The bathroom is a place to do your business, but we also shower, bathe, do our makeup, brush our teeth, and can end up spending a fair amount of time in there. For the best experience, you want a bathroom that is bright and clean. Let’s look at the best ways to enliven your bathroom to make it as beautiful as possible, but also as easy to use.
If you’re starting out with a really dark bathroom, there are many things you can do, from quick fixes to overall renovations, to really bring the light in. Depending on how much money you want to invest, and how much time you want it to take, the project can be very different. I personally have a pretty small bathroom, but some choice window placements, bright colours, and really great lighting have really made it feel bright and airy, as opposed to dark and confined. So, let’s look at the top sixteen ways to brighten your bathroom, from powder room to large ensuite!
1. Light it up!
Struggling to see the bottle labels in your shower? It’s time to add some lighting. If you can’t add natural light, add recessed lights in the ceiling of your shower. Get help from an electrician—trust us, it’s worth it. You’ll feel more awake during your morning scrub and avoid frustrating shampoo and conditioner mix-ups. In addition, it’s vital to have a great strong light over your sink, above the mirror. Ideally, you want something here that is bright and strong enough to see well if you are brushing your teeth, or putting on makeup, or shaving. On the other hand, there are some lights that are just too harsh, and may reveal more than you want to see in your face. Having good lighting distributed across the ceiling, over the sink, in the shower, and some additional either in the form of sconces or lamps will never hurt. Highlight the niches or any other design feature within the bathroom with accent lights. Introduce LED strip lights within the shelves, below a floating vanity or behind a mirror to create a floating effect.
2. Choose Bright and Light Paint Colours
If your walls are covered in light-absorbing dark paint or — gasp! — wallpaper, add a few coats of a perky paint color. It doesn’t necessarily have to be stark white; there are many tints of blues, yellows and reds that reflect light and make the space feel sunnier. Whether your bathroom lacks natural daylight, is tiny and needs a space-enhancing paint color – or you just love white walls – painting bathrooms totally white is an easy win. You can buy a bathroom paint that’s practical, without worry about your color choice, and be safe in the knowledge that it’ll last for years. On the other hand, bright colours like yellows or sage greens can create brightness and a sense of liveliness. Don’t be afraid to play! Paint colours are a great way to do so, as they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to change.
3. Add Plants
Orchids, succulents, cacti, air plants… there are many hardy varieties that will thrive in your bathroom. Plants can also keep bathrooms smelling fresh, thanks to their natural air-purifying powers. Choose plants best suited to your bathroom’s atmospheric conditions. Staghorn ferns are known to enjoy humid environments, as well as moderate light. Peace lilies can bloom several times a year, even in low-light conditions. Whatever plant you choose, learn about its care regime and cultivate your very own micro-garden in your bathroom. One tip I really love is hanging eucalyptus in the shower, the steam pulls the beautiful fragrance from the plant, and it adds a lush and light feeling in the shower.
4. Choose your Bulbs Wisely
One of the simplest and least expensive ways to illuminate your bath is to replace your light bulbs. Look for “cool white,” “bright white” or “daylight” bulbs that minimize shadows for the greatest output around your vanity. For bathing spaces, opt for ambient light. I personally love to be able to change the mood in the bathroom to a relaxing one, so I can enjoy a bubble bath without harsh LED’s in my face. Installing adjustable bulbs with the according switches will really be something you’ll thank yourself for down the line. Many of the most popular bathroom bulbs have a CRI rating of 90+, indicating superior color contrast and vibrancy. This is ideal for applying make-up or any other task where color accuracy and appearance are important. Typically, bathroom light bulbs may be installed in an overhead fixture or on a vanity lighting fixture. While an overhead light might use a standard A19 light bulb, vanity lights generally look best with the more decorative globe shape of a G25 light bulb. Other considerations you’ll need to make are whether to shop for pricier but long-lasting LED bulbs for the bathroom, or more affordable incandescent versions—that require more frequent replacement.
5. Add a Skylight
True, it’s easiest to plan for a skylight when you’re building a house, but it can be retroactively installed. Some skylights even offer venting that would work well over a shower. Natural light is ideal for brightening up a bathroom and will create a sense of larger space even without direct sunlight. Skylights can increase light and ventilation, helping to prevent damp and mold growth, lower electric bills, and negate the need for a bathroom fan. They are especially good for windowless bathrooms. There are ventilating, fixed, and tubular skylights. Installation is governed by building codes. Depending on where your bathroom is in the layout of your house, the type of roof you have, etc., installing a skylight can end up being quite a complicated task. But this does not make installing one any less of a great idea. In a bathroom without windows, a skylight will provide natural light, which has all the benefits listed previously. However, in this case, providing natural light can lower your electric bill because you will no longer have to turn the lights on when you use the bathroom during the day.
6. De-clutter From Top to Bottom
A dark and cluttered bathroom looks dreary when compared to a well-lit bathroom that is flooded with ample natural light. Therefore extra efforts should be made to give the bathroom a neat and clutter-free look. Organize the bathroom properly by making space for storage with a floating vanity, glass shelves and other space-saving cabinets. Clutter is the enemy of any smaller space, and this is equally true for windowless bathrooms. By nature, bathrooms without windows are darker, which means your space can feel more chaotic when compared with bathrooms with natural light. Invest in some good storage units to hide away everyday items (like shower products) and keep accessories to a minimum. By only including what you want on show, you can ensure that you style your bathroom with items that work to uplift your space, rather than detract from it. It’s incredible the difference it can make in the feeling of brightness in the bathroom when you declutter, and keep surfaces clear and free from mess.
7. Choose Translucent or White Shelving
To create a sense of space in a bathroom with no windows, it’s important to choose your bathroom furniture and fittings wisely. Glass or transparent furnishings are the best way to avoid overcrowding and will also help to reflect your artificial light sources. Look for glass shower screens or shower enclosures as a first step but consider incorporating other transparent items too. For example, glass shelving or surfaces would work well. I have a set of acrylic shelves in my bathroom, that make it feel much more open than any wooden or solid shelves. Your beauty splurges deserve to be on display, so leave ’em out in the open on a set of clear floating shelves. Like a traditional medicine cabinet but way prettier.
8. Place Mirrors Strategically
Adding reflective surfaces is a great way to spread light throughout the room. You likely already have one over your sink for practical purposes, so consider adding a mirror on the opposite wall so you can see the back of your head. You could add a side mirror or two, or even a full-length mirror if you have room. You can also incorporate a full-length mirror if space permits. A frameless mirror is a good choice, as it blends into the surrounding walls, offering a sleek and neutral accessory you can pair with almost any color and décor style. Mirrors are the ultimate light reflector, bouncing it throughout the room, so whatever light sources you do have will be magnified and distributed. Don’t be afraid of using multiple, some think it may be taboo to create the infinity mirror effect, but I say why not? Create it by placing mirrors across from each other on opposite walls.
9. Add a Window
Even if your bathroom is located in the middle of your house, without access to an outside window placement, adding a window can still be a genius solution to your light problem. In my bathroom, there is a small rectangular light across the top behind the shower, meaning light from other rooms can creep into the bathroom, adding natural light to a room that is otherwise without it. I love this feature, and when the light hits just right I can get the perfect afternoon sunlight pouring into my shower. This way, there is no privacy issue, as long as you keep the window at the very top of the wall. You can have the benefits of the light from other rooms, without the shared sight path. On the other hand, if your bathroom is against an outside facing wall, I would strongly suggest considering installing a window. Of course, it’s important to consult professionals for this, and make sure you aren’t doing any structural damage to the house. Adding a window will really make all the difference, immediately brightening your bathroom without having to pull any other tricks. It will take some time, and perhaps some money, so consider that before jumping in, but if you have both, go for it!
10. Clean, Clean, Clean!
This is the most cost efficient and time efficient way to immediately brighten a dull looking bathroom. Cleaning the surfaces from top to bottom will remove dust, dirt, and any buildup that does tend to happen from the combination of humidity and the products used in the shower and sink. The mirrors can be washed, the counters wiped down, and the sink and shower scrubbed. Sometimes they need some heavy duty scrubbing, or chemicals to remove the plaque buildup. So, make sure to put on safety gloves and a mask for this job. The floors can be mopped, and the moulding can be wiped down, as well as the walls. The two great difference makers in my opinion are the grout and the walls. Wiping down the walls removes dust from it, which is something that builds up without us noticing, slowly but surely: it creates a film of grey over everything, making it dull and lack lustre. Then, grout does tend to pick up dirt really easily over time, turning from that beautiful bright white when you first got it to a dark grey. If you’re willing to put in the effort, scrubbing the grout of your shower, floors, or wherever you have it, will be a game changer. Cleaning mirrors will not only allow them to reflect the light better, but it will give you a clearer picture of yourself when you look in it. It makes everything feel more sharp and bright.
11. Don’t Block the Natural Light
If you’re one of the lucky ones, and you do have windows in your bathroom, work it! Do not block natural light with furniture, such as vanity or linen cabinets. Where ever possible, position furniture away from a window that offers a valuable light source, or perhaps position extra storage cabinets so they fit neatly underneath a window. You may even want to consider the placement of a vanity or make up table so that you can use natural light (when it is available) when getting ready. Another option is to position the tub near a window, which allows you to soak in the tub while soaking up sunshine or enjoying a beautiful view. You can also build your shower enclosure around or near a window, or if privacy is a concern, add a sheer curtain or blind that still allows most of the sunshine through, or consider a half window blind that covers the lower half of the window. It’s important to work with what you’ve got, so if you’ve got windows, try to optimize the light that comes through them, starting with clearing away any clutter that could block their light.
12. Use Things with Shimmery Finish
Reflective and shimmering metallic surfaces are a great way to bounce light around the bathroom and give the space a brighter look. Introduce brass or chrome finish sanitary fixtures, light fixtures and mirror frames. You can also consider gloss finish wall tiles which bounce light, add extra brightness and visually expand the bathroom space. Avoid using gloss finish tiles on the flooring as these tiles make the bathroom slippery. Porcelain is a subcategory of ceramic tile that has a greater ability to repel water, making it ideal for high-moisture surfaces, including showers and bathtub areas. But beyond classic porcelain, there are myriad tile options for brightening your bathroom and delivering luxury and durability—plus beauty. Glass also reflects light really well, and creates an upscale finish often at not a huge expense.
14. Take Down a Wall
Some bathrooms have interior walls separating the toilet from the rest of the room, or the shower. Open the space up to create an airy feeling, and not block the light from spreading through the whole space. Now, this is a much larger project than many of the other options, so if you’re not looking for a construction project this may not be the option for you. If, however, you’re up for the challenge, tearing down walls can be extremely satisfying: it makes a huge difference, and doesn’t require investing in new materials.
15. Choose a White Toilet and Sink
The toilet and sink are basic stapes of the bathroom that you may not even think twice about. Most often, even in old homes, they are white. If, however, you’ve chosen a black, grey, or even pink toilet, we recommend switching it out for a white one to open up the space and make it feel a lot brighter. There are also many sink options that are not white porcelain: steel, glass, tile, earthen pottery, and many more. Some of these options can be really beautiful, but might not be doing you any favours in terms of light distribution. Going with a white porcelain or tiled sink is your best bet to keep your countertops bright.
16. Bring in New Towels and Accessories
The easiest way to make your bathroom feel renewed on a shoe-string is with a crisp new batch of towels. Whether you go for a vibrant new shade or plump for a classic white hue, a new set is sure to create that fluffy hotel vibe and freshen up the whole space. Rather than hiding your new purchases away in a cupboard, try hanging your towels from hooks or neatly folding them on a stool or console table. I love the feeling of having new bathroom towels, the lush cotton feels so nice against the skin. In addition, if you have them on display, the crisp white look can make a huge difference. There are other accessories in the bathroom too, like the shower curtain, that can be updated for a new feeling, and to let the dullness of the old dirty one be left in your past. If you have dull old pieces like handles, towel racks, plunger holders, or even soap dispensers, swap them out for shiny new ones: especially in bright colours with reflective surfaces. I love getting a new soap dispenser, and they have the added bonus of being less wasteful than buying a new plastic one every time: this way, just buy soap in bulk and keep replacing it into your beautiful dispenser when you run out.
Not being able to create the bathroom of your dreams because you live in a rental or can’t afford to renovate feels unfair. It’s your home after all, and you should be able to make every square inch of it better. There are plenty of ideas in this list for anyone and everyone, no matter your budget, or whether you’re renting or a homeowner. Brightness is created by light, but can also be created through colour, texture, cleanliness, and space. I hope this list has opened up the possibilities for your bathroom brightening!