Bathrooms with Sarah Speck

November 2, 2023

Lighting a bathroom should strike a balance between functionality and creating a calming space with high aesthetic value. A bathroom can be strictly practical – or it can be a jewel box that pleasantly surprises guests. The type of lighting needed depends on whether you are lighting a powder room, or a true bathroom where grooming and makeup application will occur. 

My advice below can be used as a foundation, but ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer. Bathroom lighting is largely at the discretion of the designer or homeowner, so don’t be afraid to follow your instincts. 

Key Bathroom Trends 

Bathroom trends right now centre around promoting indulgence and relaxation, two things that we can all use a bit more of. While we don’t always follow trends, they are a great starting point to spark ideas when lighting your space.

• Statement-Making Fixtures: As maximalism rises in popularity, we’ve seen more statement sinks and freestanding tubs made from natural stone, like marble or granite, with heavy, unique veining. The stone adds a sense of drama and luxury, which can be complemented by ornate light fixtures or contrasted by sleek, contemporary ones.

• Warm Wood: The use of wood in the bathroom is another growing trend, with bleached, blonde, and mid-tones creating a cozy, spa-like atmosphere. 

• Handmade Tile: Incorporating comforting, handmade design elements like naturally textured tile on the floor or walls is another way to create a soothing atmosphere in your bathroom. Consider using ambient lighting fixtures to accentuate the warm glow.

• Moody Hues: As we shift away from stark, neutral paint colours, moody hues are taking over. Colours and paint techniques (or wallpaper) with depth and richness are designer favourites at the moment – perfect for your cocoon-like space. 

• Finishes: Light fixtures in brass and chrome or nickel tones add a bright, contemporary touch of style. Or for customers seeking a darker metal finish, industrial black are downtrending, with warm, modern bronze emerging.

Layering Lighting

A single ceiling flush-mount might be functional in a small bathroom, but it doesn’t exactly create a space that helps you unwind after a long day. Instead, most bathrooms benefit from layered lighting, which is a combination of multiple light sources – recessed, sconces, pendant lights, and more. Two to three light sources are ideal in a master bathroom to provide enough illumination for grooming purposes as well as ambient lighting options. We also recommend adding a dimmer switch to your recessed lighting. It will put you in control of the amount of overhead light needed, plus it can help you conserve energy usage in your home.

Best Placement for Lighting

If you have a spacious bathroom, consider lighting each section separately. For example, treat the shower as one section and the sink as another. Then, light each according to its purpose. Over the shower and vanity, task lighting is best to provide maximum illumination for applying makeup. However, we recommend ambient lighting for the bathtub area where you don’t need intense light. A romantic chandelier or a pair of soft sconces will do the trick. If you are displaying artwork, consider accent lighting that specifically illuminates the piece, making it a focal point.

Pay Attention to Moisture

Due to the high humidity levels in bathrooms, there are several things to avoid. Fabric shades have the potential to mildew, so they are not recommended for bathrooms. As a workaround, you can find some that are pre-treated or made of performance blend fibers that are moisture-resistant. Unlacquered brass may also be a material to avoid due to the potential to patina over time. When brass is exposed to high levels of moisture, it will naturally change hues, resulting in a green discoloration. While many appreciate the vintage charm of patinated brass, it’s less commonly seen in bathrooms as it doesn’t have a fresh, clean look. Of course, always check with an electrician before installing lighting in a place with a lot of humidity. For a shower, you’ll need special wet rated lights.

Even in small rooms, I’d urge homeowners not to underestimate the power of lighting. Paying attention to the nuances of your lighting decisions can make or break the atmosphere in the room, which is why it’s so important to consider functionality and have options to suit your needs. Lighting makes all the difference – turning a highly utilitarian room into one that feels like a personal sanctuary.