7 Surefire Ways to Make Your Small Rental Feel Bigger and Brighter

  • 01 of 08

    How to Rehab a Cramped Dim Rental Without Getting Evicted

    Apartment living room

    When a small space doesn't receive much natural light, it can feel more like a cramped cave than a cozy home. Sure, removing a few walls can make your abode feel bigger and brighter. But, structural changes like these will get you evicted if you live in a rental. The following seven surefire solutions will help you lighten things up, so your home feels more spacious, without risking your security deposit.​

  • 02 of 08

    Light Walls and Floors Make Small Spaces Feel Bigger and Brighter

    We Are Knitters

    You may have heard an interior design expert or two say dark colored floors and walls can make a small space feel bigger and brighter. But they're horribly wrong. 

    Dark colored walls and floors absorb and deflect light, which can make even sun-drenched rooms feel gloomy and claustrophobic.

    On the flip side, light colored walls and floors recede and reflect light, which will make jewel box sized rentals seem not only bigger, but also feel up to 50 percent brighter. Like the 225-square foot apartment above. White walls, blonde wood floors, and colorful décor accents gave this tiny studio an airy and cheerful lift.

    Tip: Can't replace your dark flooring? You can lighten things up with a light colored area rug.

  • 03 of 08

    How to Clean Your Dirty Light Fixtures and Dusty Light Bulbs

    Getty Images

    Here's a dirty little secret. Your light fixtures and light bulbs may be keeping you in the dark. Light sources like enclosed ceiling fixtures that collect dust and dead bugs reduce a light bulb's room brightening effects. Dusty bulbs will also make your home feel dim and oppressive. They can shed up to 30 percent less light compared to their sparkling clean counterparts according to the U.S. Energy Department.

    Cleaning dirty items like these will certainly make your space feel more airy and bright. Before you get started, turn off the fixture you'll be tidying. Once the light bulb is cool to the touch, remove it and wipe with a clean and dry dust cloth. You can do the same with fabric lamp shades and glass globes. If a glass globe is still dirty after dusting, gently wash it in the sink.

    Tip: Consider bulbs with more lumens. The higher the number, the brighter the output. Not sure how many lumens you need? Energy Star breaks down everything you need to know here.

  • 04 of 08

    Before: Your Dark Furniture is Making Your Small Rental Feel Gloomy

    Dark sofa
    Ikea Hackers

    Dark furniture, like the sofa above, can make a sunlight deprived rental feel pinched for space. On the following page, you will see how a simple Ikea hack lightened up not only this gloomy sofa, but also the entire living room.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    After: A Dark Dated Sofa Got a Room Brightening Makeover

    Ikea Hackers

    Ryan and Lizzie from The Hip Soiree shared their Ikea Kivik sofa makeover on Ikea Hackers.

    What did they do? They purchased a Blekinge white slipcover (it's been recently replaced by the EKTORP sofa cover) and dyed it orange in their bathtub. The cover's bright hue lightened up their entire living room.

    They also gave their sofa a big dose of midcentury flair by tufting the cushions. You can learn more here.

    Tip: If you're not allowed to paint your rental's dark walls, light-hued furniture, and colorful wall art will make your space feel bigger and brighter.

  • 06 of 08

    Reflective Surfaces Can Make Your Rental Feel Bigger and Brighter

    Cloud Pen Studios

    Glossy surfaces reflect light, which can make a small rental feel brighter and bigger. 

    Got hardwood or tile floors? You can give both a rich, shiny finish with floor polish. Are you allowed to paint your rental? A fresh lick of paint in a pale shade and with an eggshell finish will diffuse and reflect light better than the same color with a matte or flat finish. 

    Mirrors can also make a room feel more open and spacious. Just place mirrored furnishings in spots where they can bounce artificial or natural light that will brighten up the entire space.

    Tip: Don't forget to maximize your rental's integrated lighting. You can use glossy surfaces to make the most of your home's recessed ceiling lights or under cabinet lighting, as shown here.

  • 07 of 08

    How Ditching Clutter Will Make Your Rental Feel Bigger and Brighter


    If your rental makes you cranky, clutter may be to blame. Cluttered surfaces and too much furniture will make even large spaces feel claustrophobic and dingy. Freeing up surfaces like floors and tables will make life at home at home feel more cheerful.

    Tip: Consider replacing free-standing bookshelves with open shelving. The latter reduces both physical and visual clutter. Here's how: Open shelves hang on walls, so they do not eat up floor space. Open shelves also use hidden hardware to install so there's so there are no ugly wall brackets ruining your view.

  • 08 of 08

    How to Layer Your Lighting To Boost Function in a Small Rental

    Rover Building Company

    Multiple light sources will make not only make your small rental feel more spacious and open, but it will also boost function around your abode. Layering a room with a variety of lighting solutions like pendant lamps, ceiling fixtures, and spotlights will make it easier to do things in your home like cleaning, reading or cooking.  

    Tip: Adding multiple light sources to a dim space will allow you to adjust brightness for mood lighting.