Unless you're purchasing a sprawling penthouse à la Carrie and Mr. Big, renting apartments often comes with a unique set of issues, chief among which is a lack of decent lighting. Don't fret, though, because unfortunate apartment lighting doesn't mean you have to sacrifice living in a stylish space. We asked an interior designer Kevin Dumais for his tips, tricks, and secrets for the right kinds of lights to buy and where to put them so that your apartment, no matter how small, will look just right. Whether you're into minimalist lighting or you're learning in a more maximalist direction, we've got you covered.
Meet the Expert
The right lighting can not only set the right mood in your home, making it feel extra cozy especially in colder months, it can also save you precious space and improve the functionality of more task-oriented rooms like the kitchen and bathroom. So if you feel like your home could use a dose or two of lighting improvements, start with these clever apartment lighting ideas and brighten up your nights before days start getting shorter.
Try an Eye-Catching Flush Mount
Living room lighting ideas are limitless because there are so many living room configurations. However, we've noticed that one thing most apartment living rooms have in common are low ceilings, which can be a challenge. Luckily, you can trick the eye into elevating your ceilings by placing an eye-catching flush mount chandelier. Dumais says, "When considering oversized fixtures or lanterns, we like to make sure they look great lit and unlit." That way, it can light the way when it's lit and function as art when it's not. We always love a good double-duty piece!
A flush mount will also draw the eye up and add visual interest and provide multi-dimensional lighting more than a single flush mount would.
Install Kitchen Task Lighting
Does your kitchen only have overhead lighting? Improve form and function by adding a plug-in or hardwired task wall light. Not only will it make your space feel layered and chic, it will also create a moodier ambiance that will make you want to order in less and cook more. Dumais adds, "Focal lighting highlights important surfaces, art, and objects. It’s the more playful, visually impactful layer of light that drives the character of a space."
Drop a Low Pendant in the Bathroom
Most run-of-the-mill apartments have only overhead lighting in the bathroom, which is less than ideal for getting ready in the morning—especially if the space is low on natural light. To make your bathroom lighting more dimensional, add funky sconces flanking the vanity mirror, or, if you're looking for a more space-saving solution, try hanging a low pendant from the ceiling to come down to the height where a sconce would be.
Add a Variety of Light Sources
Living rooms are always best appointed when they feature a variety of lighting sources dispersed in a triangular pattern around the room and at differing heights. Use a variety of floor lamps, table lamps, and ceiling fixtures to make your living room feel ultra-cozy and moody.
And don't forget to put everything on dimmers. "In any space, it's important to have multiple layers of light: ambient, focal, and statement-worthy. A glowing pendant, large floor lamp, or table lamp will illuminate the envelope of a room and make it more inviting," Dumais suggests. We couldn't agree more.
Hang a Picture Light
Picture lights are traditionally used to showcase paintings or library shelves, but they can double as a reading sconce if hung directly over a banquette or chair. Best of all, a picture light will instantly elevate your space and make it look more expensive than it actually is, and we consider that a win.
Hide a Lamp in a Bookcase
If you're short on space, hide a smaller lamp in a bookcase. "A small lamp can be nestled on a bookshelf or inside a cabinet to add highlights and whimsy," Dumais mentions. It will also add dimension to your lighting plan without overtaking a surface like a credenza or a side table. Pick a lamp that's a little sculptural and interesting so it will look perfectly in its place on the shelves.
Replace Bedside Table Lamps With Sconces
Replace your bedside lamps with sconces to save precious nightstand space. Dumais advises, "If you have a tight space, a sconce or pendant is a nice alternative to your typical bedside lamp. You can get the scale of light and quality you need without sacrificing valuable surface real estate."
If you have the room, hang them on the outside of the bed frame, but they can also be hung directly above the bed in tighter quarters.
Hang Globe Lights Over an Island
There's something very Parisian about globe lights, whether in a table lamp or pendant form. Style aside, they're super functional and radiate a ton of romantic, diffused light. Dumais adds, "Globe-shaped pendants are a terrific source of ambient light. In a kitchen, we always make sure we have a light source that casts light onto the ceiling, which indirectly lights the room."
What's more, indirect light makes a space feel more welcoming than harsher direct light, which can sometimes feel like a spotlight. And no one needs that added pressure when chopping and stirring.
Play With Scale
We are reconsidering the standard that table lamps must be tiny and cute in order to fulfill their purpose. Dumais says, "Sculptural table lamps are a great way to add personality to a room. On a larger scale, they can help ground a space and add a focal point while becoming a main source of light." In our opinion, the bigger the table lamp, the better. It will provide a good source of light and conversation.