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Bathroom Remodel

Best Types of Bathroom Lighting

On this page:
  • Types of bathroom light fixtures
  • Best lighting for different bathroom areas
  • Costs for different types of lights

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The bathroom is one of the most frequently used spaces in any home. So as you go through the process of renovating your bathroom, you need to find the best bathroom lighting for your space.

The best bathroom lighting for you will not only have to do with style and design, but about the lifestyle you live and tasks that need to be completed. From hanging bathroom lights to recessed vanity lights, you will also need to choose from types of lighting – such as ambient, dimmed, and task lighting.

In this guide, we 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.

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Also consider which bathroom light fixtures will work best for different areas of the room. Here are the best bathroom lighting ideas.

Vanity Lights 

Vanity lights

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

What Are Vanity Lights?

A popular lighting choice in bathrooms, vanity lights are a series of lights – usually two or more – that are installed above the bathroom mirror.

This over the mirror bathroom lighting is required by code to be turned on by the main light switch for the bathroom, usually located by the doorway. They 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.

Why Choose Vanity Lights for Bathrooms?

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.

Pendant Lighting

Pendant lights

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 specific areas of the bathroom

What Are Pendant Lights?

A dramatic choice for the bathroom, a pendant light is a light fixture that hangs from the ceiling. They can be turned on and off or dimmed by a light switch.

Why Choose Pendant Lights for Bathrooms?

Pendant lights are another type of lighting that come in a variety of styles and sizes, and serve as a great design centerpiece. Here’s what to know about installing and using them:

  • 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.

Sconce Lighting

Sconce lighting

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

What Are Sconce Lights?

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.

Why Choose Sconce Lights for Bathrooms?

Since these can be installed on the wall, sconce lights are another good space-saving lighting idea. Usually found in pairs, larger sconces can go above the mirror. But smaller ones are best separated on either side of the mirror to spread out the light.

This type of lighting typically has a shade over it. For bathroom sconce lights, looks for shades made of metal or glass. If you want fabric shades, get a fabric made for a moisture-prone environment.

Recessed Ceiling Lighting

Recessed lights

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

What Are Recessed Ceiling Lights?

Cut into the ceiling, recessed lighting is flush with the ceiling and provides light without hanging or getting in the way. For homeowners who do not want their light fixture to be the design centerpiece of their bathroom, recessed lighting is the way to go. 

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.

Why Choose Recessed Ceiling Lights for Bathrooms?

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.

Bathroom Chandeliers 

Bathroom Chandeliers

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

What Are Bathroom Chandeliers?

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.

Bathroom chandeliers can also come in a range of colors, from gold and silver to newer styles of black or brass.

Why Choose Chandeliers for Bathrooms?

This type of lighting can be a great statement piece for the bathroom, particularly bathrooms that are larger.

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

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

What Are LED Strip Lights?

A cousin of recessed lighting, LED lighting is a strip of lights that can be installed anywhere. In bathrooms, they are most 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.

Why Choose LED Strip Lighting for Bathrooms?

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 easily or not last long.

Types of Lighting to Use in Bathrooms

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.

Use high color rendering index, or CRI, bulbs of 80 or higher in bathrooms. Since the space is used for focused tasks like makeup and shaving, you will want lighting that allows you to best see those activities.

Task Lighting

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 of Task Lighting

  • Sconce lighting
  • Pendant lighting
  • Vanity lighting

Best Bulbs for Task Lighting

  • Bright bulbs in the white/yellow color family
  • Bulbs with high wattage

Ambient Lighting

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 of Ambient Lighting

  • Recessed lighting
  • Chandeliers
  • LED light strips

Best Bulbs for Ambient Lighting

  • "Daylight" or general bulbs
  • Bulbs with softer/warmer hues

Accent Lighting

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 of Accent Lighting

  • Recessed lighting
  • Vanity lighting
  • Pendant lighting

Best Bulbs for Accent Lighting

  • Bulbs that can be dimmed
  • Bulbs in bright or warm hues, depending on the space's needs

Using Skylights in Bathrooms

Another way to provide light in a bathroom: 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!

skylight-bathroom-window

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
  • 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.