So, you’re remodeling your bathroom or you’re planning on the best way to add lighting fixtures, but what are the types of bathroom lighting fixtures? Which ones will work best for your space? There are lots of options for lighting a bathroom. It may be difficult for you to choose from all the different options once you look through them all.
Bathroom designer Kathleen Stacey Finley says:
“Layer your lighting with fixtures for various purposes, including task lighting for applying makeup or shaving, mood lighting for overall ambiance, and statement lighting to create a Wow factor.”
You can check out some of Kathleen Finley’s favorite bathroom lighting fixtures in her post Best Bathroom Lighting Ideas for Amazing Ambiance.
Now let’s take a look at the types of bathroom lighting fixtures options that create a layered look:
1. Recessed Bathroom Lighting Fixtures
Recessed lighting, also known as canned lighting, is when a light or bulb is placed directly into the wall or ceiling further back from the main surface. This type of lighting is common in modern kitchens and in locations that are going for a decorative relaxed look. These light fixtures usually have some sort of a cover or reflector on them.
Recessed lights usually have 3 main parts or pieces that go into the external part of it: the bulb, the housing, and the trim. The electrical connections are hidden back in the wall or ceiling. On the exposed portion of the fixture, you might see shades, reflectors, or other decorative materials.
The size and shape of your fixture are important considerations. These considerations are especially important if you’re buying pieces for recesses in the ceiling that have already been created. The right kind of trim can give your bathroom the ambiance you want. There are round or square trims that can have reflectors to help maximize the light coming off of your bulb. These work well for high ceilings, reflecting the light down and out.
You can install an “adjustable” trim, also known as an eyeball, which can be turned to point the light’s direction. “Baffles” are trims that absorb light and reduce the glare making for a softer lighting. “Lensed” trims have a solid cover over them that protects the bulb and wiring from water. They are perfect for use in a bathroom, especially if your bulb is anywhere near water.
“Recessed lighting in the ceiling is awesome to lend uniform lighting to your whole space,” says Kathleen Stacy Finley.
And while recessed lighting will help you complete bathroom tasks like putting on makeup or shaving, it’s not the only lighting fixture you’ll want. Consider a chandelier statement piece, and some vanity lights on dimmers to help create a mood.
Chandeliers are beautiful classic pieces that can make your bathroom stand out and give you a high-end or regal look. A mini-chandelier can actually be quite a nice addition even to a small bathroom.
A small chandelier can add a nice touch to go over your vanity, sink, etc, but keep in mind that the chandelier that you choose should have a damp or wet rating. It can be a hazard if it comes in contact with water. So, if there is any chance of it coming in contact with water, don’t take the risk. Make sure that if it has a cord, the outlet is safely away from any water. Also, make sure that the cord doesn’t have any chance of coming out and swinging into a source of water.
Be aware that many housing codes do not permit chandeliers to be installed over bathtubs or showers. This is an electrical hazard, but if the chandelier is going in the center of a large bathroom or over your vanity, it should be fine. See a designer’s picks for the best bathroom chandeliers here.
3. Pendant Bathroom Lighting Fixtures
Pendant lights can come in all shapes, sizes, and qualities. They usually hang from the ceiling from a covered cord and have a bulb at the end covered by a shade of some sort. They can look like a glass-covered lamp, a futuristic effortlessly hung simple tube, or a conglomeration of different smaller lights, and more.
They’re perfect for hanging over a vanity to not only give a stylish touch but also to add extra light to the mirror or tub areas. Pendants are good to light smaller spaces that don’t catch all the overhead light that the rest of the bathroom has, like near the shower, or over the toilet.
They can also be safely added to an overhead ceiling of a bathtub or shower if you have enough clearance (generally 8 feet between the top rim of the tub and the bottom of the hung light). Pendant lights can also be toned down by the addition of a lower watt ambient bulb to help layer your lighting to contrast the brighter mirror and ceiling task lights.
With that being said, a pendant light can also be used over or beside a mirror to light your bathroom vanity. Read my indepth post on bathroom pendant lighting to learn about the 9 types of pendant lights, how to position pendant lights in the bathroom, how to install them, and what bulbs to use.
4. Wall Sconces
Wall sconces are small light fixtures that are attached to the wall and stick out from it. This type of bathroom lighting fixture comes in a range of styles from those with basic lampshade looks, tubes, orbs, square fixtures and more. Sconces are ideal for lighting a dark corner, or for placing above or beside a bathroom vanity. (Read the post How to Choose the Best Bathroom Vanity Lights to learn more about vanity lighting).
