How Lighting Gives Bathrooms Their Spa-Like Feel

 Lighting Goals to Aim For

If your bathroom has architectural elements similar to the ones shown in this photo, of course it will feel like a restful spa. But even in spaces without floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a garden, you can use lighting to effectively create a Zen feeling.

You can use a combination of different light sources to set the mood and adjust the lighting for the time of day, or for how you are using the space. For morning and even daytime, bright light that echoes natural outdoor light is best for grooming, hair and makeup. In the evenings, while dressing for dinner out or soaking in the tub, a soft light can help you relax, as though you’re in your own home spa.

Foley Fiore Architecture
Types of Lighting for Your Spa Bathroom

These are the main light sources to consider and the purposes they serve:
  • Ambient, or natural daylight, means that there is light present in the room before adding artificial light. There are many benefits of having ambient light in your bathroom. One benefit of having the same light in your bathroom as outside is that, while doing your hair and makeup, you will see yourself in the same light as you’ll have in the outside world.
  • Overhead lighting includes recessed or can lighting (pot lights), surface or flush-mounted fixtures, track lighting and recessed cove lighting. Overhead lighting is great for general room lighting, but you will want to pair it with other light sources to avoid getting shadows, especially under your eyes. I would recommend adding a combination of the following types of lighting for a soothing effect that will help you look your best.
  • Pendant, or hanging lights,are great for adding warm light closer to eye level. This will help cast a soft and even glow of light on the room.
  • Wall sconces can be mounted to the drywall, wall tile or mirror and are great for casting light toward you at face level. They can create an even light without the shadows that occur when you have only overhead lighting. Wall-sconce lighting is ideal for grooming and doing hair and makeup.
  • LED mirrors can be mounted directly to the drywall or tile, and like wall sconces, they will cast an even light at your face.
  • Undercabinet and toe-kick lighting are typically created using LED tape light to illuminate a countertop below or under the toe kicks highlighting the space under the cabinet. This can make the cabinet appear to float.
  • Art or accent lighting are ideal to highlight art or accent something special to you.
Now that we’ve covered the lighting types, let’s look at how some combinations of these options work together in 10 real rooms.

Modern Interior Mall, Inc.
1. Quietly Modern

Lighting types used: Ambient, overhead, wall sconces

Why it works: The combination of layered lighting in this bathroom features natural light from the windows, overhead lighting above the shower and wall sconces integrated into the mirrors. The ambient and recessed lighting provide great general lighting, while the wall sconces provide a nice, even light at face level to help you get that flawless look when grooming or doing your hair and makeup.

Pro tip: When planning a shower with a ceiling-mounted rainfall shower head, be sure to consider the location of the lights. Without careful forethought, it’s possible that light may shine on top of the shower head, which would result in a halo-like reflection on the ceiling. To avoid that, keep the can lights a few feet away from the shower head. In the event that the halo is still a problem, since you cannot see the top of the shower head, you can always spray paint the top of it black to absorb the light and thereby avoid a halo on the ceiling.
Cabinet Concepts by Design
2. Textured Grays

Lighting types used: Overhead, pendant, accent

Why it works: Fifty shades of gray and super sexy, this bath feels like a private spa, and the drama is created in part by the layers of lighting. The ample overhead lighting provides great general room lighting. The pendant lights reflect in the mirrors, which bounce the light back into the space and onto your face, providing even illumination. The recessed accent light in the niche brightens up the contents below.

Pro tip: Adding lights in front of a mirror at face level will not only light your face evenly but will also reflect the light in the mirror, creating the added bonus of additional general room lighting. This is a great way to add light to your bath.
3. Natural Resting Spot

Lighting types used: 
Ambient, overhead, pendant

Why it works: This modern and Zen-like bathroom is flooded with natural ambient light from the floor-to-ceiling window framed into the shower. The surface-mounted can light above the shower provides general overhead light after the sun goes down, and the simple pendant over the soaking tub is super chic, giving the room a soft, even light that can shine in every direction.

Pro tip: When planning your spa-style bathroom, consider the size and orientation of your windows. Large south- or west-facing windows will be subject to intense light throughout the day. Plan carefully and use the largest size that makes sense for your location, so that you can let in the most natural light.

Monitor Audio Ltd
4. Wood and White Zone

Lighting types used: Ambient, overhead, pendant, LED mirrors

Why it works: A light and bright master bath energizes the spirit. In this bathroom, an abundance of natural light flooding in from the large window behind the bathtub and the clerestory window in the shower creates a warm, even light during the day. And with or without the sunshine, the recessed lighting, LED mirrors and a cool hanging fixture over the tub allow you to adjust your lighting to achieve an even, warm feel at night.

