Contemporary bathroom lighting is an important design element that can make a dramatic impact on the overall look and feel of your bathroom. The right lighting can create an inviting ambiance, showcase stylish fixtures, and provide optimal visibility for tasks like applying makeup and shaving. When designing a contemporary bathroom, lighting should be coordinated with other details like tile, cabinetry, and hardware for a cohesive aesthetic. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore contemporary bathroom lighting ideas and provide tips for selecting the perfect fixtures, bulbs, and placement to enhance your space.

Choosing Light Fixtures for a Contemporary Bathroom

The fixture styles you select will set the tone for your bathroom’s contemporary style. Clean lines, simple forms, and polished metals or glass are hallmarks of contemporary light fixtures. Here are some popular options to consider:

Pendant Lights

Pendant lights are an on-trend choice that can serve as a central focal point in a contemporary bathroom. Hang a single dramatic pendant over the vanity or put up several pendants in a linear formation for ample lighting. Opt for metal or glass pendants with cylindrical, conical, or globe shapes. Both minimal and sculptural styles work well.


Wall sconces provide both ambient lighting and decorative flair along the vanity or above a bathtub. Sconces with an angular arm and exposed bulb are very contemporary. Search for sconces in polished chrome, nickel, or gold finishes.

Track Lighting

Track lighting offers directional illumination perfect for highlighting the vanity. Opt for sleek, barely-there tracks that blend in with the ceiling. Position the track above the mirror and use pivoting spotlights to direct light right where you need it.

Flush Mounts

For an ultra-streamlined look, install flush mounted fixtures on the ceiling. Flush mounts like shallow, round discs or square panels give a very clean, contemporary aesthetic. Use in place of a chandelier or combine with recessed cans.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed can lights (also called downlights) are ideal for providing ambient lighting in contemporary bathrooms. Install recessed lighting around the perimeter of the room or above key areas like the shower and tub. Pair with pendant and sconces for decorative accents.

LED Strip Lighting

LED tape lights give a modern, minimalist look under vanity cabinets or above mirrors. Go for neutral white or blue-hued LEDs. Use aluminum channels to hold the tape in place for clean lines. Control with dimmers for variable light levels.

Vanity Lighting

Linear vanity lighting provides direct illumination for grooming. Look for long, slim LED vanity bars or strip lighting. You can also install sconces or pendants on either side of the mirror. Add separate lighting inside the vanity to showcase contents.

Choosing Bulb Types and Colors

The bulb you choose will impact the ambiance, brightness, and color cast in the room. Here are some bulb options ideal for contemporary bathrooms:


For energy efficiency and longevity, LED bulbs are a great choice. They come in a range of bright white or soft white hues. LEDs work well in all bathroom light fixtures.


Halogen bulbs provide a crisp, bright white light optimal for tasks like makeup application. Use halogen bulbs in vanity strips or recessed cans.


Xenon bulbs produce a warm white light similar to natural sunlight. They’re compact and often used in track lighting.

Smart Bulbs

Smart bulbs can change color and be controlled remotely via app. Use tunable white bulbs to adjust color temperature. Or add color-changing bulbs for a fun pop of color.

Lighting Placement Tips

Proper placement of light fixtures can make all the difference in your bathroom lighting. Follow these tips:

Illuminate the Vanity

Use linear lighting or sconces around the mirror to provide even, shadow-free illumination when grooming and applying makeup.

Light the Shower and Tub Area

Install recessed cans or pendant lights over the shower to make it safer and easier to see while bathing.

Add Ambient Lighting

Include flush mounts, semi-flush mounts, or recessed can lighting on the ceiling to cast soft, ambient light throughout the room.

Accent with Decorative Fixtures

Strategically place pendants, sconces, or accent lighting to highlight artwork, tilework, architectural details, and accessories.

Layer the Lighting

Combine several types of lighting like recessed, pendant, and accent lighting for visual depth and dimension.

Use Dimmers

Install dimmer switches to control light levels and create the perfect ambiance for any activity.

Bounce Light Off the Ceiling

Uplights and sconces pointed toward the ceiling can fill the room with soft, indirect light.

12 Contemporary Bathroom Lighting Ideas

Here are some inspiring ways to use bathroom lighting fixtures to enhance a contemporary design:

1. Linear LED Vanity Lights

Slim, linear LED lights mounted horizontally on each side of the mirror provide perfect vanity illumination. Choose finishes like matte black, brushed nickel, or chrome.

2. Ceiling Flush Mounts

Keep the look minimalist with round or square flush mount fixtures. The subtle profile blends cleanly with the ceiling.

3. Backlit Mirrors

For an ultra modern look, install mirrors with LED lights along the top or bottom edge to cast a glow.

4. Monorail Track Lighting

Add a rail just above or on each side of the mirror and use adjustable spotlights to direct light right where needed.

5. Pendant Cluster

Make a statement with a group of matching pendants suspended at varying heights over the bathtub or shower enclosure.

6. Wall Sconces Around Tub

Line the perimeter of a freestanding tub with elegant sconces for ambient lighting. Position above or beside the tub.