You can use sconces as mood lighting or task lighting, depending on where you place these types of bathroom lighting fixtures and what type of bulbs you choose to install. They can have colorful shades or bulbs, but they ought to be coordinated with the other lights in the bathroom to eliminate shadows and play off of each other.
5. Bath Bars
Bath bars either look like multiple sconces sodered into one fixture, or they look like sleek lightsabers. You can install bath bars horizontally, directly above a bathroom mirror. Or you can install two matching bars, one on either side of your bathroom mirror.
Many bath bars use LED bulbs. Not only do LED lights last longer than traditional bulbs, but they also use less energy. This means that while you help save the planet, you can also reduce your electric bill.
Positioning your bath bars correctly beside the bathroom mirror is key for creating an appealing decor. For details, read Ask a Designer: How to Hang Bathroom Mirror and Sconces.
6. Smart Lighted Mirrors
Smart bathroom mirrors have LED lighting built into the mirror itself. They usually offer several to hundreds of light color settings and a complete spectrum of luminance.
Better still, smart lighted bathroom mirrors include other smart features such as anti-fog technology, voice technology, and even built-in Bluetooth speakers. A smart lighted mirror will not only enhance any contemporary bathroom decor, but you’re likely to love the convenience it offers.
7. Night LightingSee Leonite Step Lights on Amazon.com.
Who said that night lights are just for children? I know I don’t like to get hit in the face with a bright light if I wake up in the middle of the night. A well-placed night light in the bathroom can provide the perfect amount of luminance. Get a step-light that’s wet-rated for bathrooms and dimmer compatible. Place one or two on the wall near the floor to leave on at night. If you get an LED fixture, it won’t use much energy.
Creating a Mood with Bathroom Lighting Fixtures
While the fixtures will help create the overall style, you can’t achieve the desired bathroom ambiance without considering the light bulbs that you install in your fixtures. If you tend to run into a hardware store and grab the first box of bulbs you see, don’t! It’s easy to do but too important.
At least consider this: Color temperature refers to the appearance of the color of light that your bulbs emit. It is measured in Kelvins on a scale from zero to 1,000. Fewer Kelvins give off a cooler, bluer light while more Kelvins give off a warmer, yellower glow.
With regular light bulbs you usually get one color temperature such as “soft white” or “bright white”. A smart bulb allows you to choose from hundreds or thousands of options on any given day simply by tapping an app. Read more about smart bathroom lighting and get suggestions for bulbs and fixtures.
The Philips Hue smart bulb system has several preset color temperatures that match whatever is going on in a room. These smart bulbs aren’t cheap, costing about $45.00, but they are such a cool way to customize your home.
Lumens is a measure of the light output. You can adjust the brightness of whatever light bulb you choose by putting your bathroom fixtures on dimmer switches. I cannot recommend doing this highly enough. Dimmers allow you to control the light output without changing the color temperature.
Can You Mix Metal Finishes on Bathroom Lighting Fixtures?
Since you’re going to be using a variety of lighting fixtures in the bathroom to create a layered look, you’ll want to consider mixing metal finishes. Many people are afraid to do it, but by mixing finishes on your bathroom lighting fixtures, you can create a more complex and intriguing decor.
You’ll want to take care that the finishes compliment each other and aim for a cohesive style. Mixing bathroom finishes is like painting a gorgeous work of art. You only want to splatter paint everywhere if you can make it look deliberate somehow like Jackson Pollack.
And never use more than three different metal finishes in a bathroom. Be sure to read my post about mixing metal finishes in the bathroom for more detailed guidelines and advice.
Which Types of Bathroom Lighting Fixtures Will You Choose?
There are so many types of bathroom lighting fixtures. And choosing the right combination is the key to achieve a real Wow! factor in your space.
Most likely you’ll pick recessed lighting (or track lighting is another option), plus bathroom vanity lights, and perhaps a statement fixture to hang from the ceiling, especially if you have a vaulted ceiling or a large bathroom.
And no matter what type of bathroom lighting fixtures you choose, you’ll want to install them safely. Depending on exactly where you’re placing the fixture in the bathroom, you’ll want to choose fixtures or bulbs that are damp or wet-rated. Be sure to read this post for more on how to safely install bathroom lighting.
Still unsure? Read my step-by-step guide for how to achieve the perfect bathroom lighting.
Pro tip: If you’re about to start on a bathroom remodel, download my free Save Big $$$ Cheat Sheet. You’ll get designer hacks that can literally save you thousands of dollars. Just fill out the form below.