less than $50, but an ornate, decorative gold wall mount or a crystal chandelier will cost much more. The vast majority of individual bathroom light fixtures cost between $100 and $250.

The Bottom Line

Bathroom lighting is important because the bathroom is such an high-use space in the home. Whether you’re interested in improving your makeup skills or creating a relaxing atmosphere, you’re sure to find something to suit your fancy. Consider the style of the rest of your home, your bathroom personality and your budget and the rest will come like the flip of a switch.

Bright blue bathroom with double sinks and vanity lights over either side of the mirror.