Unless you're purchasing a sprawling penthouse à la Fredrik Eklund, apartments often notoriously come with a unique set of issues: Little natural light, low ceilings, and limited space. But that's not something a dose of clever lighting can't fix. While apartments old and new often come with standard builder-grade lighting—from recessed spotlights in newer buildings to the infamous "boob lamps" in older pre-war spaces—they are rarely great.
Invest in quality lighting in every room to make a huge impact in the overall feel of your space.
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. And, according to interior designer Emily Henderson in a previous interview with MyDomaine, "Lighting is one of those things that feels like a hard, permanent finish, but it's not. You can swap them right back out when you move and take them with you, so I say dive in and change it out for something you love."
So if you feel like your apartment could use a dose of lighting improvements, start with these nine clever apartment lighting ideas to brighten your space, without sacrificing style.
Try an Eye-Catching Flush Mount
Low ceilings can be a challenge in small spaces, but you can trick the eye into elevating your ceilings by placing an eye-catching flush mount chandelier. Not only will it not be cumbersome to light a low-hanging chandelier, it will draw the eye up, add visual interest, and provide multi-dimensional lighting more than a single flush mount would.
Similarly, flush mount lighting would work well as a quick update to a small bathroom. Courtney Nye, Principal Designer of Courtney Nye Design, especially loves lighting options by Glomar; available at Home Depot. In a previous interview with MyDomaine, she says, "Every place I've ever moved into had at least some dated or unattractive light fixtures. I love these Glomar flush mount lights because they can either replace a ceiling light or a vanity sconce for a clean, modern, and affordable upgrade. Because they're so simple, the light bulb type can help direct the style."
Install Task Lighting in the Kitchen
Does your kitchen only have overhead lighting? Improve form and function by adding a plug-in or hardwired task wall light (though make sure to read through your rental agreement before purchasing lights that require hardwiring.) Not only task wall lights make your space feel layered and chic, but they'll also create a moodier ambiance that will make cooking more enjoyable, and help with the minute tasks you normally would have executed in the dark. When considering task lighting, some efficient ideas include installing lighting in your cabinets and shelving, drawers, and of course, your kitchen countertops.
Some experts argue that planning task lighting (light where you really need it) should be a top priority, before adding accent lighting (if budget and space allow) to add visual interest.
Drop a Low Pendant in the Bathroom
Most run-of-the-mill apartments only have overhead lighting in the bathroom, but it's 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 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.
For example, one could source all of their lighting needs at IKEA and score direct overhead lighting, decorative chandeliers that make a statement in the living room, whimsical pendants for character, and sleek floor lamps that fit perfectly in empty corners and reading nooks.
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 to look more expensive than it actually is.
Hide a Lamp in a Bookcase
If you're short on space, hide a smaller lamp in a bookcase. It will add dimension to your lighting plan without overtaking a surface like a credenza or side table. Pick a lamp that's a little sculptural and interesting so it will look precisely in its place on bookshelves.
Replace Bedside Table Lamps With Sconces
Replace your bedside lamps with sconces to save precious nightstand space. If you have the room, hang them on the outside of the bed frame, but they can also hang directly above the bed in tighter quarters (a great space-saving trick in place of floor or table lamps.)
If you're renting, plug-in sconces can do wonders to elevate the bedroom, and, when it's time to move, you'll have something chic to take with you to your new space.
Place a Floor Lamp in Dark Corners
Light up dark corners of your bedroom or living room by placing a floor lamp in those often overlooked spaces. Their slim design doesn't take up much floor space, making them great for apartments.
Create Ambiance With Dimmers
If you can, incorporate dimmer switches whenever possible for ultimate lighting flexibility in your home. Or, choose lamps that feature 3-way bulbs or high/low lighting options.
Curious about more lighting design ideas and strategies? We've got lots: