How do we heat and light a bathroom with three-metre ceilings?

Souzette Lovell
June 18, 2019
last modified: June 20, 2019

Hi there,

Does anyone have experience lighting and heating a bathroom with 3m ceilings? It's my 1927 renovation project.

I don't want recessed ceiling lights because every time a light needs changing, a ladder will be involved. I want to install pendant and wall lights instead.

I'm planning a pendant light in the centre of the room (outside of the wet zones). There will be will be two lights over the vanity, mounted on top of the shaving cabinets, and a couple of wall lights. There will be led strip underneath the shaving cabinets. There will be two light control switches, one for the central and LED strip, the other for the wall and cabinet-mounted lights.

Here are my issues/questions:

  • it's a very cold climate. I'm concerned heat lamps in the ceiling just won't reach down to ground level! Can you install heat lamps on the wall, closer to where people actually stand?
  • I'm installing a heated towel rail on a timer. Will this be enough?
  • is a light over the shower really essential?
  • can anyone recommend a good budget bathroom lighting range? So far, Ikea seems to have the best IP66 and IP44-rated lamps within my budget

thoughts and insights appreciated thank you :-)

PS below images are only sketches, the Reece online planner is very limited in terms of finishes and tiling options etc, unless you want it all-white or neutral of course. Also I'll probably be building my own vanity - long 1500mm wide under the mirror cabinets with a semi-recessed basin and back to wall toilet

Comments (23)

  • dreamer

    Here are examples of bathroom fan heaters. I do not know of any lamp heaters available for walls. You can also still get the bar heater for walls. We had one in our first home, a 1965, original.
    It gave off sufficient heat. But, I would check out the energy rating of these products. To see if they are cost effective.

    Souzette Lovell thanked dreamer
  • PRO
    MB Design & Drafting

    Underfloor heating. Goes under the tiles just before laying.

    Heat lamps are pretty useless really even in 2400 ceilings.

    Most bathrooms only have a single light anyway so one over shower isn't 'essential'.

    Souzette Lovell thanked MB Design & Drafting
  • PRO

    If your electricity bill can cope with underfloor heating pads, that is a great option as when your feet are warm, it makes all the difference and the heat comes from below so is where you need it. I personally wouldn't bother with having the heated towel rail on a timer. I have mine on 24/7 and with lovely warm towels when you step out of the shower, it makes a difference too. I'm not in a cold climate so in a cold one it would be more justifiable. My electricity bill is very reasonable!! A fan heater as mentioned above is good for instant heat and for clearing your mirrors if you don't have demister pads on these. The heater could be put on a timer if you wanted so it stayed on to demist the room after you left for a couple of minutes. It would keep the room dryer.

    Lighting- good quality LEDs last almost a life time so the bulbs don't need changing. You change the whole fitting but after many years. The cheap ones are a bit hit and miss and don't live up to the promises. Don't leave the ceiling completely un-lit. If it is a tall room and the top third of the space is dark, it will be a scary space!! Chose wall lights that illuminate up and down. I also include night lights on a sensor so that when you stumble in during the night, you aren't blinded by the bright lights. You can use the small step lights down low on the wall or a LED strip under your vanity if it is not going to the floor or in the toe space of it. You don't need many as the idea is to just be able to see what you are doing. This also helps you get back to sleep quicker if your night vision hasn't been so rudely interrupted by the bright lights. Pendants in bathrooms tend to collect dust more than other spaces so make sure it is accessible. I wouldn't put a light directly over the shower space.

    I'm not sure where you live so I can't recommend a good supplier but it pays to shop around. All I can say is, you get what you pay for.

    Souzette Lovell thanked CHRISTINE HALL ARCHITECTS LTD
  • siriuskey

    I agree with MD the under floor heating is perfect for your area Albury?, You don't have to use it all year, I would prefer it over a heated towel rail, . I would also have a quality central ceiling LED, directing light down and away from the old ceiling which can show up imperfections from uplights, the other need is good lighting over the vanity.

    Souzette Lovell thanked siriuskey
  • bigreader

    Are you having central heating? If so a vent under the towel rack will heat the room and the towels. Also great for drying the odd clothes item.

    Souzette Lovell thanked bigreader
  • Souzette Lovell

    hi thanks for the ideas and feedback :-). Bigreader, I know it seems obvious but I had totally blanked out the option of radiant bar or electric blow heating. But these may work really well considering the space is not used continuously and these would be quick and responsive. I've saved your pictures to my idea book. MB I'm getting an underfloor pad costed up, but am not holding my breath within my budget :-). My main reservation with both towel rail and in-floor heating is the response time - a trip to the bathroom would need 30 mins notice to switch it on to pre-heat. I can't justify leaving it on 24*7...... Nothing a thick cosy bathmat and slippers can't fix I hope!

    siriuskey - Im in Goulburn, even colder than I imagine Albury is atm, we have snow forecast this weekend!

    Christine, thanks for the tips on lighting, especially the comment about the ceiling if it's dark. I hadn't considered that, and I haven't painted a ceiling dark before. I've had a quick look at your website and that lovely old house you've worked on - I can see even with the bold dark walls that you've kept the ceilings light/white. It even looks like there are skylights in two rooms? Is your recommendation to avoid painting a ceiling dark? I like the lighting you've used in your bathroom. Would you mind please sharing the range of lights you used there? They are nice and sleek without looking out of place in a classic setting.

