Is your apartment lighting leaving you lurking in the shadows? You can't do a full-scale renovation with permanent lighting solutions when you're a renter, but you can still brighten your rented space to make it more welcoming and functional. Adequate lighting makes your apartment feel cheery, gives the illusion of more space, and makes it easier to do tasks. Meet your apartment lighting needs by testing out the following options.
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How to Enhance the Natural Light in Your Apartment
Don't discount the power of natural light in your rental. During the day, it can make your home feel happier, brighter, and larger. Here are some ways to amplify the natural light in your home:
- Clean the window glass regularly to remove dirt and other gunk that can limit the light.
- Remove bulky window coverings that block lots of light.
- Hang mirrors near windows to reflect more light into the space.
- Incorporate light-colored surfaces in the room.
- Rearrange your furniture to avoid blocking sunlight.
1. Plug-In Chandeliers or Pendant Lights
Any lighting fixture that plugs into an outlet instead of being hardwired to the electrical system is a renter's best friend. You can find all types of plug-in lights that look like regular hardwired fixtures, including chandeliers and pendant lights. When choosing the location for hanging plug-in lights, ensure that you place them close enough to an electrical outlet so you can plug them in safely.
A plug-in chandelier can make a grand appearance in many spaces. If your dining room lighting is lacking, hang one over your table or try one in your entryway or over a reading corner in your living room. Hanging chandeliers typically have attached hanging chains that you can link over a hook that's securely anchored into the ceiling. Adjust the height of the chain to fit the space so the light is functional without getting in the way.
If you prefer a smaller light, a plug-in pendant fixture is an option. The fixture typically comes attached to a cord, which allows for height adjustments, as well as hanging anchors that let you quickly secure the cord along the ceiling and down the wall to the outlet. Hang pendants over a kitchen island, in corners that need more light, or in other small or dim areas.
2. Plug-In Wall Sconces
If you have plenty of ceiling lights, plug-in wall sconces give you additional lighting in specific zones. You can install them at any height and in any part of the room as long as the cord reaches a nearby electrical outlet without an extension cord. Plug-in sconces work well in small spaces where you don't have room for table lamps or large fixtures. You can also install them beside bathroom mirrors or next to your sleeping area as bedroom lighting.
Wall sconces typically come with mounting hardware to screw them to the wall. Check with your landlord before attaching the hardware to the wall. Anchoring the sconce to a wall stud keeps it stable and secure, but you can use drywall anchors if there is no stud where you want to hang the light.
When choosing the height for the wall sconce, consider how the room is used and how you want to use the sconces. A general guideline is to hang wall sconces about 60 inches off the floor, but you might want them lower or higher based on the room. For example, if you're using them near a seating area, you might want them to be lower so the light source is closer to you when you sit. Plug in the sconce and hold it in different spots to find the ideal height in the room.
3. Floor and Table Lamps
Lamps offer some of the most versatile apartment lighting since they plug into the wall and can go almost anywhere. A well-placed floor lamp can illuminate a large section of the room without taking up any countertop or table space. They typically have wide, stable bases and tall, thin poles that make them easy to slip between two pieces of furniture. Floor lamps elevate the illumination source higher than table lamps for a more general light source.
Table lamps give you pockets of light where you need it. They often go on end tables to work as task lighting while you're seated, but you can use them on nightstands, console tables, or entertainment consoles. You can also slip a small lamp onto a bookshelf, mantel, or desk.
If you already have lamps as part of your apartment lighting design, new lampshades can make them more effective and can improve the ambiance. Heavy, dark shades block much of the light coming from the bulbs. Choose a lighter-colored lampshade made with lightweight material to let more light filter through the shade.
4. Recessed Light Conversion Kits
If your apartment has recessed lighting that doesn't work well, you can get conversion kits that let you install new lighting into the fixture. Many of them don't require any wiring to complete the conversion, so you can easily install a pendant light that brings the illumination closer to you and updates the look of the overhead lighting.
These kits have ends that look like the end of a light bulb. You simply remove the bulb from the recessed light fixture and screw in the conversion kit, which has a cover plate that hides the old fixture. You'll just need a separate pendant light cover or shade that attaches to the end of the converter kit to complete the look. Read the instructions fully for the kit you purchase to install it correctly.
