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Without proper lighting, your bathroom can become borderline unusable. Therefore, sufficient lighting should be a priority in your bathroom.
While warm lighting, particularly in the evening, promotes relaxation and helps to calm the mind, natural sunlight during the day not only brings an amazing amount of high-quality natural light into your space but is also a great source of warmth.
Surely, there are so many ways to introduce lighting in your bathroom, and this guide will go over how you can properly light a bathroom so it’s a soothing escape.
1. Start With A Neutral Theme
Neutral colors, such as crisp white, soft cream, shades of gray, and many shades of beige, create a bathroom that is clean and sleek. These muted, natural colors have the ability to inspire calm and tranquility so your bathroom feels like a relaxing retreat.
They also make your bathroom look brighter as they allow natural light to bounce around the bathroom and reflect off every surface.
More so, if you want to sell your home, neutrals are appealing because they’re calming, and fresh, and they let buyers see the potential of a room.
Take note, while neutrals such as beige, ivory, taupe, black, gray, and shades of white appear to be without color, in many applications, these hues often have undertones so be aware of these underlying tones as you match colors or choose paint.
Use neutrals in your bathroom decor—either to create a soft, neutral-only, quiet look or as background colors for dramatic accents.
To make your decor interesting and not flat, layer various shades of the same hue throughout the bathroom through the flooring, vanity, shower curtain, and accent pieces.
2. Maximize Natural Lighting
Natural light is such a great way of lighting your bathroom because it is essentially free but your bathroom must have access to the outside environment, generally in the form of a casement window or skylight.
Frosted/ privacy glass is also a must-have, allowing a proper amount of sunlight to come through and making sure you maintain your privacy.
Indeed, the bright, warm light of the sun adds a great source of visibility to your bathroom whilst making your bathroom feel warmer and cozier.
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Bathrooms need to move from bright light for morning rituals to a soft mood light if you’re taking a soak in the tub in the evening.
That’s why we suggest modeling your bathroom’s artificial lighting after the daylight your bathroom receives. To do so, go for ambient lighting with white shades and warm-cool task, and accent lighting.
3. Incorporate Layered Lighting In Your Bathroom
You may have a feature bath, beautiful storage shelves, and well-maintained bathroom plants but without the right ambiance, your bathroom may look flat.
Before you start layering your lighting in the bathroom, take into consideration the color temperature. While the choice will vary due to personal preference, you want to check the main tasks at hand.
You need lighting of the right color to enhance its aesthetics as well. The best choices are cool white which is brighter and gives off a hint of a blue hue; and warm white which provides a calmer, more relaxing feel.
You may prefer brighter lights if you get ready in the bathroom (including fixing your hair or putting on makeup). Otherwise, warm white lighting makes more sense for the relaxing person.
While we recommend being consistent with the color temperature, smart designers are able to have both in layers to allow for less glare and shadowing, more precise lighting, and a balance.
Lighting designers divide light into three layers: ambient, task, and accent lighting. Curating these three layers carefully will help you achieve a balanced and comfortable bathroom space.
Here’s how to combine different kinds of light to create a particular mood or feel:
a. Start with Ambient Lighting
Also known as general lighting, ambient lighting is the main source of light in the room, therefore, all the other layers of light are built around it.
In the bathroom, ambient lighting should sufficiently fill the space and be bright enough to keep your room visible.
For many, this comes in the form of overhead lighting, usually from the ceiling in the form of downlights, troffers, or surface-mounted fixtures. But, just how much lighting is enough to properly light up your bathroom?
When purchasing your primary lighting fixtures, it is important to determine how much light you’ll need in the bathroom. To do so, you’ll need to measure a bulb’s lumens, that is, how much visible light a light source emits. Also known as “brightness” or “light output“.
Lumens help to categorize the brightness of a lightbulb while watts measure how much electricity (or energy) a bulb consumes to reach its claimed brightness.
As a general rule of thumb, 20 lumens are required per square foot to create enough ambient lighting. This is based on ceilings below 10ft. Also, A standard 100-watt incandescent light bulb produces about 1,500 – 1,700 lumens.
Therefore, to determine how much is enough light, determine your bathroom’s square footage and multiply by 20 lumens for an average of what light source to acquire.
Keep in mind, however, that these numbers are for typical interior conditions but if your bathroom has dark-colored walls, furniture, and fixtures with shades, you’ll need roughly an additional 10 lumens per square foot.
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b. Add Task Lighting
After carefully positioning your general lighting, you want to add task lighting. This is focused light that’s great for putting a bright spotlight on an area used for a particular task.
In the bathroom, task lights include lights surrounding your bathroom mirror or under-cabinet lights to brighten your vanity top and get rid of the shadows cast by overhead lighting and high-top cabinetry.
