Use a range of light fittings for a flexible scheme that will take you effortlessly from brisk morning ablutions to leisurely evening baths.
When you stagger into the bathroom in the morning, you’ll need bright, efficient light (and preferably flattering, too). For a long soak in the tub, however, you’ll want soft lighting that sets a relaxing tone. Designing a lighting scheme for a bathroom is not particularly difficult, but it does require careful consideration in order to be really effective. Ideally, you would plan it at the same time as the plumbing, considering the availability and direction of natural light, who uses the bathroom, what for and at what times of day, and the overall style you wish to achieve. A great bathroom lighting design will be flexible enough to illuminate each area according to your needs, combining directional task lights with adjustable general background light – and all using fittings designed to be safe in wet and steamy conditions.
In terms of decorative effect, it is possible to buy bathroom-rated chandeliers and other pretty pendants, but for washing, shaving and putting on make-up, it’s useful to install bright, ‘working’ lights above the bath, shower and – especially – the basin areas. Depending on the size of the room, you may also need additional, general lighting for any remaining dark areas. Don’t forget that mirrors are exceptionally useful when it comes to reflecting light around the room and making the whole space seem brighter. All-purpose downlights set into the ceiling are particularly neat, and can be placed almost anywhere you wish, though you may need to avoid joists. Small, directional lights on tracks are useful, too, and come in a range of styles that won’t break the bank.
Mirrors and mirrored cabinets that feature integral lighting are a great two-in-one solution. Alternatively, to light a conventional mirror, you could fit theatre-style bulbs all around, or have a pair of wall lamps on either side – choosing a style that complements your overall décor. Bear in mind that garden lighting is also rated for wet conditions, which may expand your choice. When deciding how to place mirror lights, ensure that the light is even, so that parts of your face aren’t in shadow, and avoid a single, very bright light from above, which does nothing for bags under the eyes first thing in the morning.
A simple, and cheap, supplement to ceiling lights would be to install LED strips behind baffles or panels, resulting in a gentle glow from an invisible light source. Other clever ideas include: storage units that incorporate lighting; fitting uplighters in flooring; an LED colour-changing lamp operated by remote control; basin taps that include a water-activated LED light that operates when the tap is turned on; and illuminated rainfall shower heads. You could also consider fitting low-level lighting that comes on automatically when someone enters the room – great for night-time toilet visits.
A wonderful luxury, if possible, would be to install two bathroom lighting circuits – one for everyday lights, and the other, on a dimmer, for ambient lights that can be as soothing as you wish. Finally, candlelight is ideally suited to relaxing in the bathroom, the warm, flickering flames providing an atmospheric background and an immediate pick-you-up whenever you need to lie back in the bath and unwind.
BOX Bathroom lighting regulations
Understandably, bathroom lighting regulations are very strict. The lights you choose must be suitable for the area in which they are fitted, indicated by an IP (ingress protection) rating on the packaging, which relates to how close to water the fitting will be. Generally speaking, the room is divided into three zones. Zone 0 is inside the bath or shower itself, so that fittings must be totally immersion-proof, rated at least IP67 and low voltage. Zone 1 is the area above the bath or shower, to a height of 2.25m from the floor. In this zone a minimum rating of IP45 is required (though most shower lights are actually rated at IP65). Zone 2 is outside the bath and shower, reaching 60cm on either side and 2.25m from the floor. You should also consider any area within 60cm of a tap to be within zone 2. Here, a rating of at least IP44 is required. Finally, anywhere within the bathroom but outside these areas has no specific IP requirements, though some experts recommend choosing fittings that have at least a rating of IP20. Depending on your circumstances, there may be other installation requirements, too, so always consult a qualified electrician.
Ship’s wall light, £299; bevelled edge mirror, £39; Miller Stockholm extending magnifying shaving mirror, £155; Croft Collection Shawford Roman blind, £35, all John Lewis: 03456 049 049; johnlewis.com.
by Katherine Sorrell