Well-planned bathroom lights are essential for a room which must alternate between being task focused and a relaxing sanctuary, sometimes several times a day. Furthermore, they must work equally well on both levels and at any time, night or day, so you cannot rely on natural daylight to satisfy the demands.
Recessed downlights in the bathroom ceiling are excellent for general lighting purposes, since they may be positioned to provide the task lighting over sinks and showers too. Where the ceiling construction does not allow their use, surface spotlights are a good alternative.
The bathroom's hard and reflective surfaces encourage tremendous creativity. Consider fitting decorative wall lights at a low level to wash their light across the floor, or to highlight features like a freestanding bath. Alternatively, recess uplights into the floor itself to throw light up the walls instead of down them.
LED strip lights provide a superb layer of accent lighting when concealed in cabinets, niches and under sinks (use a profile with an opaque diffuser to ensure that the individual lights are not reflected on different surfaces). Or use them to backlight an opaque panel with colour changing strips for decorative effect.
In the bathroom, strip lights are a great option for lighting large expanses of mirror too: simply recess the mirror into the wall and light it using strips behind the outer edge, allowing the glow to wash in from all sides. Indeed, all-round lighting is the ideal way to light a working mirror - think of the old Hollywood star dressing rooms! If this is not feasible, opt either for lights at both top and bottom or on each side - a wall light which throws its light upwards and downwards with a 3000 Kelvin colour rendering is ideal.
Finally, to ensure that your well-constructed bathroom lighting scheme is used correctly, control it by grouping the lights on different circuits so that your task, accent and ambient lighting can be utilised separately.
Of course, depending on their location, bathroom lights must be waterproof to a specified level. This is designated by their IP (ingress protection) rating - a two digit number, the second of which denotes the level of protection from water. For use in Zone 0 (the interior of a bath, shower tray, or up to 1.2m from the shower outlet and from the drain in a wet room) you must use a light rated IP67 or higher and of no more than 12v. Beyond this area and up to a height of 2.25m is designated as Zone 1, and beyond that is Zone 2. Both require lights to be rated IP64 or higher in residential bathrooms, and IP65 or higher in commercial ones. In Zone 1, lights must draw no more than 25v. Outside the specified areas, standard regulations apply.