LED strips are a common choice for bathroom vanity lighting because they are flexible enough to be tucked behind a frameless mirror. This gives you the kind of task lighting you need to get ready in the morning.
c. Highlight with Accent Lighting
Not mandatory, accent lighting helps add a decorative touch to your bathroom, giving it a polished look. It is used to highlight the focal points in your space creating visual interest.
Place wall sconces on the opposite sides of your vanity mirror or wall art to create focal points on the wall.
Recessed lighting is perfect for highlighting bathroom products put in recessed niches.
While under-cabinet lighting is great task lighting, when installed in the toe kick below a vanity, it adds drama to your bathroom while also serving as a practical nightlight.
In a luxury bathroom design, under-cabinet lighting is also used to accent a specific area of the bathroom, such as an elevated tub.
It is important to take note that there are 3 bathroom electrical zones that have been identified in the IEE wiring regulations. Basically, these are the places to locate lighting in your bathroom.
Zone 0 is anywhere inside a bath, basin, or shower itself. Basically, ‘any area within a bathroom that can hold water’.
Any fitting or appliance used within zone 0 must be low voltage, with a maximum of 12 volts (SELV) and fully protected against both partial and total immersion in water (minimum rating of IPX7).
Zone 1 is often labeled as the ‘splash zone,’ usually, the area above the bath or shower to a height of 2.25m from the floor as well as the width of the shower cubicle or length of the bath.
In this zone, any installed equipment is likely to get wet but would not necessarily be submerged.
Any fitting or appliance within zone 1 must be IPX4 (splash proof) or better, as well as a maximum of 12 volts (SELV) with the transformer located beyond zone 2.
NOTE, zone 1 does not include zone 0.
Zone 2 is the area stretching to 600mm outside of the bath or shower, be that above or to the sides of each to a height of 2.25m from the floor.
This area is the least likely to get wet but there is a possibility for it to be splashed.
Any fitting or appliance within zone 2 must be IPX4 (splash proof) or better, as well as a maximum of 12 volts (SELV) with the transformer located beyond zone 2.
Outside Zones (Beyond Zone 2)
This zone is the area of your bathroom that extends beyond zones 0, 1, and 2, and where no water jet is likely to be used.
In this zone, there are no special IP requirements, however, we recommend a light with an IP rating of at least IP20+. Portable equipment like a hairdryer can also be used if its flex length does not enable it to be used in zone 2.
NOTE: It is always encouraged that electrical items have some sort of mechanical and moisture protection.
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4. Introduce Reflective Surfaces
Reflective surfaces offer a way to lighten and enlarge your bathroom.
Start with a round statement mirror above your vanity or position it directly above your basin to reflect and also, give the illusion of more bathroom space. Just ensure it is not wider than the unit and installed at the eye level of the users.
Since bathrooms, particularly those with a shower, will be humid and develop a considerable amount of steam, go for a mirror whose frames are moisture-resistant to prevent damage over time.
A lighted or backlit LED mirror is another favorable choice, hence, its popularity.
Apart from mirrors, using metals in the bathroom is a great way to add an interesting, reflective, and contemporary look to a space.
Common options to use metals include the knobs and pulls of vanity hardware, towel rings, lighting, mirror frames, shower trim, and accessories, such as soap dispensers or lamp bases.
You can go for warm or cool metals depending on your overall decor. While it’s a safe choice to use one type of metal in the bathroom, you can always mix your metals but don’t use more than three.
Usually, warm metals include brass, gold, copper, and oil-rubbed bronze while cool metals include chrome, polished nickel, and brushed nickel.
Black is also an option, considered either a cool-toned metal or a neutral that greatly balances out your mix.
5. Use Glass
Glass surfaces work with natural light from any bathroom windows and the illumination from your light fixtures. Glass also offers a naturally reflective surface, even when it’s smoked, etched, fluted, or patterned.
While other surfaces like mirrors reflect light as well, the light reflected off of glass is more diffused, so you don’t get a glare even if the glass wall is in front of the window.
Therefore, consider using glass in your interiors if you want to light your bathroom properly. You can start with glass screens, glass shower doors, or glass enclosures. They also look sleek, clean, and beautiful!
6. Keep Your Bathroom Clean & Clutter-Free
Cleaning your bathroom and ensuring it is clutter-free is a clever trick to make your space look brighter.
So, clean your windows to let in more sunlight, use hidden bathroom storage, and cut back on the clutter to make a noticeable improvement in the brightness of your room.
TIP: To get your bathroom windows sparkling, you can make a simple cleaner by mixing one part white vinegar with two parts water in a spray bottle.
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Too often, lighting a bathroom is low on the list of priorities relative to other rooms in the house. But with these steps to light a bathroom properly, you are set to make the most of the space.