Upgrade Your Rental Lighting With These Helpful Hacks

Hanging light fixture in a rental apartment

Laurence Katz / Unsplash

Any rental unit dweller knows that sometimes, apartment lighting just isn't that great (and in many cases, that may be an understatement). Whether you're dissatisfied with the existing fixtures in your unit and are looking for simple ways to make a change or just need some help determining how to make your space feel brighter and more welcoming, we're here to help. Below are seven pro-approved tips for transforming the lighting situation in your rental apartment once and for all. Get ready to say goodbye to those oh-so-blah boob lights and hello to fixtures that reflect your style.

Meet the Expert

  • Imani Keal is a home influencer and Washington, DC, renter who maintains the Instagram page @imaniathome.
  • Rosanna Bassford is the founder and principal designer of Eggshell Home in the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Garrow Kedigian is an interior designer who runs Garrow Kedigian Interior Design in New York City.

1. Try This Lightbulb Trick

If the lightbulbs in your apartment are giving your space a less than welcoming feel, don't fret. Home influencer Imani Keal, who lives in a studio apartment in Washington, DC, shares a helpful trick. "If you're into a moody/cozy aesthetic, pair an unlacquered brass fixture with an amber glass light bulb," she suggests. "The 'golden glow' is everything and will warm up any space."

lighting in bathroom

@imaniathome / Instagram

2. Fake Custom Sconces

Maybe you've always admired the look of sconces hanging beside a bed or in the living room—but if you're a renter, you can't just electrically wire a brand new piece into the wall. While there are many plug-in sconces on the market, those who crave a cord-free setup will want to follow this simple puck light hack. Simply adhere your sconce to the wall, attach a puck light inside (they can be purchased affordably at home improvement stores), and call it a day. The lights can be controlled with a remote control, and your sconces will appear just as electrically hardwired ones would, no electrician required.

sconces in bedroom

Lauren Andersen for Rosanna Bassford

3. Say Goodbye to Unsightly Fixtures

With your landlord's permission, consider taking down light fixtures that don't complement your design aesthetic and hanging new ones in their place. If your apartment is full of unsightly "boob lights" (i.e., a round flush-mounted ceiling light) or other pieces that are just plain dated, take a look at home decor websites including Target, Amazon, and Wayfair, which are chock full of affordable, current lighting options. You'll want to opt for a fixture that's both stylish and functional, of course. "I try to look for fixtures that have more than one bulb in order to really maximize the light in a room," says designer Rosanna Bassford of Eggshell Home.

Of course, once you do settle on a piece you love, you'll want to bring a pro in to ensure the installation process goes smoothly! And just be sure to store the original fixtures somewhere safe, as you'll need to hang them back up before you move out.

living room chandelier

@amberpiecedesigns / Instagram

4. Add Lots of Lamps

There are lots of stylish lamps of all shapes, sizes, and colors on the market, and consider this your permission to go wild and deck out your space with lots of fun, new fixtures. "I always push lamps and floor lamps on all my projects to all my clients," says designer Garrow Kedigian of Garrow Kedigian Interior Design. "Task lighting strategically placed around the perimeter of a room fills pockets of light neatly into every corner, and allows for soft ambience conducive to friendlier and more welcoming environments." Bassford agrees. "Portable lights not only provide much-needed light in apartments but are also decorative," she says. "There are so many styles out there—you can really complement your decor and style. Or the lamp can be the statement piece in a room."

lamps in apartment

Whittney Parkinson

5. Mix and Match Lamp Sizes

You'll want to be thoughtful about the types of lamps you work into your space, Bassford notes.
"I like doing a table lamp mixed with a floor lamp or two floor lamps around the sofa. You can even put a mini lamp on your kitchen counter which is an unexpected touch." And she shares one additional tip to ensure maximum effect: "Add decorative mirrors to bounce that light around."

variety of lamps in living room

Arbor and Co

6. Hang a Picture Light

Add extra brightness to a nook and make your wall art appear museum-worthy by installing a luxe-looking (but ultra-affordable) picture light. Simply hang it above some of your favorite frames so that they can truly shine. Small touches like these make an apartment feel custom but can actually be incorporated in just a few minutes.

picture light in apartment

@annawpage / Instagram

7. Don't Forget About the Kitchen

It's possible that your apartment kitchen doesn't feature any windows. To brighten things up as you cook, consider adding a lamp on your counter (if space allows) or even on your kitchen island. A petite one will do the trick! You could also try the puck light sconce hack in this space if you'd prefer.

kitchen sconces

@houseofchais / Instagram