7. Recessed Shower Lighting

Recessed can lights built seamlessly into the shower ceiling provide ample downlight for bathing safely.

8. Under Cabinet Lights

Use LED tape lighting or pucks under bathroom cabinets and shelves for a cool glow.

9. Uplighting

Bounce light off the ceiling and upper walls by positioning sconces or spotlights to point upward. The light reflects and fills the room.

10. Sculptural Pendant

Make the vanity area a focal point with an artistic, sculptural pendant that makes a statement.

11. Perimeter Ceiling Lights

Run a track of recessed lights along the full perimeter of the ceiling for soft, even ambient fill.

12. Color-Changing Bulbs

Add color-changing smart bulbs to any fixture. Adjust colors to create different moods.

5 Tips for Choosing Lighting Fixtures

Follow these tips when selecting light fixtures for a contemporary bathroom design:

  • Favor metal finishes like matte black, brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, chrome, and gold for a sleek, modern look.
  • Seek out clean, streamlined silhouettes. Avoid ornate detailing.
  • Mix and match metals and finishes for visual interest. Just keep each fixture simple in shape.
  • Choose fixtures scaled appropriately for the size of the room. Overly large or small fixtures can look disproportionate.
  • Look for dimmable fixtures you can control for flexibility. Dimmers let you adjust brightness as needed.

How Much Lighting Do You Need in a Bathroom?

When planning bathroom lighting, consider adding multiple layers of illumination to cover all your needs. Follow these guidelines:

  • Ambient lighting – Include ceiling flush mounts or recessed lighting throughout the room for soft overall illumination. This makes up the foundational layer.
  • Task lighting – Vanity strip lighting and recessed lighting above the shower provides directed light for tasks.
  • Accent lighting – Strategically placed pendants, sconces, and accent lights add shape and highlights.
  • Safety lighting – Night lights, step lights, and strip lighting along the tub edge increase visibility and safety.

As a general rule, plan for a minimum of 50 lumens per square foot. So for a 100 square foot bathroom, you’ll want at least 5,000 lumens. The vanity and shower areas should have the highest concentration of light.

Choosing Energy Efficient Bathroom Lighting

There are many ways to build an energy efficient, eco-friendly contemporary bathroom. Follow these tips:

  • Use LED bulbs – ENERGY STAR-rated LEDs use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • Install occupancy sensors – Sensors automatically turn lights on when you enter a room and off when you leave to prevent waste.
  • Choose Energy Star fixtures – Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying light fixtures to ensure energy savings.
  • Use dimmers and timers – Dimmers and timers let you finely control light levels and turn lights off automatically.
  • Maximize daylight – Strategically placed windows and skylights can provide free natural light and reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day.

Common Contemporary Bathroom Lighting Mistakes to Avoid

While designing your contemporary bathroom lighting, keep in mind these common mistakes:

  • Insufficient lighting around the vanity or shower
  • Choosing bulbs that are too blue or too yellow rather than a neutral white
  • Putting lighting in inconvenient locations
  • Selecting fixtures that are poorly scaled for the room
  • Forgetting to layer ambient, task, and accent lighting
  • Neglecting to install dimmers for flexibility
  • Using dated styles rather than modern, streamlined fixtures
  • Overlooking opportunities for statement pendant lights or sconces
  • Not coordinating metals and finishes for a cohesive look

Frequently Asked Questions About Contemporary Bathroom Lighting

What are the best contemporary vanity lights?

Some top options include linear LED lights, backlit mirrors, sconces, and pendants. Strips mounted horizontally on each side of the mirror give the most even lighting for grooming.

Should you put recessed lighting in a bathroom?

Yes, recessed can lighting is recommended to provide ambient fill and highlight key areas like the shower. Space cans evenly for consistent coverage.

Is a pendant light suitable over a bathtub?

Definitely. A pendant light centered over a soaking tub can create a relaxing vibe. Choose a height that keeps the pendant safely out of the way. Waterproof the fixture if needed.

What color temperature bulbs should you use in a bathroom?

Aim for a bright, neutral white in the range of 3000K-5000K. Bulbs under 3000K give off a warm yellow glow while those above 5000K look icy blue. Stick to the middle for the perfect white light.

Should you install a dimmer switch in a bathroom?

Dimmers provide excellent control over light levels, allowing you to set just the right mood and brightness. Use dimmers for vanity lighting, accent lights, and ceiling fixtures.

How do you provide light inside a bathroom vanity?

Install discreet LED strip lights along the top interior edge of the vanity cabinet. Some vanities have built-in interior lighting. You can also use battery-operated puck lights.

Should bathroom lighting be color-changing?

It can be! Swapping out regular bulbs for color-changing smart bulbs lets you program colorful lighting scenes. Use sparingly as accents and avoid overly saturated party colors.


The right contemporary bathroom lighting can elevate your space from drab to dramatic. Use a thoughtful blend of modern fixture styles coordinated with your decor. Mix and layer ambient, task, and accent lighting. LEDs and dimmers provide flexibility and energy efficiency. Position fixtures to highlight important areas like the vanity, shower, and tub. With the lighting design tips in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating a contemporary bathroom with an inviting ambiance and stylish aesthetic.