10 bathroom wall lighting ideas –beautifully illuminate spaces to inspire

The best bathroom wall lighting ideas are the perfect balance and form and function – here we have rounded up our favorite designs to suit all styles

Industrial grey bathroom with copper freestanding bath
(Image credit: Manolo Yllera)

When it comes to creating a comprehensive, practical space, bathroom wall lighting ideas are key. 'Bathrooms are no longer just a space of functionality but more of lifestyle spaces. Lighting in bathrooms is an important factor that creates the desired mood and a relaxing vibe. The right kind of lighting adds a touch of luxury and elegance in the bathroom interiors,' says Kanhai Gandhi, partner, KNS Architects.

Ideally, an effective bathroom lighting scheme is the combination of several types of lights coordinated to illuminate the space. Here we focus on the walls and how to choose the perfect wall lighting that perfectly balances both form and function. 

More often than not, wall lights serve more practical purposes than just decorative. They help set a mood. While standing lamps or chandeliers are mostly present to add a touch of whimsy or beauty, sconces, bulbs, spotlights, hanging pendants and more help throw light on the bathroom essentials; be it the mirror, the user, or the fixtures...

1. First consider practicalities 

a basin with three quarter panelling behind it

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Before you start planning your bathroom lighting scheme, there are a few practicalities to consider. The first is whether the fittings are suitable for the room itself. Check with your electrician or designer on the IP rating, as there are specific requirements for wet areas like the shower or even the sink. 

Also, keep in mind the amount of light you want your wall lighting to give off. You don't want to over illuminate the area; similarly, you don't want to under illuminating it. Two scones and a pendant is ideally enough if you have a small bathroom. For larger ones, you can consider all four lighting fixtures: scones, lamps, chandeliers, and spotlights. Plus, do take into account the natural light that you will receive throughout the day, making the fixtures only usable at night or evening time. 

Choose LED wherever possible, as they will save energy, last for years, and have a lighter impact on your wallet and the environment. 

'Consider pendant lights, which come in a wide range and bring warmth and coziness to the space. These can be designed to reflect on bathroom mirrors to maximize their aesthetic and luminous appeal. Recessed lights integrated into statement walls create an intriguing modernist aesthetic when hanging lights cannot be used. These lights merge seamlessly with the walls and are designed with different panel materials and textures,' shares Anil Ahuja, Director at Colston Bath and Spa.

2. Highlight the best parts

Small bathroom with dark green panelling and bathroom wallpaper

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Choose a fixture that maximizes the elements around it. Say, for instance, if you have a bathroom wallpaper, the wall fixture should be such that it throws illumination on it. If your bathroom is full of sleek edges that make a statement, then choose minimalist light fixtures that appropriately light the edges but don't overpower the space. The best way to do this is to plan a feature in mind, such as an object, sculpture, or wall hanging. Then you can choose an elegant lighting piece that helps to draw attention to that object or elements around the room. 

'Dramatic play of light highlighting the mirror, the odd curio, or even an accented wall in bathrooms brings life to the simplest of surface treatments or finishes. While moods can be created with indirect lighting, the use of decorative fixtures whether timeless and classic or over-exaggerated also tend to set an impact of experience,' avers Maithili Raut, partner, reD Architects

3. Illuminate the mirror and vanity

bathroom mirror lighting ideas

(Image credit: A1000xBetter)

'Mirror mirror on the wall, what's the best bathroom wall lighting of them all?' While there is no one answer to that, sconces or pendants work very well. And even backlights. The bathroom mirror is an essential element in the space and takes up a significant wall area. If you choose sconces or bulbs, remember to install them at eye level on both sides of the mirror. This will help create an even spread of illumination onto the face. 'Another option is to use pendant lights, which come in a wide range and bring warmth and coziness to the space. These can be designed to reflect on bathroom mirrors to maximize their aesthetic and luminous appeal,' Anil says. 

'In this moderately-sized bathroom, the homeowner wanted a tranquil feeling inspired by her travels to the Greek islands. We chose to unify the space with a muted color palette and used lighting that was visually interesting and within the same color palette. We chose to use a linear sconce so that we weren’t using up a lot of space for the lighting, but we also used a fixture that would still allow for plenty of light as the space is a vanity area. The sconces were mounted onto the tile,' shares  Kirsten Blazek, creative Director, A1000XBETTER.

4. Consider backlighting to add a soft glow  

backlit bathroom lighting

(Image credit: reD Architects )

One way to create a dramatic look on the bathroom walls is with diffused lighting. Backlights can be installed behind mirrors, under the bathroom sink, or even in the shower area. 'Lighting has the power to set the tone in any space and bathrooms are no exception. We love playing with lighting that incorporates translucent stones like alabaster and onyx. Lighting these stones on walls creates a warm and sexy ‘glow’ that makes everyone look their best,' Ali Budd, president, and principal designer, Ali Budd Interiors says. 

One great benefit to backlit bathrooms is that they create a safe space for people to walk, especially during nighttime trips to the loo. The diffused lighting throws enough glow for people to find their way without having to switch the lights on and get blinded by the strong illumination. 'We often custom-make vanities, and recently we’ve been adding a sensor-activated LED strip to the toe-kick area. It’s a smart way to softly illuminate the space at night without feeling around for a light switch. Another way to achieve a similar, diffused light effect is to backlight the medicine cabinets,' shares Kirsten.

