Vanity lighting ideas – how to choose the perfect styles for a beautifully lit bathroom

From traditional sconces to contemporary globe design, these vanity lighting ideas are far from basic

glam bathroom
(Image credit: Francis Amiand)

Vanity lighting ideas are like an open call to make a strong statement. From traditional to contemporary style, minimalist to maximalist and opulent, the choice is apparently rather endless and bathroom vanity design is an often-relished task by interior designers and decorators. Bathrooms, after all, represent a highly personal space within a home, and a moment where the occupant is able to be at one with the design of the space. 

Whilst it is a great opportunity to splash a bit of style and impose your flair for decor, it also comes with superbly practical plus points too, because designed correctly and bathroom vanity area lighting can be the fully functional operation center in the morning – post-waking up – where you can create a flawless personal appearance. In this instance, it’s best to plan your vanity lighting practically and for what the industry calls ‘task’ lighting. However, it can also provide moody, relaxing bathroom lighting which will induce you into ‘r&r’ mode (rest and relaxation). For all these reasons, don’t overlook it.

1. Keep it contemporary with circular wall lights 

Blue bathroom with circular wall lighting

(Image credit: Nick Smith)

Interior design Caz Myers (opens in new tab) knows how to design a stand-out, stylish, and contemporary vanity area in a bathroom. With a host of projects under her professional belt and many glorious bathroom ideas to show for it, it's this Woodland Manor project which has caught our eye. Because designing one bathroom can be tricky enough, but designing multiple really requires an expert eye and touch. 

'A contemporary style of vanity mirror wall-lights add mood, are striking, and give the bathroom a vibrant and unique feel both during daytime and at night when the lights create a wonderful glow', explains Caz. 

'This image shows the shower room which leads directly off the home gym and indoor pool. We wanted this room to feel equally decadent and inviting for the clients as well as their friends and guests. The gym and pool both feature a textured dark wall-covering so we designed this shower room to continue the feel and mood through into this space too. The lighting is understated but also simple and striking in style. Both during the day and at night these spaces in the house come alive and feel like very inviting spaces to hang out in as well as entertain', explains Caz.

2. Make vanity lighting dual direction

Blue and grey bathroom with patterned floor tiles

(Image credit: Nick Smith)

For this second bathroom design in the same home, Caz says, 'This dark bathroom, with black vertical wall lights, was a striking ensuite bathroom designed for a 12-year-old boy.'

Designed specifically for a teenager and -specifically- avoiding mirror lighting that is “too bathroom”, Caz comments, ‘The bathroom style was designed to last through his teenage years with dark walls but teamed with a vibrant colored vanity unit and a unique style open bath with a metal frame.'

'The layout was intentional to ensure the reflection of the striking tiles in the shower area are immediately visible in the mirrored metal cabinet when you walk into the space. Teamed with the style of the bathroom furniture and artwork, the wall lights were specifically chosen to not feel too ‘bathroom’ in style and design but more like lighting which could feature in any space.'

3. Add warmth to a bathroom with brass vanity lighting

White and gold bathroom with traditional vanity

(Image credit: Drummonds)

Verging into more timeless style territory now, we’re ever so slightly obsessed with the impact of this vanity with brass-finished detailing. Who wouldn’t be? It’s hard to disagree with such a timeless, luxe style statement. 

This desire for decadent design pizzaz is a huge interior design trend, warns James Lentaigne, creative director at Drummonds (opens in new tab), and if you think you can get away with a basic ceiling strip light then forget it. 'Lighting is no longer purely about function. Strips and down-lighters are out, large pendants and decorative wall lighting are in, adding personality and glamour.' Although, that said, we do think there is still a time and place for a stripped-back ‘essential’ bathroom vanity design. So don’t count it out completely. 

Fabulous style aside for a second, James also highlights the importance of the double direction of these wall lights, shown above, saying 'make sure that you have a really well-lit basin/mirror area - with lighting from at least two different angles - for shaving and doing your makeup.'

What can we say, we would happily apply our red lip in front of this brassy design! 

4. Opt for striking industrial lamps

modern bathroom ideas

(Image credit: C.P. Hart)

Industrial lighting is another hot bathroom trend for vanity areas, and it can be worked in both the rustic warehouse fashion as well as a more curated and finished way too. Yousef Mansuri, director of design at C.P. Hart says, 'The most popular trends we are seeing currently for lights are Industrial and Hotel Luxe.'

'For Industrial, we are using a lot of exterior lights within bathrooms because they are waterproof and rated IP44. This really opens up the possibilities. For hotel lux, we are seeing a lot of sleek and elegant designs, often taking inspiration from the Art Deco era.'

5. Be inspired by Art Deco designs

Small green bathroom with geometric tiles

(Image credit: Cuschieri Architects, Drummonds)

Nothing, and we mean nothing, beats a bold vert Art Deco-inspired scheme. Cue the stunning visual above, a wet room design by Cuschieri Architects using Drummonds fittings, which is jaw-droppingly striking and, we think, beautiful! 

The Art Deco era continues to influence interior design across the board, from residential, to hospitality and to civic projects, Art Deco-era influences can be seen popping up all over the place. Style cues include a certain je ne sais quoi – or glam factor – as one might call it brought to design schemes with highly edited design details; think clear fluted glass, symmetry, and a warming splash of brushed brass or shiny chrome. Ah, why Hercue Poirot himself might not look out of place in this bathroom! 

Here, Cuschieri Architects have positioned twinning downward-facing bathroom wall lights with a ribbed glass cylindrical shade to great effect. Illuminating the user from above, it’s a neat way to light a vanity area which is positioned close to an adjoining wall or window area.