5. Hardwired Lights
Most apartments have at least a few hardwired ceiling lights that provide general ambient light for the room. While you shouldn't add new lighting fixtures where none exist, replacing the existing fixtures with something better is usually something renters can do.
Replacing an existing light fixture is relatively easy, but it's still something you should leave to an electrician to avoid personal injury or wiring issues. Your apartment complex might have a handyman on staff who can install the fixture for you. If not, hire an electrician to remove the old fixture and install the new one.
Before swapping the light fixtures, get permission from your landlord, and ensure the new fixture is compatible with the electrical box in the ceiling and isn't too heavy for it. Keep the old fixture in case your landlord wants it to be reinstalled when you move or you want to take your new fixture with you.
6. New Light Bulbs
If you don't want to swap out light fixtures or install plug-in fixtures, you can often get better illumination from existing fixtures with new light bulbs. Replacing incandescent lights with LED lights often gives your fixtures an instant boost without changing your overall interior design scheme. Look for bulbs with higher lumens.
The color temperature of LED bulbs also affects the look of the light. For example, cool white light bulbs between 3100K (Kelvin) and 4500K offer a bright appearance that's ideal for task lighting. Bulbs between 4600K and 6500K offer a cool, bright, daylight look, which also works well as task lighting. Soft, warm light with a more amber glow is at the lower end of the temperature spectrum at 2700K or less.
7. LED Strip Lights
LED strips aren't just for dorm rooms. You can use LED strip lights in many ways to brighten your apartment. The LED strip lights are easy to install, often with an attached self-adhesive backing. Most strips come with remotes and have the option of controlling the light brightness and colors in an app as well. They come in both battery-powered and plug-in versions.
Some ideas for using these lights include:
- Along the toe kick at the bottom of bathroom vanities and kitchen cabinets
- Along the stairs
- At the top of the wall around the room
- Behind mirrors
- Along shelves in pantries, closets or bookcases
- Behind TV and computer screens
LED strip lights often come in lengths of about 50 feet. However, you can usually cut them at designated points to customize the length. Once you cut the strip to the desired length, peel the backing to reveal the adhesive at one end and press the strip in place. Continue peeling the backing as you move along the length, pressing the LED strips into place as you go.
8. String Lights
If you think string lights are for backyards only, you're missing out on an easy apartment lighting option. String lights come in many different styles and shapes, from simple round bulbs to novelty lights that fit the other home decor in the room. You can also get curtain lights with multiple strands of string lights hanging down from a top wire for a glowing backdrop behind your bed, a chair, or the couch.
To hang string lights in your apartment and still get back your deposit, use removable plastic hooks to hold the wires. Position the hooks every few feet where you want the lights to hang.
9. Undercabinet Lighting
Apartment kitchens are notoriously small, and they often lack windows. Adding task lighting under your cabinets makes it easier to whip up your favorite meals and makes your apartment kitchen feel brighter. You can get wireless, battery-powered undercabinet lights for an easily removable solution.
The low-profile lights fit behind the cabinet trim and attach with magnets or double-sided tape if you don't want to screw them to the cabinets. Space them out along the bottom of the upper cabinets to create consistent lighting across the countertop. If you space them too far apart, they'll leave shadows between the pools of light. Test different spacing options before you start installing the lights.
You can use undercabinet lights in other areas, too. They work well in pantries, clothing closets, and linen closets. Many of them are motion-activated, so they'll turn on automatically when you open the closets.
10. Flameless Candles
Flameless candles won't generate much functional illumination, but they can safely brighten little corners of your apartment with a warm, cozy glow. Most flameless candles are battery-operated and come with a remote to turn them off and on easily. Many also have timers, so they'll automatically shut off at a certain time. Plus, they come in handy if your power goes out and you need light.
Place groups of candles wherever you want an extra glow. Popular options include fireplace mantels, fireplace fireboxes, coffee tables, end tables, desks, and bookshelves. Choose candles of different heights to keep it interesting. Using a mirror or reflective tray under the candles helps reflect more of the light and makes the candles seem brighter.