A Five-Step Process to Illuminating with Safety and Style

Some of the most important spaces in any home are the bathrooms. Whether you’re designing a powder room to wow your guests or a master bathroom for some serious self-care, the lighting plan you choose can make or break your goal. 

And all my parents ever had was a magazine rack… Karman’s Cubano wall sconce pictured.

The right bathroom lighting design can help create the illusion of increased space and make tasks like makeup application easier. It can create the perfect ambience for a long, leisurely soak amid a cascade of lavender-scented bubbles to help you let go of your stress–or it can be overbearingly bright and direct, reflected from every surface, mocking your attempts to unwind in what might as well be a cell at Guantanamo Bay. 

Every winning bathroom lighting solution begins with five steps:

Step One: Understand Bathroom Lighting Zones

There are four lighting zones to be considered in bathroom lighting, each with very specific measurements (which we will gloss over here; more detailed explanation of bathroom lighting zones at the bottom of the post) and a different minimum IP Rating requirement:

  • Zone 0: In or immediately around areas that are submerged by water (IP67 required). 
  • Zone 1: Above the waterline, but still subject to direct splashes or jets of spray (IP45 required–IP65 recommended).
  • Zone 2: Outside of direct jets of spray, but still subject to splashes and other moisture (IP44).
  • Outside Zones: Anywhere else in the room, and so unlikely to come into contact with direct sprays of water (IP20 still recommended).

Moreover, if there is a likelihood of water jets being used to clean any of the lights being considered, then the Zone 1 minimums should be used for all lights.

Step Two: Consider Your Goals

In Step Two, we temporarily set aside safety considerations in favour of aesthetic lighting design. There are a wide selection of issues to consider here, starting with what do you want from this space? 

Step 2.1: What Type of Space is it? 

Are you choosing lights for a powder room, meant for the convenience of your guests and your opportunity to show off your stylistic acumen? Are you designing a master bathroom, with all the accoutrements that allow you to unwind with a session of self-care after a long day? 

Left: A powder room featuring Mini Crescent pendant light from Lee Broom; Right: Hampton wall sconce from Original BTC in a bathroom.

Or are you are illuminating a family bathroom, in which your teenagers shall inevitably take up residence like hermit-crabs, having outgrown the metaphorical shells of their bedrooms?

Lovecraftian horrors of a teenager’s bathroom censored for the sake of the reader’s sanity.

Powder rooms still have some restrictions around the sink and toilet, but are otherwise regarded as dry spaces since they lack the steam build-up caused by showers and bathtubs. As such, the sky is often the limit in terms of how to light a powder room. It is becoming increasingly popular to light powder-rooms with a chiaroscuro effect, playing with soft light and shadow, with the brightest lights around the vanity to aid with touch-ups or selfies.

A bathroom, however, is a wet space that often has two primary functions to which lighting contributes: preparing for the day and recovering from it. Shaving, doing make-up, and styling hair typically ask for a higher number of lumens than self-care and unwinding at the day’s end. Finding the right balance can be a challenge, but the ultimate effect is worth it. Light the vanity in a balanced, symmetrical fashion to enhance task results. If you are the type of person who enjoys long, indulgent soaks in the tub, consider a tightly-directed vanity light that isn’t in your line of sight from the tub.

Step 2.2: Build the Ambience

Having determined what the space is for, you can now build your ideal bathroom lighting design. There are three key functions that light should serve in any room:

  • General Lighting: Creates the overall brightness of the space.
  • Task Lighting: Lights that help you do certain things.
  • Accent Lighting: Contributes to the visual appeal of the space.

Bathrooms are often a comparatively small space, and so can easily be overwhelmed by too many lights. Fortunately, a single light can often serve several functions. Consider placing task lights near the vanity, shower, and tub areas; these will often produce sufficient general light on their own or with minor bumps from one or two extra accent lights. 

Clockwise from left: IC S pendant from Flos, Circ A-3706-W wall light from Estiluz, and Smile Open Diffuser wall light, also from Estiluz

Step Three: Select the Right Luminaires

Get inspired! This is the step in which you choose designer bathroom lighting to build your space. If your taste runs to Modern Glam, perhaps a chandelier is what you want, such as the Giogali SP family of chandeliers from Vistosi (IP20 or Outside Zone). Or maybe you’d prefer the elegantly retro feel of the In the Tube collection from DCWeditions (IP64 or Zone 1).

Left: Giogali SP 80 chandelier, Right: In the Tube 100-500 wall sconce.

Or maybe you prefer something with an industrial/nautical flavour, like a wall sconce from Original BTC’s Ship collection (IP54 or Zone 1). 

Original BTC’s Ship Well wall sconce adds a touch of Industrial Glam.

LightForm has a wide range of lights we’ve noted for their suitability as bathroom lighting solutions, but (subject to the light’s IP rating and zone placement) your imagination is the limit! 

The IP ratings for each light that has been tested is available under the Specification tab on its page. Pictured: Lampe Gras No. 304 bathroom fixture 

Check out our curated Pinterest page for more inspiration for designer bathroom lighting possibilities!

Step Four: Double-check IP Ratings

Thanks to step one (and our own handy-dandy blog post on International Protection ratings), you already know about zones and IP ratings. Well, now is the time to use that knowledge! Double-check that each of the designer lights in your dream bathroom has the appropriate IP rating for the zone in which it is to be installed. 

Image in case you don’t remember the part where we talked about Zones three sections ago.

If you got carried away by a lighting design you liked and find that its IP rating is insufficient to your needs, have no fear! Simply check the “Family and Similar” tab on its LightFormSHOP.com product page for lighting options akin to the light you enjoy, but possibly with a more suitable IP rating.

Aballs T PE pendants from Parachilna

Step Five: Consult with a Certified Electrician

This is the most important step of the five: get a qualified professional to ensure that your plans are up to code and going to serve you the way you expect. It’s easy to overlook details in the planning stages, so having a certified electrician check in and sign off on the plan as it grows and changes is absolutely essential to your peace of mind. 

Now, we encourage you to go forth and illuminate your bathroom with style and safety! Visit the bathroom light fixture section of our website for more inspiration in creating bathroom bliss or schedule a consultation with a member of our LightForm team at one of our showrooms in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto.

Bathroom Lighting Zone Specifications:

  • Zone 0: Inside the bath or shower base itself. Any bathroom lighting fixture used in this zone must be low voltage (max 12v) and rated at least IP67 (immersion-rated).
  • Zone 1: The area above the bath or shower base to a height of 2.25m from the floor. These fittings require a minimum rating of IP45, but it is generally accepted that IP65 should be used.
  • Zone 2: The area stretching 60cm outside the perimeter of the bath or shower, and to a height of 2.25m from the floor. Bathroom lights in this zone require an IP rating of at least IP44 . In addition, the area around any wash basin or other tap that is within a 60cm radius of that tap is regarded as zone 2.
  • Outside Zones: Any area outside of Zones 0, 1, or 2 that will are not likely to otherwise be in contact with water. There are no specific regulations as to minimum IP ratings for lights installed here, but IP20 is recommended.