Use Lighter Paint Colors

Painting the walls and ceiling a lighter color is an easy way to brighten up the space. Stay away from dark colors like black or navy blue. Opt for soft whites, off-whites, or very light grays. A matte finish will also help reflect and diffuse light.

Add More Lighting Fixtures

Most bathrooms just have a single overhead fixture, which often doesn’t provide enough light on its own. Add sconces on the walls, pendant lights over the vanity, and accent lighting in corners to reduce shadows. Place fixtures high enough so they don’t get in the way but low enough to provide good visibility.

Install Skylights

Skylights are a great way to bring natural light into windowless bathrooms. Place them to maximize sunshine during the day. Complement them with artificial lighting for nighttime use. Make sure they are properly sealed to prevent leaks.

Use Mirrors Strategically

Mirrors will visually enlarge the space and reflect existing light. Place a mirror near the primary light source to maximize brightness. Use a large mirror over the vanity to create an illusion of depth. Consider mirrored cabinets and a mirrored wall behind the bathtub.

Change Out Doorways

A simple hollow-core door blocks light from the rest of the home from entering the bathroom. Switch to a raised-panel door, glass door, or French doors to allow light to pass through. Widening the doorway can also help.

Update Window Treatments

Heavy drapes absorb light. Replace them with sheer curtains, blinds, or shutters. Raise curtains and blinds during the day to allow more daylight in. Consider frosted rather than tinted windows to permit light transmission.

Use Lamps and Sconces

Free-standing lamps in corners or above the toilet provide directed task lighting. Wall sconces flanking the mirror boost visibility for grooming. Make sure bulbs are bright enough for the space but not overly harsh.

Install Dimmer Switches

Dimmers allow you to control light levels through the day and for different tasks. Use warm lighting in the evening for a relaxing bath. Boost to full brightness for cleaning. Dimmers work well with overhead fixtures and plug-in lamps.

Change Out Light Bulbs

Use the brightest allowable bulbs in all fixtures. For overheads, look for “daylight” or 5000K to 6500K bulbs. Around vanities, select bulbs with at least a 90 CRI for accurate color rendering. Dimmable LEDs work well throughout.

Add Light Around the Perimeter

Installing lighting around the top and bottom perimeter of the room avoids dark corners and shadows. Good options include LED strip lighting or step lights. Place behind crown molding or underneath cabinets.

By taking a multifaceted approach, you can successfully transform a dark and dreary bathroom into a bright and welcoming space. Evaluate the room layout and lighting needs. Increase natural light sources whenever possible, and supplement with plenty of well-placed fixtures. With the right lighting plan, you’ll have a bathroom that’s much more enjoyable to spend time in.

Benefits of a Well-Lit Bathroom

A bright bathroom provides many practical and aesthetic benefits:

  • Improves visibility for tasks like shaving, makeup, and cleaning
  • Creates an open, airy feel making the space seem larger
  • Allows you to fully appreciate colors and details in the décor
  • Provides lighting needed for safety when getting in and out of tub/shower
  • Sets a pleasant ambiance for relaxing soaks in the tub
  • Makes the room more inviting for guests
  • Helps you wake up and feel energized in the mornings

Factors that Contribute to Dark Bathrooms

There are a few common causes of dark bathrooms:

  • No natural light sources from windows or skylights
  • Heavy window coverings blocking outside light
  • Small opening for doorway and walls between rooms
  • Low wattage, old, or few light fixtures
  • Dark paint colors, finishes, tiles, and décor
  • Obstructed light fixtures due to shelving, cabinets, etc.
  • Age of bulb resulting in reduced illumination

By identifying and addressing these issues, you can dramatically brighten up the space.

Tips for Choosing Bathroom Lighting

When selecting lighting, keep these tips in mind:

  • Vary lighting types for overall illumination – overhead, task, accent, and natural light.
  • Place fixtures near mirrors to reduce shadows on face.
  • Use dimmable lights to control brightness as needed.
  • Choose bulbs with a high lumen output and high CRI rating.
  • Favor “daylight” or 5000K-6500K bulbs for maximum brightness.
  • Have lighting on separate switches/dimmers throughout the room.
  • Install ventilation fans if heat from added lighting is a concern.

Bathroom Lighting Safety Tips

Proper installation is key to bathroom lighting safety:

  • Situate fixtures away from shower/tub areas to prevent electric shock. Use appropriate waterproof ratings.
  • Choose glass shades to avoid shattering if hit by water or humidity.
  • Install a ventilation fan to reduce moisture buildup.
  • Use GFCI outlets with ground fault protection.
  • Avoid placing switches near sinks or other wet areas in the room.
  • Check for old wiring and update as needed before adding lighting load.
  • Follow all electrical codes and manufacturer instructions carefully.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lighting Up a Dark Bathroom

How many light fixtures should a bathroom have?

Most bathrooms benefit from 4-6 light sources: an overhead ceiling fixture, vanity lighting, accent lighting, task lighting, and natural sunlight if possible. Additional fixtures reduce shadows and create a sense of brightness.

What is a good wattage for a bathroom light?

Aim for bulbs in the 25-100 watt range. Around the vanity, look for 60-100 watts. For overhead ambient lighting, 25-60 watts is usually sufficient. Go higher if the bathroom is large.

Should I install recessed or surface mount lights?

Recessed lights provide an unobtrusive clean look. Surface mount fixtures are easier to install but take up space. Use recessed for general lighting and surface mount for task lighting as needed.

How do I choose bathroom light fixtures?

Consider the finish, style, brightness, and features like damp or wet ratings. Brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, and chrome are popular finishes. For brightness, look at lumens and bulb options.

Where should lights be placed in a bathroom?

Place overhead ceiling lights in the center to cast light evenly. Install vanity strip lighting on each side of the mirror about 60 inches off the floor. Add sconces next to the mirror and accent lighting in corners or above the tub.


Transforming a dark and dreary bathroom into a bright, welcoming space is easily achievable with some lighting upgrades and enhancements. Evaluate the room layout and install a mix of lighting sources like overhead fixtures, sconces, vanity lighting, and natural light. Strategically place mirrors to maximize reflection. Select the proper bulbs and wattages for the space. Improve visibility, ambiance, and safety with a well-designed lighting plan suited to your unique bathroom. With the right adjustments, you can make your bathroom a bright and inviting place to start and end each day.