    This is what Im planning on using atm, the round wall light is from ikea

    central pendant light (a smaller version of this, metal is painted white not gold and the lights point down - not ikea)


  • siriuskey

    What about something different

  • bigreader

    I think your lighting choices are a bit dated. And neither will give great light for make up. Have you planned a look for the entire house? If you let us know what look you like we can suggest options.

  • Souzette Lovell

    bigreader I don't actually think the orbs look dated in this setting, and they are within budget, however Im always up for new ideas if you have some options you'd like to share. My house is 1927 worker's cottage/california bungalow. VERY plain and no decoration anywhere. Timber floors in kauri pine (honey coloured). So my design aesthetic for the overall house is simple and elemental, but also a little bit 'period' if I can find simple pieces. Eclectic. Not really interested in the latest trends. But still interested to find good bathroom lights within budget - so if you have some suggestions please send them over I'd love to see them thanks :-).

  • siriuskey

    I actually thought that this type of light could really work with your love of Eclectic styling, The bathroom being internal will be quite dark so you could consider painting the ceiling black to really make a statement with this pendent/chandelier style, the following photo is to give you an idea of what I'am suggesting

  • PRO

    What about something like this for wall lights beside the vanity. It evokes the era of your house but it quite timeless and would be easy to clean.

    If you like the globe idea, which can look fabulous if done right, which would also mix ok with this wall light, why not something simple like this. If you can't afford a real designer one, there are plenty of them in the 'chain' stores. Just chose a really simple but well made one. Or you could use a pendant in the same family as the wall light.

    Souzette Lovell thanked CHRISTINE HALL ARCHITECTS LTD
  • siriuskey

    I should have mentioned that if you paint the ceiling include the wall above picture rail height as well this along with pendent/chandelier will bring the ceiling down which I think is important when the length of the bathroom is 2.8m and the ceiling is greater at 3m

    You could also look for a vintage "School House" or other light

    Souzette Lovell thanked siriuskey
  • PRO
    Kitchen and Home Sketch Designs

    What ever heating you choose, make it work from the floor. In my experience the tastic ceiling fan/heater units are great for freezing toes and scalding heads and that is a 2400 ceiling height!

    Souzette Lovell thanked Kitchen and Home Sketch Designs
  • fbeckwith

    have you thought about under floor heating?

    wall lights near mirror

    hanging pendant hung low

    good luck

    Souzette Lovell thanked fbeckwith
  • Souzette Lovell

    Hi all thank you for your suggestions. Siriuskey I like the schoolhouse look, and Christine Hall I already have one of those single orbs spare, and I do like the wall ones. I've just gone and purchased discounted brass tapware so this may dictate some of the other fittings. FBeck I've got a quote for underfloor heating but still think I'll go with the blow heater.....and yes LOL to the idea of tastics in this space, just not going to work here :-)

  • purplekristi

    We have looked at radiant heating for bathroom - we are in Canberra. Have Noirot heaters in some rooms which are great - try GoodGuys. Great light shop is Zaffero in Sydney - buy online & they deliver - amazing designs & quality - including brass.

    Souzette Lovell thanked purplekristi
  • Souzette Lovell

    Hi Purplekristi thanks for the recommendations for the heaters and the online lighting shop. I checked out Noirot and will have to see if they have any wall mounted models.

  • ESB

    We too live in a cold winter climate with our bathrooms all on the southern side and faced similar issues as you do. One smaller bathroom does not have a window so we put in a Velux skylight which provides amazing natural light through the day. This may not be to your liking, especially if you have a period home. We also use heated towel rails and under tile heating (just enough to take the chill off and stop mould) in winter. Although we have a light in the shower recess, a bonus is the large fixed shower head with inbuilt LED, which at night gives the feeling of showering under moonlight. We chose light colours and mirrored recessed cabinets to reflect as much natural light as possible.

    Souzette Lovell thanked ESB
  • Souzette Lovell

    Hi ESB the illuminated shower head sounds amazing. How imaginative. I am thinking of putting in a Velux or solartube. Creating an atmosphere and ambience is so important in a bathroom, as well as being highly functional! I'm thinking of a heated towel rail and a fan heater on a timer, for instant heat. Avoiding mould is something I'll have to research so thanks for the tips.....

  • PRO
    Weaver Interiors

    Why not put in a false ceiling? Quite inexpensive and this really does keep the bathroom cosy as well as making changing light bulbs a breeze. In a quite beachy home, we added very skinny tree trunks over the false ceiling for effect, I am not suggesting that for your Victorian era home, but it opens one's mind to possibilities. I agree with not persuing the round ball light fittings - very old-hat. Those lovely copper fittings would add warmth and probably age nicely in the moist air. Have a look at Emac & Lawton and Magins.

  • suzyq53

    We have an exhaust fan/heater/light that can heat our entire larger bathroom in minutes when we flip it on in the morning. When we're done its just flipped off and the space in unconditioned until we need it again. Works great but it is noisy. We live in a mild climate but it is chilly some mornings and it seems like it would work in colder climates, especially if you got two.

    Souzette Lovell thanked suzyq53
  • PRO
    Beach Bathrooms


    Underfloor heating ....on top of the tile bed, directly under tiles ( less expensive t run/heats up quickly, will dry towels.


    Heated towel rails only warm towel/s


    Tile to picture rail


    Light, central pendant for appearance, with multiple LED for practicability


    A framed mirror adds a personal touch