Expert advice: on bathroom lighting

Sally Storey, design director of John Cullen Lighting, on creating the right mood with lighting

‘Lucca’ bathroom lights from John Cullen Lighting
John Cullen Lighting

The bathroom is the last place of escape in the home. These days, it’s often the only room that still has a lock on the door, providing a retreat from open-plan spaces and the constant whirl of modern living. No longer just for ablutions, it needs to double as a stylish sanctuary, preferably with all the indulgences of a luxury spa. But it takes more than a freestanding tub or a boundary-free shower to create such a haven of R&R. Setting the scene with the right lighting is the secret to creating a serene aesthetic.

1 Think about how much natural daylight there is in your bathroom and how you use the room.

Free standing traditional roll top bath painted grey on concrete floor with grey drapes
Luxurious grey drapes, a cast iron bath and concrete floors combine for sublime in this Italian house. First featured in the November 2016 edition.
Hanne Lise Poli

2 Ensure that bathroom lighting has an ingress protection (IP) rating that is appropriate for its location. For example, a light used in a shower will need a higher IP rating than one situated above a basin.

3 When choosing lighting, check the colour rendering ability of the light sources, it needs to be as close as possible to that of natural daylight. High-quality LED fittings now produce colour as accurately as traditional halogen lighting.

4 Any bathroom mirror should be lit evenly from either side to limit shadows, especially if it’s used for applying make-up or shaving. A pair of bathroom wall lamps works well for task lighting.

Traditional basin and washstand against inlaid wall
West One Bathrooms
Paul Craig

5 Consider using recessed lights, such as John Cullen’s ‘Lucca’ one-watt LED spots, to highlight alcoves or produce an ethereal-looking glow behind an opaque bath panel. Team with a floor washer that can be used as a nightlight or to emphasise a key area such as the basin.

‘Lucca’ bathroom lights from John Cullen Lighting
John Cullen Lighting

6 Bathroom lighting should be controlled via at least two different circuits: one for downlights and the other for wall lights. Ideally, dimmers should be used on both circuits to create different moods. Alternatively, install a preset lighting system to change the atmosphere at the touch of a button.

The marble bathroom in the Hotel Café Royal’s Dome Penthouse
The marble bathroom in the Hotel Café Royal’s Dome Penthouse
Hotel Café Royal

7 For a simple nightlight, try using presence-detector lighting (PIR) to control low-level LED floor washers and uplights.

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