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How to Use Bathroom Recessed Lighting With the Best Effect

Updated: 06/26/2024
bathroom lighting

The term “bathroom recessed lighting” is probably a little misleading. After all, there is nothing really different from using recessed lighting in the bathroom as compared to anywhere else in the house. It’s always advisable to plan for other types of lighting first before filling it up in with recessed lighting to prevent overdoing it, such as a swiss cheese like ceiling.

You still need to consider issues such as design, placement, and the type of fixture versus the light bulbs to use in your planning. With that in mind, let’s review some of the generic sections of the bathroom and how recessed lighting can be deployed with the best effect.


The shower area is one section of the house where bathroom recessed lighting will come in very nicely. One important thing to note is to select light fixtures that are essentially waterproof. The same goes for the light bulbs. Most of the light fixtures you get at the stores are already marked to show this so don’t worry too much about that.

Some people may also prefer to install a dimmer together with their shower recessed lights for a more controlled and soothing effect. For those who want a slow wake-up while getting into the shower before the break of the day, a dimmer will come in very handy.


If your bathtub’s separate from the shower, your lighting needs may be slightly more unique. Otherwise, it will probably not be much of a major difference as what was discussed earlier. It is still recommended to use bathroom recessed lighting. But water rated fixtures or light bulbs are not a prerequisite. Tilt your light streams on the outside area of the tub to provide sufficient general lighting without the glare.

Mirror and Vanity

This is conventionally one of the areas that require careful planning. If there’s insufficient or improper lighting in this area, tasks such as shaving or applying makeup in front of the mirror can prove to be a challenge. Fortunately, lighting and design companies have devised various ways to cope with it for both functional and decorative purposes.

Your mirror can be adorned with vanity strips for task lighting. Make sure the vanity light bulbs are of a lower wattage or use frosted glass so that it’s not too bright. Some people have tried removing some of the light bulbs from their vanity strips when they realize the light is too bright. However, this defeats the purpose of the strip. After all, the vanity strip is to help distribute the light evenly, isn’t it?

You can also use wall sconces to achieve a similar effect. If you choose to have two or more sconces in the bathroom, make sure the distance of each sconce is evenly spread out so that light is coming from either side of the sink. Otherwise, the scone will shine directly in front of your face when you look into the mirror. As for the height from which the sconces should be placed, it should be at about eye level. But that may differ in accordance to the type of sconce you choose.

Ceiling Fixtures

If you have a high ceiling, try installing a chandelier for a decorative and classy effect. Its size should depend on the width added to the length of the room. E.g. for a bathroom that is 18′ x 16′, get a chandelier that’s about 34′ (18+16) in diameter. This would ensure that the bathroom gets sufficient general lighting. If multiple lighting fixtures are required, use the dimensions of the area as a reference.


Set up your recessed can in front and not immediately over the toilet. And if you would like to have some light for reading purposes, place a sconce above the toilet. The same rule about mirror and vanity sconces will apply here as well.


For safety purposes, some people may want to have some lighting in the night so they can go to the bathroom without tripping or waking. If you don’t have much room in the bathroom, use a night light or a motion wall switch. Otherwise, some form of accent lamp lighting can work pretty well. For example, you can place a small lamp on an accent table or on your vanity, and use it together with a durable LED or compact fluorescent light bulb for the best bathroom recessed lighting arrangement.

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