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10 Do's & Dont's for Bathroom Lighting

This month we step into the bathroom for our lighting series. The bathroom is a tricky room to get the lighting right, you need to find the balance between functionality, beauty and relaxation. Seems like a lot to try fit into one of the smaller rooms of the home but if you achieve this balance, you will have a blissful bathroom that will accomplish all the aspects it needs to. Here are some Do's & Don'ts for bathroom lighting to help you avoid common mistakes and find the perfect balance for your bathroom.

DO - Analyse the Space Before Starting

This may seem like an unnecessary step but taking the time to analyse your bathroom will help you to visualise what you want from it, over and above the usual toilet and shower duties.

Questions to ask while analysing:

- Do I do my make-up or shave in the bathroom?

- Do I enjoy having a nice relaxing bath after a long day?

- Do I like the current lighting placement and brightness?

- Does the current lighting create shadows and where?

- If you could change one thing about the bathroom lighting, what would it be?

Answering these questions will give you a better sense of the space and help you to establish areas that can be improved and help you make the most of your bathroom.

DON'T - Forget to Check the Ceiling Height

The ceiling height will help establish the lighting fixtures you can use. Using a pendant in the bathroom is a great way to illuminate the area while adding a beautiful statement piece. However, if you have a low ceiling a hanging pendant may not be possible. Always check your ceiling height.

DO - Layer Lighting

Layering the lighting adds to the beauty and versatility of the bathroom. This is achieved by using different lighting sources, the trick, however, is not to overdo it. In the bathroom, there are generally 3 layers that one can play with:

1) Mirror lighting - This task lighting can flank the mirror to get the best results and should not be neglected.

2) Ambient lighting - This lighting illuminates the entire area and serves as a substitute for natural lighting. This generally can be recessed lighting, a ceiling fixture or even wall lights.

3) Accent lighting - Not common in bathrooms but this lighting is where you can add your style and highlight pieces in your bathroom. It may be a piece of art or even your bathtub.

When installing your layered lighting, it is always a good idea to put each light source, or a logical combination of light sources, on different switches, so you can decide what you want lit when.

DON'T - Be Afraid to Beautify

A common interior design element is to hang a stylish pendant above your bathtub. This can help create the right relaxed lighting for a peaceful bath while making a stunning feature in your bathroom. Another option would be to choose an eye-catching light fixture that goes in the center of the room. There are so many lighting options that combine functionality and beauty, why not use them instead of that outdated, plain, round ceiling light.

DO - Evenly Distribute Lights

Many bathrooms simply have one light in the center of the ceiling which does not do the bathroom any justice. It causes many shadows to be cast and it's generally very bright so this doesn't create a relaxing atmosphere or evenly illuminate the room. As stated before, the best option is to layer lighting by using different lighting sources and place recessed lighting evenly across the ceiling. There is a general idea that one places lights at a distance of 50% of the ceiling height. Therefore, if you have a 2.4m ceiling, the lights should be about 1.2m apart.

DON'T - Put a Light Directly Above the Mirror

The vanity and mirror are used everyday for a range of grooming tasks, from hair, make-up, brushing teeth and shaving. One of the biggest mistakes most people make in the bathroom is installing ceiling lights above the vanity and mirror. This lighting placement tends to cast shadows on the face which makes daily grooming that much more difficult.

DO - Flank the Bathroom Mirror With Lights

So if you can't place lights above the mirror, then where do you put them? One needs to place lights next to the mirror to avoid any shadows and create even lighting across the face to make these daily activities a breeze. Wall lighting, such sconces or bar lights, at roughly eye-level will help achieve an even and bright lighting.

The size and positioning of some vanity mirrors make it impractical for wall lights to be installed. If there is no space for wall lights around the vanity mirror, why not opt for a vanity mirror that comes with built-in lighting. It's simple to use, you place your hand approximately 3cm from the mirror sensor switch, and it will automatically switch on, and then repeat to switch off again. Alternatively, you could always include a swing-arm mirror, which are available with built-in lighting and a magnifier so that you can see things even better.

DON'T - Use the Wrong Type of Bulbs

By law, all lighting in bathrooms needs to have an IP rating of at least IP44. This means that the fitting is sealed and splashproof so that it can withstand the wet and humid conditions inherent in a bathroom space. Without IP44-rated light fittings, you will not be able to get a Certificate of Compliance from your electrician which you will need if you want to sell your home. If you install a downlight above your shower, which is a great option to properly illuminate an often dull space, this fitting needs to be a 12V fitting (with a transformer) and IP67 rated. The IP67 rating means that the fitting is waterproof. Choosing the right type of bulb is very important as it can be unsafe to install lighting that is not designed for wet areas in your bathroom.

DO - Use Dimmable Lights

Using dimmable lights is one of the key ways to find the balance between functionality and relaxation. One requires the bright task lighting for shaving and grooming, but no-one wants that lighting while having a peaceful bath or going to the toilet in the middle of the night. Dimmable lights give you the best of both worlds as it can transform a beaming bathroom space into an oasis with an inviting warm glow.

DON'T - Waste Electricity

By implementing a few of the above suggestions, this will already help save electricity, such as using dimmable lights and different switches for different lights/light combos. Dimmed lights reduce the power output which reduces electricity and different switches mean that you are only using the lights you need as oppose to all of them being on and drawing more power.

An additional way to not waste electricity is to choose LED bulbs as oppose to incandescent and halogen ones as LEDs are generally the most energy efficient choice. Also check the power factor rating of the bulb, this is related to how power the bulb draws and its efficiency. The higher the rating the better, the best choice has a power factor of 0.9PF or above. The lower the PF rating the less efficient and can draw more power.


Now it's time to tackle the bathroom lighting. Avoid the DONT'S and do the DO'S and you will find the perfect balance between functionality, beauty and relaxation. Remember, if you require any lighting products or advice visit one of Northside Electrical’s branches or call and chat to a sales consultant to personally assist you with your specific lighting needs. Northside provides the KZN region with superior quality electrical, lighting and security products and remarkable service.

Red Hill - 031 569 1005

Ballito - 032 946 0977

Durban North – 031 564 5692

Hillcrest – 031 765 4140

Umbilo – 031 942 7755

Alternatively, email

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