Best Lighting Ideas for Small Bathrooms (Reviews)

Steve Sheinkopf  |  February 08, 2018  |  4 Min. Read


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I just remodeled a small bathroom, so I understand the problems of finding the right fixtures without overwhelming the space. In this article, you will learn how to light a smaller space, what fixtures to consider, and what NOT to do.

Houzz Compact Bathroom - Photo by Studio 511
Bathroom featuring Decorative Lighting and Sconces

How to Light a Small Bathroom

The logic of illumination differs in a smaller area than a larger space. In many spaces, you should layer the light between accent, task, ambient, and decorative to create an effect. In a smaller space, you may not have the luxury.

My best suggestion for you is to focus on the mirror first.

Mirrors are where you need light the most to apply makeup, shave, do your hair, and so forth. For my bathroom, I placed two Kate Spade lights on either side of my mirror.

Sconces on either side of the mirror -Steve's vanity

Sconces placed on both sides of the mirror for cross illumination.

The best place for sconces in a small bathroom is on either side of the mirror or sink. By placing sconces on the sides, you can have the best cross illumination for shaving or applying makeup.

Short on time? Get our free Bathroom Lighting Buying GuideLearn More

You can even mount recessed lights on either side of the sink for the same effect. If necessary, you can mount a sconce on top of the mirror.

If you do not have wall space, you can hang pendants as well. 

Boston Display - Lighting a Small Bathroom

Boston Showroom Lighting Display for a Small Bathroom

Do NOT place lighting behind you as it creates shadowing and becomes much harder for applying makeup at the mirror.

I also placed a non-matching surface light on the ceiling. Why? Because I liked it. You can again do recessed but decorative lighting personalizes the space, in my opinion.

Bathroom Ceiling LightDecorative Flush Mount Ceiling Light

You have plenty of options and in many cases, lights on the mirror may be enough.

Chambers Hotel Bathroom

I recently stayed at Chambers Hotel in New York City. It's one of my favorite places to stay. The rooms are bigger than your typical New York hotel, service is very good, and it's located in the middle of everything.

However, their bath lighting could be a bit better.

Have a look.

Chamber Hotel Bathroom Lighting

At first glance, it isn't bad but these sconces are older with not much output causing the lighting to be dim. 

Sconces on either side of the mirror, Chamber Hotel

Sconce on the Side of the Mirror

Chamber Hotel Ceiling Light

Ceiling Light 

The main ceiling light is behind the sink, causing your reflection to have shadows. Consequently, I had to dig my face into the mirror to shave. It's a monopoint track head. That can work if you like the style.

Possible solutions are newer LED-based sconces with much better output or mounting the ceiling lights on both side of the sink. You can always buy a lighted magnifying mirror as well. 

Chamber Hotel Shower LightingShower Light 

You would think I would caution about mounting a light at foot level like this. However, you do not need much light for soap and shampoo. You can do both without the exact optimum amount of light.

Final Thoughts 

Ultimately, there are a few key rules you should follow when lighting a small bathroom.

The Do's and Don't of Lighting a Bathroom:

1. Focus on the mirror. 

2. Cross illuminate by putting lighting on either side of your mirror or sink.

3. You can use recessed lighting (Don't be afraid to add style with decorating lighting, too).

4. Don't place your main ceiling light behind you.

Additional Resources

Get the Yale Bathroom Lighting Buying Guide with features and plenty of picture to inspire your next lighting project. Well over 260,000 people have read a Yale Guide.

Bathroom Lighting Buying Guide

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Steve Sheinkopf

Steve is the third-generation CEO of Yale and a lifelong Bostonian. He currently resides in Boston, one mile from where he was born. Despite being one of the worst goalies of all time, he is a huge hockey fan of college hockey and the Boston Bruins. The love of his life is his daughter Sophie.

Steve has also been featured in numerous publications such as the New York Times, Consumer Reports, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg Radio, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur, for his knowledge of how to buy appliances and appliance repair.

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