How to Light an Apartment

How to Transform an Apartment with Lighting - LightsOnline Blog

While the pandemic has caused a migration of city dwellers to take advantage of low interest rates and buy their dream homes in the suburbs, it has simultaneously created the opportunity for many young adults to move out of their parents’ homes and into their own living spaces now that apartment and condo rents have dropped in major metropolitan cities nationwide, from Los Angeles and Seattle to Chicago, Boston, Miami, and New York.

In addition, several of the nation’s largest tech companies announced plans to relocate their headquarters to other states, which has led to an increase in apartment and condo developments in cities such as Austin, Dallas, Nashville, and Atlanta to handle the influx of workers.

While there are many positives to apartment living, one drawback is the restriction on changing the structural shape of the living spaces to better suit renters’ lifestyles. Fortunately, there are plenty of decorating tips and techniques for taking a blank condo or apartment canvas and customizing it beautifully with personal flair that is easy to change back when the lease is up. 

How to Light an Apartment - Swap out the ceiling light - LightsOnline Blog

Start from the Top

The single most impactful change you can make to significantly alter the apartment or condo’s appearance for the better is to bring in new lighting. For example, switch out the existing basic ceiling light with a more decorative lighting fixture that can be taken with you when you move. (Remember to keep the existing light so it can be put back in place before you move!) Since the junction box is already in place for the existing fixture, there is no need to make additional holes in the ceiling or install new wiring. This can be a simple swap.

If the ceiling is nine feet or higher, selecting a unique chandelier or semi-flush mount fixture will bring attention to the ceiling, making the room seem larger. In a room that is architecturally devoid of ornamentation – as most apartments or condos are – an attractive lighting fixture will artistically establish a look that expresses your personal style best, from modern and traditional to boho, farmhouse, industrial, or contemporary.

Recommended ceiling mounts: Trade Winds Fremont, Mitzi Phoebe, Savoy House Creswell, Crystorama Hand-Cut Crystal, Sonneman Dazzle

How to Light an Apartment - Use floor lamps to fake a tall room - LightsOnline Blog

How to Fake It

If you’d like to create the illusion of a taller room, adding floor lamps will visually draw attention upward, elongating a space. Placing floor lamps in the far corners of a room also makes spaces seem bigger because they eliminate dark corners and draw eyes to the back wall, making a room appear longer or deeper.

For older apartments that may not have overhead ceiling lights, there is a clever, little-known affordable solution that solves this lighting challenge. Swag lights! What does “swagging” a light mean? If you have a living space without an existing junction box in the ceiling, you can still enjoy the functional and aesthetic benefits of a ceiling light. These “swag” pendants plug into a wall outlet and purposely have very long cords that allow the pendants to be suspended from a hook screwed into the ceiling. Look for terms such as “plug-in” pendant or “swag” pendant when searching for these types of decorative lighting fixtures. 

Recommended floor lamps and plug-in pendants: George Kovacs Needle, Uttermost Tristana lamp, Maxim Vesper lamp, Trade Winds Patricia pendant, Craftmade Swag pendant

How to Light an Apartment - Use plug-in lights in any room - LightsOnline Blog

Plug In Every Room

Another pitfall of rental properties is the lack of adequate task lighting in the kitchen. There is typically one overhead light, but rarely any supplemental lighting to make it easier to see when performing food prep tasks at the countertop. Fortunately, there are task light bars available that easily attach to the underside of a cabinet (and can be easily removed) and are simply plugged in to a nearby wall outlet. 

These plug-in lighting products are especially ideal for apartments and condos because they install quickly with adhesive strips and therefore can easily be taken down when you move. Plus, the extra light brings a more upscale look to the kitchen.

Similarly, if your bedroom is small, using plug in/pin-up adjustable wall lights on both sides of the bed are a fantastic solution for adding functional light as well as injecting personality into the room without taking up precious space on a nightstand.

The same holds true for brightening a living area where you might need every available square inch on the floor to accommodate furniture. These pin-up wall lights are a beautiful and practical solution; use the terms “plug in” and “pin-up” when searching for appropriate wall lights and sconces with this capability.

Recommended task lights and plug-in sconces: WAC Round task light, Maxim Countermax task light, WAC Stretch plug-in sconce, George Kovacs George’s Reading Room plug-in sconce, Sonneman Perno plug-in sconce

How to Light an Apartment - Use table lamps - LightsOnline

The Power of Table Lamps

When it comes to making a sterile apartment or condo look cozy, adding a couple of table lamps will do wonders. Just as with swapping out the existing ceiling fixtures with new designs, table lamps provide decorative oomph to any room while also supplying much-needed light. There are table lamps available in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and shapes that can truly make a bland room seem more vibrant.

Lighting experts advise placing table lamps at various heights (i.e. on a mantel, desk, shelf, console, or side table) for “visual balance” that makes any space seem more comfortable to be in while also providing ample illumination. If you will be working or studying at home, having a good task lamp on the desk surface will help reduce eye strain and make you feel less tired while concentrating.

Recommended table lamps: Mitzi Aspyn, George Kovacs Park, Uttermost Angora, House of Troy Scatchard, Currey & Company Thompson

Whether you plan to stay in an apartment for years or on a temporary basis, creating well-lit rooms will maximize your enjoyment of the space and will make even the most basic arrangement of four white walls seem spacious and welcoming. 

Now that you know how to light an apartment, you can find everything you need to create a cozy ambiance for your apartment or condo at

Read more:

Scroll to top