How to Get Good Lighting In A Small Bathroom

Good lighting in a bathroom is one of the most important details and it’s a great way to make the whole space feel much more funcitonal. You HAVE to have adequate light to be able to see in the bathroom and often there isn’t a window. If you live in an older home chances are you have a smaller bathroom, but you can make a statement with your lighting fixtures.

Interior designers will tell you, in order to have ample light, every bathroom needs three sources of light, even if it’s small. The three different types of lighting are ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting. All bathrooms have ambient light. These are the overhead lights in the ceiling or recessed lighting, usually over the tub or shower, at a minimum. This light source is for overall illumination.

The FUN part of lighting your bathroom is the task lights and accent lights. You might be thinking, my bathroom is too small for all that lighting. This is NOT true. It’s hard to photograph small bathrooms, but I’ll here’s an example of my small bathroom that has all three. Today I will share some small bathroom lighting ideas.

three sources of light for bathroom

Why do you need these three lights in your bathroom? Other than the obvious reason of visibility, it will elevate the look of your small bathroom. You don’t need a bathroom as big as a bedroom to have an upscale-looking bathroom. Lighting makes a big difference.

Task Lights for A Small Bathroom

Task lights in a bathroom are used to light specific areas. These are typically bathroom vanity lights. There are two ways to get task lights. You can add a light OVER the vanity mirror or on either side of the mirror. If your bathroom is very small adding a light over the mirror is a good option.

My favorite places to find wall sconces and vanity lights (two terms to search for as you look), are Shades of Light and Lamps Plus. If you struggle with which metal to choose, use the safe choice and match it to your faucet.

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  • Greta nickel sconces – set of two $170, These also come in a brass finish.
  • Possino sconce this one is long, 21 inches.
  • Burke 28″ lights over the mirror task light.
  • Ashlety Bath sconce – This sconce comes in 5 finsihes, brass, black, polished nickel, bronze and chrome.
  • Bubble Sconce – Bubble ligh comes in 8 finish combinations, some the shade is different than the mount. I like that the shade is not fabric for a bathroom.
  • Glass Vanity Light – This vanity lighting comes in three finishes, black, nickel and brass.

Accent Lights for Small Bathrooms

Adding these decorative lights is the fun part of lighting a tiny bathroom. The function of this type of lighting is mostly for looks, it is not meant to provide a lot of light. You don’t have to rely on it to put on your mascara. This is what takes your small bathroom from ordinary to extraordinary. Wayfair is a great place to find deals on small bathroom light fixtures.

accent light for small bathroom

You can use a SMALL chandelier or pendant lights. If you have a small bathroom, hang it right in the middle. If your ceilings are eight feet, use a flush mount. Here are my favorites for small bathrooms. When you’re searching for something to fit a small bath add the word “mini” to your light fixture search.

If you’re in the process of renovating a small bathroom, try adding a small accent light. You won’t regret it. Most small pendants or chandeliers are affordable, many around $100.

When you’re choosing an accent light be sure to factor in the ceiling height. You want the bottom of the light to be high enough it doesn’t feel like you have to duck (if you’re using a hanging pendant or a chandelier).

What Finish Should I Choose For Bathroom Lights?

In a small bathroom, the safest choice is to choose a finish that matches your fixtures. If you have satin nickel faucets, get a fixture with satin nickel accents. Same goes for brass or bronze.

Mixing metals is a popular trend, but it’s harder to make it look good in a really small space. The one exception to this would be your accent lighting. It you find a light you love as an accent and it doesn’t match your bathroom fixtures, go for it. 

If you liked this, you might be interested in French country bathroom lighting or a guide to bathroom mirror height.

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  1. Andrea, such pretty lighting recommendations. I tend to have task and ambient light, but forget the accent light which really elevates the look. You have such informative posts!

  2. Hi.

    I want to put a chandelier over a free standing tub. The width of the space is 85 inches where the tub will be sitting. I have foot ceilings. The room extends out from this space. The chandelier I like is 26 inches wide by 22.5 height and I would add a 3-6 inch extension. Do you think this will work?

    1. Sue,

      What an interesting question. Thanks. I did some research and the electric code comes into play over a bathtub. Since they are electric near water, any ligh can’t be located within 8-foot area above the tub. The illustrations I found made it look like it has to be 8 feet above the top of the tub.

      You left out how high the ceilings are and I can’t tell if the tub area is 85 inches square? If so, 26 inches around will definitely not look to small. Feel free to reply back with these dimensions.

      I hope this guideline helps. It sounds like a beautiful idea.


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