6. Take a traditional approach

Ensuite bathroom with round mirror and rustic vanity lighting

(Image credit: @inside_number_5_ )

Similarly, lighting experts Holloways of Ludlow (opens in new tab) tip the prismatic clear glass wall light look as an on-trend aesthetic. Shown here is a pair of matching Prismatic Snowdrop wall lights framing the mirror area. 

This isn’t as bold (or green!) as the first look, above, but instead offers a more subtle and classic take on fluted vanity lighting. More akin to traditional Victorian style-cues, here @inside_number_5 have shown an edited approach to styling up the on-trend fluted glass lighting in a bathroom vanity area at home. The brass swan neck fittings of the Prismatic Snowdrop add just the right amount of glitz to sit happily against a calm and neutral backdrop.

7. Make it monochrome

Black and white bathroom with larger mirrors

(Image credit: Aston Matthews)

Always a winner. A black (or very dark grey, as in this case) and white combination unsurprisingly looks super smart in a bathroom, and that goes specifically for vanity mirror areas too. Here, bathroom experts Aston Matthews (opens in new tab) have demonstrated just how successful a simplified bathroom color scheme can be. 

Welcome to what Aston Matthews has named the Brunel range; a chic lineup of bathroom vanity area accessories, all in a cast iron lineage. This means that if you happen to be struggling, this selection has been designed deliberately to work well in whatever makeup you require - the choice is yours. Aston Matthews say this look has 'been inspired by the industrial trend', and we like it, a lot.

8. Go for sleek and practical recessed vanity lighting

Concrete basin with large gold mirrors

(Image credit: Squire & Partners)

Recessing lighting behind a mirror is an alternative option to both wall hung or overhead vanity area lighting, or, opt for a combination? Architecture and interior design practice Squire & Partners (opens in new tab) has honed in on sleek, concealed vanity mirrors in one of their latest projects, Lancer Square. 

This is one for perfectionists who appreciate the smallest of design details in a project. Recessed, concealed vanity mirror lighting – certainly for this level of aesthetic perfection – is a project that we would recommend involving an electrician with, or someone who has experience. Interior designer Caz Myers says that she would, 'Definitely advise to use an electrician to achieve the best effects and to make sure this lighting is incorporated in with the rest of the lighting circuit.'

This vanity mirror lighting look, we think, is not for the D.I.Y list, particularly if you are looking for a high-level of finish, as seen here with Squire & Partners Lancer Square project, call the experts in! Tres chic. 

Should vanity lighting hang over a mirror?

Vanity lighting can work hung over a vanity mirror or to the side, depending on the look to are after and the layout of your space. When hanging lighting above a mirror, be sure to leave at least three inches between the top of the mirror and the lighting fixture. You also want to ensure the light fixture is the right size for the vanity and the mirror – so as a general rule pick a style that is around 1/3 of the width of the mirror.

What type of lighting is best for a vanity?

'Bathrooms are places that require a range of modes. In the morning, they need to create a bright and fresh setting, whilst in the evening they need to exude a calm and relaxing environment. This necessitates a range of lighting, from that which lights up the face in the morning for makeup and shaving, to indirect lighting to create mood and atmosphere in the evening', says Maria Cheung, director of interior design, Squire & Partners. 

How does concealed bathroom vanity mirror lighting fit into this? Cheung says, 'Concealed lighting, where the source of light does not catch the eye, is ideal for creating an ambient atmosphere. At Lancer Square, we concealed the LED strips around the timber-framed mirrored cabinets 9as shown above) to create a warm glow, and to bring out the colors and textures of the hexagonal calacatta stone mosaic tiles.'

Are there any technicalities to consider? The answer is yes! Cheung explains, 'Technical considerations include achieving the correct IP (Ingress Protection) ratings for the different zones of the bathroom. The IP rating of a bulb or light fixture declares the level of protection it has against water and dirt. The closer the electrical equipment is to a source of water, the higher the IP rating required. E.g., Zones 1 and 2, which are the areas stretching above and outside of a bath/shower/sink must both have IP ratings of at least IP44. Most LED lights have an IP65 rating, making them suitable for use in both zones in a bathroom.'

Rory Alastair Robertson has a long-standing history working across the interiors industry. Raised in Morningside, Edinburgh, Rory grew up surrounded by classically grand Scottish Georgian and Victorian architecture. 

His first appreciation for interior decoration sparked when his mother hired scaffolding and decorated their three-storey Victorian staircase in Farrow & Ball Picture Gallery Red, by herself. She then painstakingly gold leafed the drawing room - by hand - over a base coat of Sudbury Yellow. This was the era of Jocasta Innes and Kenneth Turner, when paint techniques and maximalist style were the decorating raison d'être. 

With this inherited gene of creativity, Rory went on to study Interior Architecture at the University of Edinburgh, and later, Theatre Set Design and Architectural Illustration at The Rhode Island School of Design on America's East Coast.  

Rory's foray with the editorial world started a decade ago at Livingetc magazine, a title which he regularly contributes to today. Specialising with a deep-seated appreciation for historical homes and interiors, Rory often travels far and wide to be inspired by unique properties with a fascinating history. 

If he’s not uncovering an unusual National Trust property in the UK, then he’s seeking out a Neo-Classical clifftop villa in Capri or a Palazzo in Florence. 

Based in London’s Shoreditch, working as a Senior Interiors Editor and Consultant, Rory's portfolio of work is a creative melting pot of residential and commercial interior design projects and a plethora of editorial writing work. Rory is also Guest Interiors Lecturer at the prestigious KLC School of Interior Design in Chelsea, London. His most cosseted possession is a ramshackle Citroen Deux Chevaux, which he has reupholstered in Pierre Frey yellow and turquoise silk fabric. 

Discover more at roryrobertson.co.uk and @rory_stylist.