There are few things more relaxing than a lovely hot shower at the end of the day, or to energize you of a morning. But this relaxing experience can be less enjoyable if you have poor lighting. You don't want to be fumbling, trying to find your way and things in the small shower stall because all you have is a dim light bulb. Lights contribute heavily to any experience and in a space like a bathroom, they are of utmost importance.
However, just before you take a look at all the inspiring shower lighting ideas we have gathered together, there are some practicalities to consider. You need to make a note of damp rated and wet rated fixtures. The former is one where the light will be exposed to moisture but will not directly to water. But in bathrooms, especially small ones, the humidity levels are high and there are chances that the lighting fixture will be exposed to condensed steam. This is why, it's good to speak to an expert or electrician on the type of damp lighting fixture to choose, and where to install it in the bathroom. The second is the wet-rated fixtures that are fixed inside the shower stall or close to it, and can withstand water and humidity. These are also sealed to prevent water from entering and they also are made from components that will not rust.
Okay, practical side over, let's get on with the design side, as we've pulled together all our favorite bathroom lighting ideas to help you make some decisions on what is best for your space...
10 chic and practical shower lighting ideas
1. Keep it subtle with spotlights
In small bathrooms, the lesser accessories or 'fixtures' you can see, the better. If you believe in a more minimalist approach, then recessed spotlights is the way to go. The small fixtures go directly inside the walls or ceiling and emit focused lighting; in this case inside the shower stall or above the bathtub.
The only drawback to these is that they don't illuminate the entire bathroom. Similarly, if you're in for a long shower, the recessed lights will throw a general illumination and for focused tasks, say for pedicures or grooming you may feel the need for brighter task lights. To abate that issue, you could choose to have multiple recessed downlights. Position two or three on the back wall of the shower, and set them 17.5cm off the tiles. This way the light will cascade down the wall, creating arcs of light on the tile, stone or, marble.
2. Bring in the sun for dark spaces
'When designing dark bathrooms using materials like granite, dark wood or black stone, make sure that the windows are large enough for natural light to enter. If there’s no availability of sunlight, install enough artificial light, so that the space doesn’t seem too gloomy,' advises architect Nishita Kamdar (opens in new tab).
If your shower room has a window or an outlet, you could choose frosted glass or etched glass for privacy which allows the sunlight to filter in. The light entering looks even more dramatic and effective with interesting shadows created due to the glass. Choose a clear glass shower door to allow light to filter into the rest of the bathroom.
3. Light up the niches
Make the shower area shine, quite literally with special spots inside the niches. These also allow you to play up materials, textures, and objects in the bathroom; say like highlighting a wall in a marble bathroom with beautiful gold veins or a soapstone niche that holds inside it luxe bath products.
Also, as newer technologies are entering the bathroom space, the options for lighting are expanding. Above the shower or in the niches, you can choose automated lights that change intensity, color, or temperature. You can go for lighting placed on a timer or PIR sensor (passive infrared sensor), so that when someone steps in the shower, it automatically switches on.
4. Hide diffused lights inside the ceiling
Low-level PIR lighting that switches on as soon as you enter the room is ideal for nighttime visits or even when you're having a long, leisurely shower. These can be hidden inside the ceiling, right above the bathtub or shower stall.
'Acrylic ceilings with diffused lights are perfect solutions to all your light troubles! And for those who like to bring in a mood – remember no bright harsh lights – add in backlit bathroom mirrors and turn on the music to create a peaceful ambiance. The mirror or vanity can have one task light, but the rest of the lighting can be toned down, more diffused and evenly distributed.' suggests Nishita.
5. Use reflective glass tiles to filter light
There are a lot of reasons to fall in love with stained glass windows but most of all it's the effect they have on the interiors and the way they play with light. 'Choose stained glass for windows. That is a nice way to bring in color and texture and filtered daylight,' avers Keren Richter, co-Founder, and principal Designer, White Arrow (opens in new tab). These can be custom designed to match any decor, style, or color pattern. If a special stained glass window isn't in your budget, you could even stick a color film on the window which will help throw in vibrant illumination and offer privacy.
If you don't have a window in your bathroom but really want a statement glass, you could use bathroom wall tiles to create a similarly glossy effect. And then you could make it a backlit feature.
