Written by Hugh Metcalf

Buyer’s guide to bathroom lighting

From safety issues to functionality, designing a lighting scheme for a bathroom can be a real challenge. Tackle it head on with our illuminating guide.

curiousa & curiousa acid cluster bathroom chandelier IP rated - bathroom - goodhomesmagazine.com

Image: Curiousa & Curiousa 

Compared to the rest of your home, your options for lighting in a bathroom are somewhat limited. Not only do you lose out on using table and floor lamps, bathroom lighting comes with a technical safety aspect that may leave you a smaller pool of designs to choose from.

Yet, in spite of all this, the lights you choose will make or break your bathroom. Get it wrong, and you could either find yourself with a bathroom that’s too dark to get ready in or one that’s too bright to relax in.

Want to avoid those scenarios? Read on…

Direct and ambient lighting

B&Q goodhome collection ladoga led mirror - bathroom - goodhomesmagazine.com

Image: B&Q 

A bathroom is a place that requires some degree of direct lighting – that meaning functional lighting that’s sole goal is to illuminate as much of the space as possible. In this bathroom by B&Q, waterproof spotlights have been used over the shower – a space that’s used more functionally and needs to be well lit. Direct lighting also helps for bathrooms which lack in natural light and when it comes to cleaning.

However, some bathrooms rely just on direct lighting, which isn’t condusive to creating a spa-like sanctuary for when you just want to soak in a long, relaxing bath on a dark night. Creating a scheme layered with ambient lighting is important. Look to include other lights sources, such as your task lighting, but make sure it includes a design that offers a softer, diffused light.

Task lighting

Ike ledsjo wall light in tropical pink bathroom - bathroom - goodhomesmagazine.com

Image: Ikea

The most important spot to build up your bathroom scheme with task-specific lighting is around the basin. This is where your mirror is, and this is where you’ll need to supplement overhead lighting to get the best from the space. Flanking the mirror with wall lights, such as the Ledsjo from Ikea, will cast an even glow, giving you the most practical light for getting ready on dark mornings.

Another way to make the mirror area super practical is to opt for a LED mirror. These have discreet built-in LED lighting which is specially designed to illuminate you while using the mirror. They also usually have built-in controls making them easy to operate while stood at the sink.

What is IP rating?

Pooky ip rated swan neck bathroom lights - bathroom - goodhomesmagazine.com

Image: Pooky 

An IP rating is a safety standard which outlines the amount of both dust and water that can ‘ingress’ into a lighting element. Both bathroom lights and outdoor lights are usually subject to higher scrutiny, as water and electricity are involved in greater amounts than elsewhere in the home.

Your bathroom is divided up into zones, which outline the risk of water to the lighting element, and therefore which IP rating is required there. In a shower, or above a bath with a handheld shower attachment, you’ll require a light with an IP65 rating, which means its virtually watertight, as these are at risk of being hit by powerful jets of water. For wall lights around a sink, you’ll need to look at an IP44 rating, which means that it’s splash-proof.

However, you may find that you’re more limited by the kind of designs offered that meet higher IP ratings. For the most stylish options, look for specialists who have adapted designs to be bathroom-friendly. Pooky has recently launched its first versions of its classic wall lights, but re-imagined to be suitable for Zone 2 applications.

The IP rating system and where they can be used can be a little complicated, so if you’re unsure about which IP rating your bathroom needs, always consult a qualified electrician before investing in a product.

Natural light

window film company patterned - bathroom - goodhomesmagazine.com

Image: The Window Film Company  

As with every room in the house, it’s important to not discount the importance on natural light in your scheme.

Your choice of window treatment is especially important – if you need to close shutters or a black-out blind every time you need privacy, you could spend a lot of your time in the bathroom in only artificial light. Opaque, waterproof blinds are a good option, or opt for a stylish window treatment that obscure the view in through the window. It’s an easy take to retrofit a film like this from The Window Film Company to an existing window.


Are you planning a bathroom renovation project? Let us know! Tweet us @goodhomesmag, or post a comment on our Facebook page.



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