Unless you're moving into a sprawling updated penthouse, renting apartments often comes with a unique set of issues—and lighting is no exception. But you don't have to sacrifice living in a stylish home. If your space is lacking natural light, interior designers have plenty of ideas to upgrade your home and let the light shine in. The right lighting can set the mood, save precious space, and improve the functionality of task-oriented rooms like the kitchen and bathroom.
We asked interior designer Kevin Dumais for his tips, tricks, and secrets when it comes to apartment lighting. Whether you're into minimalist lighting or you're leaning in a more maximalist direction, we've got you covered. Learn which types of lights will work best in your space (no matter how small).
Meet the Expert
Kevin Dumais is the mastermind designer and founder of the New York-based firm Dumais. He's also a bonafide lighting expert with a line of gorgeous lamps created with his husband, lighting designer Charlie Dumais.
If you feel like your home could use a dose or two of lighting improvements, keep scrolling to browse clever apartment lighting ideas and brighten up your space.
Try an Eye-Catching Flush Mount
Living room lighting ideas are limitless because there are so many ways to design this space. However, we've noticed that one thing most apartment living rooms have in common is low ceilings, which can be a challenge. Luckily, you can trick the eye into elevating your ceilings by installing an eye-catching flush mount chandelier.
Design for Day and Night
"When considering oversized fixtures or lanterns, we like to make sure they look great lit and unlit," Dumais says. That way, it can light the way when it's lit and function as practical art when it's not (we always love a good double-duty piece). The black chandelier in this living room helps draw the eye up, adds visual interest, and provides multi-dimensional lighting in the space.
Install Kitchen Task Lighting
If you're working with simple overhead lighting in the kitchen, improve the room's form and function by adding a plug-in or hardwired task wall light. Not only will it make your space feel layered and chic, but it can create a moody ambiance that makes cooking even more enjoyable.
Make It Multi-Functional
We love the swing-arm lighting in this bedroom—not only because of its stunning style, but also for its functional design. With three different bulbs, it's easy to switch on the settings you need at various times of the day. Turn on all three when you're getting ready in the morning, and opt for the small bedside bulb to curl up with a book at night. The wall-mounted design saves valuable surface space in a small bedroom.
Style a Focal Point
"Focal lighting highlights important surfaces, art, and objects," Dumais says. "It’s the more playful, visually impactful layer of light that drives the character of a space." We love how the modern pendant fixture serves as a focal point in this living room, complementing the furniture's gold accents and brightening up the entire 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 room is low on natural light. To make your bathroom lighting more dimensional, add funky sconces flanking the vanity mirror. If you're looking for a more space-saving solution, try styling a low pendant that hangs at the standard height of a sconce.
Add a Variety of Light Sources
Make your living room feel dynamic with several light sources dispersed in a triangular pattern around the room at differing heights. Use a variety of styles for an ultra-cozy vibe. "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.
Install Dimmer Switches
Don't forget to put your lights on dimmers. During the day, your new fixtures can shine bright to illuminate your space—but in the evening, it's nice to create a warm, relaxed glow with the flick of a switch. In this living room, soft lighting is complemented by burning candles that make us want to curl up and stay forever.
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—and we consider that a win. Cozy up to the light's soft glow when you're going for a moody vibe.
Replace Bedside Table Lamps With Sconces
Replace your bedside lamps with sconces to save precious nightstand space. "If you have a tight space, a sconce or pendant is a nice alternative to your typical bedside lamp," Dumais advises. "You can get the scale of light and quality you need without sacrificing valuable surface real estate."
If you have the room, hang wall sconces on the outside of the bed frame. They can also be hung directly above the bed in tighter quarters.
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 the surfaces on your credenza or side tables. Pick a lamp that's a little sculptural and interesting to look like a piece of art on the shelves.
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 also functional and radiate plenty of romantic, diffused light. "Globe-shaped pendants are a terrific source of ambient light," Dumais adds. "In a kitchen, we always make sure we have a light source that casts light onto the ceiling, which indirectly lights the room."
Opt for Indirect Lights in the Kitchen
Indirect light makes a kitchen feel more welcoming than harsher direct light, which can sometimes feel like a spotlight. No one needs that added pressure when chopping and stirring. Update fluorescent fixtures or ceiling lights with soft, inviting lighting that emits a bright glow.
Play With Scale
"Sculptural table lamps are a great way to add personality to a room," Dumais says. "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 larger the lamp, the better—the lighting itself can make a major style statement.
Experiment With Oversized Styles
Whether you're working with a large entryway or a small apartment living room, oversized pendant lighting is an excellent way to play with scale. Opt for a bright color or a fixture with metallic hardware to stand out, or choose neutral hues that blend into the ceiling. We love how this woven light adds a burst of texture to the minimalistic room without upsetting its neutral color scheme.
Design in Odd Numbers
When you're designing multiple lights of the same style in your space, work with odd numbers: This method helps add an element of balance and symmetry to your space with minimal effort. We love how these matching white pendant lights draw attention to this living room's open dining nook.
For a sleek, minimalistic look, choose light fixtures in the same color as your ceiling and wall paint to blend the design together and put the focus on texture.
Blend It In
To create a soft glow in your room without distracting from your overall design, choose lighting that matches your wall color. This black table lamp effortlessly blends into the rest of the space, while its curved shape adds just a hint of texture. A bright white shade brings in contrast to match the lighter accents in the bedding and wall art.
Mix and Match Styles
Upgrade a simple chandelier by switching up the covers with a mix of vintage lights. The mismatched style in this dining area adds an elegant vibe to the room, but by using similar shades of glass and hardware, the chandelier feels intentional and eclectic. We love how the neutral hues in the lighting complement the artwork and warm, creamy tones on the wallpaper.
Contrast Your Bathroom Walls
Bathrooms are a great place to experiment with wallpaper patterns, thanks to their smaller size and minimal wall space to cover. But the wallpaper alone isn't enough to complete a design—and the proper lighting can even make your statement colors pop. Choose warm, metallic accents like this gold wall sconce, mirror frame, and towel holder to complement cool blue hues on the walls.
While a dining area may traditionally be a place for a large chandelier, we love this design choice to style a swing-arm light over the table. An added bonus of this type of light is the ability to move it back and forth when needed, which allows you to adjust your light source depending on the mood you'd like to set. Rather than distracting from the beautifully styled table with a fur throw and fresh flowers, the lighting adds just enough brightness and a minimalist black style to the sleek space.