6. Experiment with oversized fixtures
Nothing says 'wow' better than a bathroom chandelier or a dramatic pendant - these create a luxe factor and what better place to hang them than above an indulgent bathtub or next to a shower especially if you want to make them the focal areas.
'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 (opens in new tab).
Before hanging a pretty piece, do consider the amount of water and steam that will be enveloping the lighting piece. Make sure it is suitably IP rated for the installation area and is ideal for the dry and wet zones. Also when it comes to hanging the piece, consider the slope, height, and width of the room and the ceiling and how the fixture will look with the rest of the room. Choose a wide piece and hang it farther down from the sloped roof so it doesn’t hit the ceiling. If you aren't able to hang a chandelier directly above the tub, you can create a similar look by hanging it in front of the tub, as long as everything looks centered.
7. Fill a shower room with color
If the rest of the house is calm and pared-back, you can do something fun in the bathroom. Be it hanging, large orbs, or LED lights that flicker and blink, a walk-in shower can be converted into one that is funky.
'Disco-style LED lights can illuminate the shower heads too in a multitude of colors. While this isn’t really our aesthetic I’m sure some people love feeling they are in Las Vegas,' says Keren.
You can choose from large Halogen bulbs to incandescent bulbs. The former can be a great option but they can also be slightly more expensive so it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons. Incandescent bulbs may be cheaper but typically have a shorter shelf life.
8. Place small lights around the shower stall
Be it standing lamps, candles to tea lights around the shower area, this will give extra illumination for bathing and is useful when you have large bathrooms where just overhead lighting may not be enough. If nothing else, these can help set a mood! To create a spa bathroom vibe, it's best to choose one watt, low-level LED bulbs which will make all the difference. You could also choose concealed LED strip lights installed into a recess or running along a shelf.
9. Try out portable lights
Just as the name suggests, these are waterproof lights or lamps that can be moved around as and when you require them. These don't require plug socket locations and can illuminate the area around or outside the shower, or even bathroom shelves and mantelpieces and little nooks that were previously out of reach.
These can be rotated around as per your ease or convenience and you can choose several light color settings, whichever suits the shower area the best. In terms of design, these portable lamps are available in several designs including antique brass, bronze, silver, and resin, to match your bathroom's decor.
10. Don't forget the flooring
Recessed lights come in a wide range of designs and even uses. While it's rather usual to install these on the walls and ceilings, another place to consider is the flooring, perhaps just outside of the shower. Also known as Walkover Lights, these offer subtle lighting and show the way in the night. If you happen to have a large, luxurious bathroom with stairs leading up to the shower, then it's an even better idea to install them on the treads. The LEDs are in a waterproof (usually IP67) enclosure to ensure the lights do not come into contact with water.
What kind of lights can you put in a shower?
While the lighting in the rest of the bathroom should be sufficient to light up the shower stall, you can choose recessed spotlights installed right above your shower for better visuals. For a uniform glow that stretches even beyond the shower, you can choose a domed glass diffuser. Another option is adjustable spotlights that can be turned around at will and installed just outside the shower. For ceiling lights, indirect lights that throw a soft, diffused glow are trending, especially popular in walk-in showers.
Lamps (MR16 or PAR20) that are equipped with LED recessed retrofit can be used in the shower as well; make sure you choose the wet-rated varieties. Those who enjoy a little drama can go for a back-lit, colorful wall made of semi-transparent synthetic panel with an RGBW LED strip installed inside. Once it is aglow, the entire mood of the room changes.
You could also opt for a long line of track lights may be useful since the individual spots on it can be aimed in different directions, helping you accentuate different parts of the room. Also, you won't accidentally reach out and touch the lights.
Can you put a light over the shower?
The simple answer is yes. You must choose a bathroom ceiling light that is rated for damp or wet areas. While these may seem like standard fixtures, they have extra features like a rubber gasket and glass lens or diffuser, that make the light moisture-resistant. One thing to keep in mind while installing tracks or chandeliers above the bathtub or shower is that there should be at least eight feet of space between the top of the tub or shower bottom. If not, it can result in electrical malfunction or safety hazards.
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.
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