5. Light up the walls using low hanging lighting 

bathroom chandelier ideas

(Image credit: Beyond Designs )

If you have the space and ceiling height, cascading accent pieces are the way to go as these not only light up the walls and flooring but even reach out to the ceiling, creating a cocoon of lighting. 'An exciting way to enhance a sense of elegance and grandeur in a spacious bathroom is to adorn it with a statement chandelier. Another option is to use pendant lights, which come in a wide range and bring warmth and coziness to the space,' suggests. Anil. Other than one large statement piece, you could also consider hanging a cluster of pendant lights that are just as effective and throw soft lighting. 

Here's a pro tip: Hang a mirror opposite a bathroom chandelier to maximize its impact. You can use high-gloss surfaces like burnished metal to give the bathroom the necessary shine; it also helps evenly distribute the light all around. Even a spot of glass mosaic helps in creating a chic vibe.

6. Make a subtle statement with bulbs

bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: MATTHEW WILLIAMS)

Bathroom lighting designs have seen a whirlwind of change and the boring, traditional bulb is no longer the eyesore it used to be. Today, you can choose from oversized, smart varieties that can be hung from the ceiling or fixed next to the vanity or act as effective bathroom mirror lighting

These might not be the most atmospheric lighting source, but they offer strong, effective illumination and are especially ideal for the more functional spaces like the mirror or vanity area. You can also choose bulbs that complement the overall design scheme in the room. In this image, the copper-toned bulb matches the taps and the wall-fixed holder, creating a dainty vignette.  

7. Enhance natural wall lights (a.k.a windows)

bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: PAUL MASSEY)

A skylight, large window, or a niche that looks to the outdoors too constitutes as wall lighting...in fact, the most effective wall lighting. Natural light streaming inside the home, when compared to artificial is more effective and warm. It's the light that makes you look like yourself the most! You can enhance this light further in the bathroom by choosing a white bathroom color scheme, neutral surfaces, and tiles that reflect light and make the room seem brighter and livelier. Also, chrome and shiny metal fittings reflect light, over heavy wood or matt plastic counterparts. 

8. Opt for dimmable lights

bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: Paul Craig)

The benefit of dimmable lights is that you can change or control the intensity of light in the bathroom, depending on the time of the day or even occasion. When you're getting ready, putting your makeup on, shaving, or perfecting your hair, chances are you'll want lights that are strong and bright so you can see each detail of your face. In the evening, as you're taking a shower and winding down for the day, you'll prefer softer lighting. In a guest bathroom or powder room, dimmer lights are preferred. In that case, these lights are ideal. 

For dimmable lights, you can ask your electrician to install a reasonable quality dimmer switch and connect your wall lights to it.

9. Think of reflective surfaces

bathroom lighting ideas

(Image credit: James Merrell)

This may come as a surprise to you but wall lighting doesn't always have to equate to lighting pieces or fixtures. In the wonderful, vast world of design, these could also relate to reflective surfaces. For bathrooms that are wide, open, and large, there's always the possibility of working with glossy bathroom tiles. These hues help bounce off light and make the entire space brighter. Also, you could consider tinsel paint or wallpaper that has in it, a little glitter. These surfaces give off tiny, dainty, charming glimmer. Ah! The perfect scenery.  

While choosing glossy tiles, keep in mind to install them only on the walls and leave the flooring for the more anti-skid, rough tiles to avoid accidents.  You could use these tiles to create an accent wall as well, and perhaps hang a pendant or chandelier next to it so the effect is instantly seen. 

10. Create a layered lighting scheme

bathroom with marble geometric floor

(Image credit: Drummonds)

The most effective lighting scheme is always a combination of several different lighting fixtures, natural light and finally, surfaces. Ensure your bathroom's lighting is designed in various steps, where each lighting layer is effective individually and together. In the morning, the natural light streaming inside should be ideal, combined with neutral, glossy wall surfaces. In the late afternoon, the spotlights should be able to take over the scene and finally, at night the sconces and pendants should together combine to create a happy, easy-to-use, functional sanctuary. 

Where should bathroom wall lighting be placed?

While lighting up the bathroom, you could start with the most important areas first and then work your way around the rest of the room. The most important bathroom wall lights are the ones around the mirror and vanity; start there. 

Avoid fixing the light in such a way that it points directly down on your head because it will be harsh and unflattering. An ideal position is hanging it on the ceiling or the walkway area so you’re illuminated from behind rather than directly in front of the mirror. 

When it comes to the shower area; if you have a tub you could install lights on two sides of the tub, on the walls next to it. With a shower that’s 3×3 ft or 3×4 ft, you can get away with one strong fixture. For recessed lighting in the bathroom, choose 2-inch – 3.5-inch trim size and 700-1200 lumens per light at 2700-3000K color temperature. These can be installed inside shower cubbies or on the ceiling, in the center of the bathroom. 

How do I add ambient lighting to my bathroom?

Ambient lighting is essentially lighting that substitutes for natural light in a room. While there are four types of lighting ideally required in a home: ambient, task, accent, and decorative, ambient lighting (or general lighting) is the most basic and essential. 

The others work as layering in the lighting scheme. For modern bathrooms, you could choose several types of lights to work as ambient lighting for the room. The most common is the wall-fixed sconces usually installed next to the mirror. Tube lights are fixed on the walls or ceilings. Track lights can light up various parts of the bathroom, depending on where they are directed. One can choose to install them all along the ceiling to light up the entire room evenly. A tall, standing powerful lamp can sometimes light up an entire tiny bathroom. And finally, torchieres (not to be confused with lamps) have a shade that points upwards, which helps light up the ceiling. 

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast).  Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.