Bathing, shaving, makeup, brushing our teeth—a lot goes on in our bathrooms daily. The bathroom is one of the most frequently used spaces in any home. So as you go through the process of renovating your bathroom, an important decision is the best type of bathroom lighting to choose for your space.
Not only does the choice have to do with style and design, but choosing the right bathroom lighting is also important for the lifestyle you live, tasks that need to be completed, and in what area of the room. The best bathroom lighting options include types of lighting – such as ambient, dimmed and task lighting – as well as different types of light fixtures. In this guide we will cover both the best light fixtures for your bathroom, as well as types of bathroom lighting that will work best in your space and their pros and cons.
6 Best Light Fixtures for Bathrooms
Choosing the right bathroom light fixtures is not only a matter of functionality, but also your style preferences. Take into consideration the size of your bathroom, your design style, function, and of course, your budget. To find a bathroom light fixture that fits your budget, we recommend using a cost calculator to estimate costs in your area.
Also consider which bathroom light fixtures will work best for different areas of the room. Below we will cover the best types of light fixtures to consider ahead of your bathroom remodel.
A popular lighting choice in bathrooms, vanity lights are a series of lights – usually two or more – that are installed above the bathroom mirror.
Bathroom vanity lights provide focused lighting for the area around the sink and vanity
Great for grooming tasks
Various styles available
Usually can be dimmed as needed
Various price points for any budget
These lights, as required by code, are turned on by the main light switch for the bathroom, usually located by the doorway, and can usually be dimmed. Vanity lights can come in a bar, cage, globes, shades or tubes, depending on your style preference. It is recommended that when installing vanity lights over the mirror that they be 78 inches from the floor. For lights next to the mirror, go lower at 60 inches from the floor.
Vanity lights are popular because they provide ample lighting over the sink and mirror, which is useful for brushing teeth, blow drying hair, doing makeup, and other tasks. When it comes to design, there are a variety of vanity lights that will match the aesthetic of your bathroom, from traditional to modern and contemporary. Because they come in a variety of sizes and number of bulbs, vanity lights can be used in virtually any bathroom, big or small. Keep in mind that if the style of vanity light exposes the bulb, choose one that will not be too bright or create a shadow when grooming.
A dramatic choice for the bathroom, pendant lights are light fixtures that hang from the ceiling. They can be turned on and off or dimmed by a light switch. Pendant lights are another type of lighting that come in a variety of styles and sizes, and serve as a great design centerpiece.
Pendant lighting in the bathroom hangs from the ceiling and creates a design focal point
Great for space saving
Makes a modern design statement
Can accommodate different light bulbs
Can illuminate certain areas of the bathroom
When installing pendant lights by the mirror, make sure they either hang above the top of the mirror, or if they are on the sides, are above head height. Pendant lighting may not work the best in very small bathrooms, as they can crowd the space.
Since the bathroom is a room filled with water and moisture, be sure that the pendant light is installed in a place where it will not get wet and that it can withstand a wet environment.
Similar to vanity lights, sconce lighting is installed close to the bathroom mirror or medicine cabinet to provide direct lighting when standing at the sink. However, sconce lights are attached to the wall – usually directly next to the mirror. They do not hang from the ceiling or stand on the floor.
Sconce lighting provides focused sink-area lighting at a lower cost than pendant lights
Many styles and sizes
Versatile with different bulbs
More affordable than pendant lights
Provides great lighting for sink areaa
Usually found in pairs, larger sconces can go above the mirror. But smaller ones are best to be separated on either side of the mirror to spread out the light. Sconce lighting is a popular choice in other rooms of the home, too. This type of lighting typically has a shade over it. For the bathroom, however, fabric shades are not recommended because of how wet bathrooms get, unless the fabric is made for a moisture-prone environment. Otherwise, it is best to go with a metal or glass shade over the bulb.
Recessed Ceiling Lighting
For homeowners who do not want a showy light fixture in their bathroom, recessed lighting is the way to go. Cut into the ceiling, recessed lighting is flush with the ceiling and provides light without hanging or getting in the way.
Recessed lighting is installed directly into the ceiling for a more practical light fixture
Simple, minimalist style
Great for shower or tub areas
Can be installed in combination with other lights
They are connected to the main power source in the bathroom, so the lights can be turned on and off or dimmed from the light switch. In some setups, the recessed lighting can be separated into groups to allow for only some to be on or off. Keep in mind that recessed lights are more complicated to install compared to other types of bathroom lighting. This often results in a higher installation cost – about $70 to $130 per light.
Recessed lights are the best type of lighting for smaller bathrooms, where the light fixture might be too cumbersome or take up too much space, or for someone looking for a more minimalist look in the bathroom. In smaller spaces, the lights are installed around the perimeter of the bathroom. For larger spaces, they can go into the center of the ceiling.