Pro tip: When sourcing light bulbs and LED mirrors, be sure to select a warm white, which means a color temperature between 2700K and 3000K. This color temperature range will provide a glow comparable to the candlelight warmth of an incandescent bulb (remember those?), which is a natural-looking light, ideal for doing hair and makeup.
Anders Lasater Architects
5. Galley Spa

Lighting types used: Ambient, overhead, LED mirrors

Why it works: The frosted glass window behind the mirrors provides a ton of diffused natural light, while the mini-recessed lights provide great overhead lighting. The LED mirrors floating in front of the frosted-glass window provide perfect lighting for the face, no matter what time of day you are ready for some personal beauty time.

Pro tip: If you like the look of the frosted glass but do not have a window, you can re-create this look with LED lighting behind a frosted-glass panel.
Portland Decorating and Design Ltd
6. Rich and Chic

Lighting types used: Ambient, overhead, undercabinet

Why it works: This deluxe spa-like master bath gets tons of beautiful natural light from the full wall of windows, which evenly reflects the light in the mirror, softly illuminating the space with natural daylight. The mini-recessed lights and cove ceiling lighting provide nice, even light throughout the room. The floating vanity features undercabinet lighting, which really adds to the floating feel of the cabinet and gives drama to the room.

Pro tip: Window treatments are always an important consideration for both light control and privacy in your bathroom. These beautiful ripple-fold draperies allow ample light in, as well as privacy control, while absorbing sound for a posh bathing experience. Be sure to select a fabric that is suitable for a wet location, such as a polyester or solution-dyed acrylic.
Harwood Homes
7. Mosaic Sparkle

Lighting types used: Overhead, wall sconces, undercabinet, accent

Why it works: The recessed cove light well provides soft general overhead light, and the wall sconce mounted on the mirror is a great way to get nice, even light on you at face level.The undercabinet light makes the vanity appear to be floating, while the shampoo niche uses accent lights to illuminate the space.

Pro tip: Floating vanities are great for making a space appear larger and more open. This can be easily achieved by installing undercabinet or toe-kick lighting with LED strip lighting. Not only does the room feel grander, but it also gives you another layer of lighting to control to create a spa-like feel.

Coastal Elements Construction
8. Rustic Calm

Lighting types used: Ambient, pendant, wall sconces

Why it works: The window and door provide plenty of natural ambient light, while also providing a view of the beautiful landscape. The wall sconces flanking the tall mirrors provide a warm, even light on your face, which is perfect for doing your hair and makeup. The star pendant light not only provides this master bath with warm light, it also acts as a chic design element to create a rustic-modern spa-like master bath.

Pro tip: Hanging light fixtures are always great for making a big impact on your overall lighting strategy. Be sure to consider the ceiling height, as well as the overall height of the light fixture, and to double-check that there is plenty of room to walk under a fixture without bumping your head. Typically 7 feet to 8 feet from the floor to the bottom of the fixture is ideal.
Aerial Design and Build
9. Zen Zone

Lighting types used: Overhead, pendant, LED mirrors

Why it works: The recessed LED cove light in the tub and shower enclosure adds a rich element by washing the wall with light. In addition to ample recessed lighting, this modern bath features LED mirrors, which will light your face evenly. While the room is lacking in natural ambient light, the smart use of overhead, pendant, LED mirror and cove lighting together creates a soft lighting scene for a spa-like feel.

Pro tip: Cove lighting, which is the hidden light in the recess in the shower, is a great way to get even light throughout the day and night, even with the absence of natural ambient light. By using LED strip lighting in the 2700K to 3000K color temperature range, you will get a very natural-looking light, any time of day.
Cablik Enterprises
10. Modern Natural

Lighting types used: Ambient, overhead, cove, pendant, undercabinet/toe kick

Why it works: The abundance of natural ambient daylight that floods this bathroom is beautiful. At night, the overhead and cove lighting (not turned on in this daylight picture) provide a soft general lighting, while the pendant lights provide an even light at the face area. The undervanity light makes the room feel more spacious and adds a luxurious feel in this modern natural spa-like master bath.

Pro tip: When you are in the design and planning phase of your project, it is important to wire for the lights in just the right places. Too close to the wall and you will get a hot spot of light on the wall. Too far from the wall and you risk bumping your head. If you have a 24-inch-deep vanity and countertop, plan to hang your pendant lights 12 inches on center from the finished wall surface, accounting for drywall and tile. This location on your ceiling will put the lights roughly on center relative to the vanity.


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