Bathroom Lighting Design 101


Installing the correct bathroom light fixtures in the proper location can make a big difference in how your bathroom looks and functions. Typically, bathroom lighting consists of just minimal lighting. But, using good lighting design, you can change the look and feel of your bathroom. The following pointers will help you achieve professional results.

Type of light source:


cool light vs warm light

Cool light (left) vs. warm light (right)

The most common bathroom light fixtures use incandescent bulbs. Incandescent gives a warm light that enhances skin tones. It is the least expensive to purchase, but uses the most electricity. CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) aren’t quite as warm as incandescent, but they are cooler and about 75% more efficient. Halogen bulbs are more efficient than incandescent but burn very hot. LED lighting has been gaining popularity in the residential market place. It is higher in cost than the other types, but lasts much longer, and is very energy efficient.

Natural light from windows, skylights or solar tubes will give a warm and inviting light. And, it’s free light! If the bathroom is located on an outside wall and depending on the type of siding on your house, you may be able to add a window. If the bathroom is located directly under the roof you could add a skylight or solar tube.

Types of lighting:

Lighting falls into three categories; general lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting.

General lighting lights the whole room. General lighting sources are ceiling light fixtures, lights combined with exhaust fans, and wall fixtures.

general bathroom light design

General Lighting

Task lighting provides light for functions such as grooming, showering, and bathing. Bathroom vanity lighting is an example of task lighting.

task bathroom lighting design

Task Lighting


Accent lighting is used to accent or highlight an area or object. Use accent lighting for display pieces, wall art, shelving, inside cabinets with glass doors, and in a vanity toe-kick area.

accent bathroom lighting design

Accent Lighting


Bathroom light fixtures should be placed where they will deliver the most light for their purpose without creating shadows.
Fixtures for general lighting should be positioned so there are no dark spots in the room. Ceiling light fixtures, either recessed or surface mounted, work well. You many need more than one fixture to properly illuminate the entire room.
Position task light fixtures for grooming, shaving or applying make-up on both sides of the face to eliminate shadows and install at a height that is at eye level of the user.

Accent lights should be installed directionally so that the area or object is illuminated completely with no shadows.


Lighting controls should be positioned so they are easily accessible. Install light switches 48” above the floor. General lighting controls should be at the entrance to the bathroom. Controls for task lighting should be located so the user can easily reach them.

bathroom dimmer switchA dimmer is an inexpensive way to add character to your bathroom. Dimmers reduce harsh lighting and glare. They can also give your bathroom a warm, cozy, and inviting feel. Newer dimmers have a slide control beside a standard toggle control. Once set, the same light level will be maintained every time you turn on the light until you change it.

Proper bathroom lighting design will make your bathroom easier to use and more attractive. Just changing your bathroom light fixtures can give your bathroom a whole new look. So what are you waiting for? See the light!