Bathroom Lighting Buying Guide


Morning routine matters. Plenty of health experts have shared their research and expertise on the topic, and it’s about time we shared ours. We are staffed with people just like you—people who sometimes wake up late and stumble out the door, who wish they had more time for the gym, who care about doing their best and getting a good start to the day.

When we wake up each morning, we want a routine that maximizes energy, increases confidence, and creates momentum for the day’s tasks. And because we work in a lighting showroom, we know how much the atmosphere of your surroundings can influence that.

Specifically, a good portion of the morning takes place in the bathroom. The ambiance (or lack thereof) in your bathroom can have a significant effect on your morning. Dingy, dim bathroom lighting hardly reflects the high energy levels our bodies experience after a full night’s sleep, nor does it lend confidence for your day. 

On the other hand, good bathroom lighting:

  • Augments your body’s natural energy 
  • Improves confidence and mood
  • Create a powerful charge for the day  
  • Aids relaxation in evenings

Wondering how to make this happen in your bathroom? Here’s a breakdown of different layers of bathroom lights, then an in-depth review of how to apply them in your space.

Lighting in Layers


Ideal bathroom lighting has 3 categories, or layers: general lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. 

  1. General Lighting lights a room without help from other sources. Also called ambient lighting, it is even-spread and uniform. Can lighting is one popular option here.  A large window can also provide natural ambient light.
  2. Task Lighting addresses a specific task.  Pendant lights flanking a vanity, for example, aid in makeup application or shaving. Bathroom task lighting is usually bright and direct for full face illumination. 
  3. Accent Lighting is mostly atmospheric, often drawing attention to a high-lit or low-lit area. Think over-the-tub chandeliers, floor-lighting, etc. 

Between these three layers of bathroom light, aim to have between 70 and 80 lumens of light per square foot of bathroom space. You can calculate this by multiplying the length and width of your bathroom (including bathtub or shower), for total floor space. Determine total lumens by adding together the capacity of each bulb in the bathroom, then divide the lumen total by square footage. 

Example: Your bathroom is 10’ by 6’, which totals 60 sq. feet. You have an over-the-mirror fixture with four bulbs, each with a capacity of 1100 lumens. 4,400 lumens divided by 60 sq. ft. is 73 lumens per square foot. Plenty of light!  

General Lighting

If you’re new to the lighting game, here are four types of ambient fixtures that work well in the bathroom. Recessed lights are inserted into the ceiling itself, whereas flush lights are attached directly onto the ceiling. Semi-flush lights hang with a little space between the ceiling and the fixture, while chandeliers hang furthest from the ceiling. Let’s go through each type. 

1. Recessed (Can) Lights

Recessed lights are wonderful. They’re more difficult to add into an existing bathroom, but if you’re remodeling or building a bathroom, these are a great choice! Around the house, setting cans 3-4 feet away from walls in a 6-8 foot spaced grid pattern is a good general rule to follow.  In bathrooms, the spacing tends to be closer, at 4-5 foot apart throughout the room and in the shower. 

2. Flush Lights

The most traditional and cost-friendly option for ambient lighting, flush lights are a safe option for any space. If you already have one but worry about its dim lighting, switching to LED bulbs is a great way to fix that. Check our catalog to learn more about LED bulbs and flush fixtures.

3. Semi-Flush Lights

If you’re looking for a little extra class without going full-blown chandelier, semi-flush is for you. There’s a lot of creative variation here, and semi-flush lights are sure to improve the look and lighting of your bathroom. 

4. Chandelier

It might not seem possible in a bathroom, but trust us—it is! Upgrade your bathroom’s look by using a mini chandelier, which still accommodates an 8-foot ceiling with plenty of walking space. Chandeliers often have a 4-5 light capacity versus the traditional 2-3 bulb socket in a flush or semi flush mount, adding extra light and extra style.  

Ambient Lighting Pro Tip: Whatever fixture type you prefer, choose one that’s U.L.-rated for wet or damp locations. Bathroom lights should feature tight construction that resists condensation.

Task Lighting

Targeted lighting can greatly improve the efficiency and quality of makeup application, shaving, and similar activities. Ideally, these lights imitate natural light without creating distracting shadows, making it easier for you to do your job. Here are a few common types of task lighting for bathrooms. 

1. Pendants

These hanging lights usually flank your bathroom mirror, adding extra light at the level of your face. They come in a lot of beautiful varieties, but always choose function over form when deciding on these lights. Luckily, we offer plenty of bathroom pendant lights that accomplish both!

2. Sconces

These wall mounted lights come in several styles, such as lanterns, candles, or modern varieties. Some are meant to perform the task of up/down lighting and others are specific for shining out, more appropriately lighting your face.  The latter is the better fixture for bathroom tasks. 

3. Above Mirror Lighting

You could also consider a 2-5 bulb vanity light above the mirror.  Conveniently, some fixtures are directional, allowing you to control where the bulb shines. Just be aware that light directly above your head can cause shadows on your face.

Task Lighting Pro Tip: Mount your sconces and hang pendant lights at eye level; between 60-72” from the ground up.

Accent Lighting

In bathrooms, accent lighting comes in varied forms, depending largely on the specific functions and layout of your bathroom. Accent lighting draws attention to architecture and creates an element of awe. It also enhances the functionality of your bathroom, as with the options suggested below.

1. Toe-Kick Lights

Reduce in-the-dark stumbling by adding motion sensor lights beneath your bathroom vanity. Called “toe-kick lights”, these motion-activated lights make midnight trips to the bathroom effortless. 

2. Soffit Lighting

Most common in kitchens, soffit lighting is any kind of border or perimeter lighting, like on the tile shelf next to the bathtub in the picture above. They add a beautiful atmospheric light to the bathroom as well as enhancing functionality. 

3. Additional Sconces

Though we’ve already addressed these as task lights, when they’re placed on other walls of the bathroom, they function as accent lights. Sconces are a classy way to add décor, light, and atmosphere. 

Accent Light Pro Tip: Consider the “cleanability” of each fixture. Lighting fixtures made with a shade or fabric are harder to disassemble and clean, and may get sticky with bathroom moisture. Glass fixtures are easiest to maintain in bathrooms.

Final Thoughts

If morning routine really matters, so does bathroom lighting! For every bathroom, every style, and every budget, there is a way to start adding more light to your mornings. At Lit Living, our lighting specialists are always available to discuss your unique needs, so give us a call and we’ll help you get started. Until then, we’ll leave you with three more priceless Pro Tips for bathroom lighting.

Pro Tip: Light for Function

Not all bathrooms are a major or grand part of every home.  Some bathrooms are small and intimate like small-scaled master bathrooms, powder baths, Jack and Jill kids’ baths, pool baths… so light for the function of the bathroom. For example, pool baths are utilitarian, so a simple vanity light over the mirror would be sufficient.

Pro Tip: Pay Attention to Paint

The paint color in your bathroom influences the effectiveness of your bathroom lights.  Lighter paint tones absorb less light, making your bathroom appear brighter. Darker paint tends to absorb more light and will require more lighting fixtures/more bulbs to compensate for that paint choice. Paint sheen (high gloss, satin, flat, etc.) also influences your light. 

Pro Tip: Leveraging Light Dimmers

Wall dimmers customize the level of lighting and mood of the bathroom. As you examine fixtures, each product description specifies whether a lighting fixture is dimmable or non-dimmable. If the fixture is dimmable and takes light bulbs, be sure to purchase a bulb that is also dimmable.