Recessed ceiling lights can also be added to certain areas of the bathroom in combination with pendant, vanity, and/or sconce lights. For example, a popular design choice is to add vanity lights to your sink area and add recessed lights above the shower or tub.
A type of pendant light, bathroom chandeliers are eye-catching light fixtures that hang from the ceiling, typically in the middle of the bathroom or over the bathtub. Styles of chandeliers vary from traditional crystal fixtures to contemporary or modern fixtures with more geometric designs.
Chandeliers come in a variety of styles and make a bold statement in the bathroom
Makes a design statement
Great for above the tub
Great for master bathrooms
Can be dimmed with light switch
Bathroom chandeliers can also come in a range of colors, from gold and silver to newer styles of black or brass. This type of lighting can be a great touch for the bathroom, particularly ones that are larger such as master bathrooms.
Keep in mind that chandeliers are usually not suitable for smaller bathrooms, where they can overtake the space. These also tend to be pricier fixtures compared to others.
LED Strip Lighting
A cousin of recessed lighting, LED lighting is a strip of lights that can be installed anywhere in the bathroom. They are most well known for being used on the perimeter of the ceiling or around a mirror. In fact, LED lights can be used in place of vanity lights or sconce lights.
LED Strip Lights
LED lights are often used near the mirror or ceiling for a minimalistic lighting style
Best for energy-efficiency
Great for mirrors or ceilings
Comes in a variety of colors
LED bulbs are energy efficient, long lasting, easy to install, and come in a range of color temperatures. There are also flexible LED strip lights, which can be useful when installing around corners and edges in the bathroom. Bathrooms big and small can benefit from LED strip lights.
When installed properly, LED strip lights can provide beautiful and convenient ambient lighting. However, keep in mind that LED lighting options that are very cheap can be a sign that they will damage easy or not last long.
Types of Lighting to Use in Bathrooms
Now that we have a good idea of the different types of bathroom light fixtures available, let’s discuss types of lighting. Bathroom lighting can be grouped into types of lighting: task lighting, ambient lighting and accent lighting. Depending on your lifestyle, the type of lighting that works best for you will help you narrow down the lighting style.
Usually located near the mirror, this type of lighting is best used for completing detailed tasks, such as shaving and applying makeup. The lights can be hung above the mirror or to the sides of the mirror. It is not recommended that they hang from the ceiling on top of you, as it will create a shadow on your face.
- Examples: Sconce lighting, pendant lighting, vanity lighting
- Best bulbs: Bright bulbs with high wattage
Whereas task lighting allows you to see fine details, the purpose of ambient lighting is to light up the entire bathroom. Light fixtures that achieve this usually hang from the ceiling, and can also be used to create a calm mood. Ambient lighting often has the option to be put on a dimmer to allow you to choose how bright you want the bathroom to be. After a long day, you might be yearning for low light as you soak in the tub!
- Examples: Recessed lighting, chandeliers, LED strip lights
- Best bulbs: “Daylight” or general bulbs, though some people may prefer softer hues
Accent lights are installed to highlight a feature in the bathroom, whether it is a piece of artwork or providing direct light over the shower. This can be achieved with low-key recessed lighting, or design-minded vanity or pendant lights hanging by the mirror.
- Examples: Recessed lighting, vanity lights or pendant lights
- Best bulbs: Dimmable, bright bulbs
Using Skylights in Bathrooms
Another way to provide light in a bathroom is more simple: natural light! Skylight windows not only provide natural light from the outdoors, but also ventilation when you are using tough supplies for cleaning or taking a steamy shower. Not to mention, skylights add a beautiful touch to any bathroom – imagine looking at the clouds as you bathe in your massage tub!
Keep in mind that skylights are not a substitute for light fixtures. Eventually, the sun will set and there are also days (or entire seasons!) where sunlight is not optimal. Plus, light fixtures provide targeted lighting that you can control and benefit from while using the mirror or doing other tasks.
On the other hand, for bathrooms that do not have any windows, skylights are a great way to provide natural light without cutting into the walls. Some brands also have skylights with manual or motorized black-out shades if you would like to cover them from time to time.
Other popular window options for bathrooms are hopper windows, which are opened with a crank or hinge to open part way, or transom windows, which are narrow, horizontal decorative windows that let in sunlight while still providing privacy.
Installing Bathroom Lighting
If you are starting your bathroom lighting project from scratch, it is best to call an electrician and other contractors who will know how to safely, efficiently and properly put in your new bathroom light fixture. Bathroom pros will also be able to help you determine the best bathroom lighting for your room and budget.
In search of a trusted, experienced contractor for your bathroom lighting project? Use our network of professional contractors to find one in your own community best suited to complete your project.