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How to Have Great Lighting in a Rental

How to Have Great Lighting in a Rental

Posted by Chris Johnson on Sep 18th 2015

Having adequate, quality, and - heaven forbid - stylish lighting when you live in a rented space can seem like a far-away dream. Your landlord or property manager has certain limits and regulations on what changes you can make, so creating a lighting design you like feels next to impossible.

What's a renter to do? It's time to get creative with your lighting.

For The Kitchen

Let me guess. When you moved into your current place, your kitchen had a single ceiling light fixture - a linear fluorescent, a track light - on a basic on/off light switch. The brightness of that single ceiling light is too jarring in the morning, and when you're chopping, dicing, and frying in the evening, it's not enough. The best thing you can do in here is add one or two light layers for extra task light. Start with under cabinet lights, because they'll make it easier for you to see while cooking, and add a nice ambiance to the room. You can opt to leave the ceiling lights off when you want a lower light level, or use them with your ceiling lights when you've got your chef's hat on.

Probably, you're not permitted to hard-wire or mount anything with screws, so your options are slightly more limited, but you've still got a variety of plug-in or battery-powered, adhesive-backed fixtures. Check these out:

  • LED Tape Lights offer bright, even illumination over your entire counter space. They're extremely low-profile, dimmable, energy-saving and come in a variety of colors and color temperatures.
  • Plug-In Under Cabinet Lights are another easy way to provide warm and crisp task lighting for your kitchen. Many durable xenon light fixtures attach with adhesive, so they'll easily fit under your cabinets, and come loose when you're ready to move.
  • LED Battery Operated Puck Lights are an affordable choice for a little extra task lighting. Just pop them anywhere you need more light, and they'll last and last.
  • Our LED Motion Sensing Under Cabinet Lights are battery operated fixtures that even homeowners can't get enough of. They'll stick under your cabinets and come on when they sense you near - perfect when your hands are dirty or full.

Note: When choosing a secondary light source for your kitchen, make sure the fixture's color temperature is similar to the light that you already have. Conflicting color temperatures won't make a bad lighting situation any better.

For The Living/Sleeping Area

Luxury apartment with accent lighting

Oh, to be able to choose nice light fixtures for your home. And oh, to have them on custom lighting controls. It's the plight of every renter. If you're stuck with a cheap, unsightly ceiling light in your bedroom or living room, or don't have ceiling lights at all, it's time to use your imagination.

  • Good news: Those ubiquitous glass ceiling lights, mocking, perched above your head, don't have to remain. You might not be able to obliterate them in exchange for sleek recessed cans, but you can replace the glass cover with a chic shade that fits your style. It's non-invasive, easy to do, and totally temporary.
  • No ceiling light at all? Light levels still not up to snuff? Don't be afraid to invest in some table and floor lamps that you really love. These are pieces that can outlast your current living situation and still be great. You might be renting, but don't be afraid to commit to something that you think could make you happy beyond your years in the apartment.
  • Wish you could control the light levels in your bedroom for a romantic evening in? Or in the living room for a relaxing movie night? While you might not be able to change out the standard light switches for dimmers, you can find dimmers to use on table and floor lamps.

For the Bathroom

Bathroom lighting in a spacious apartment bathroom

The average rental bathroom is unremarkable at best. It either has a single, ugly ceiling fixture or one lame light bar above the mirror - a real bummer, considering any lighting designer you ask will tell you that adequate bathroom lighting consists of at least 2 light sources, one at the mirror and one on the ceiling. And beyond that, you need relaxing lighting options in the bathroom, too. What about dimmers for tranquil baths, or shower lights for enhancing the mood? There's yet more work to be done...

  • If your fixtures are just too darn ugly, the first thing you can do is ask your landlord if you can update them with a can or two of spray paint. Sometimes that's all you need to wake up the room, and if it's an improvement on the current state of things, your landlord might just embrace it.
  • When you're stuck with just a light above the mirror, it can be difficult to see things very well in the bathroom. While this fix might not be as adequate as a real overhead light, adding a temporary motion-sensing battery operated ceiling light can help your situation, at least somewhat. Just make sure you find one that's moisture-resistant.
  • For an added sense of luxury in your rental bathroom, bringing in a water-resistant table lamp can help it feel more like an actual room, instead of just a utilitarian space.
  • Of course, when all else fails, a candle or two will always help transform your bathroom into a more luxurious space.

For the Deck/Patio

Decorative lighting in an apartment patio

If you're lucky enough to be renting a space with your own personal deck or patio, you should make the most of it! While some apartments and townhouses have architecturally interesting and beautiful decks, they still tend to skimp when it comes to the lighting. It's pretty hard to enjoy an outdoor space at night when it's lit by a single flood or porch light. You need to customize!

  • For a little mood lighting, you should add some white LED string lights or rope lights to your outdoor space. Use them to enhance the architecture of the area, wrapping them around any lattice work or handrails, and even draping them between posts.
  • You can also add decorative ambiance with colorful lanterns, a great way to express your personal style. Just make sure you light them with LED lights. LEDs don't produce any UV rays, which is what attracts insects to light in the first place.
  • For safety lighting around steps or other obstacles, you might want to invest in some simple battery operated deck lights. They're easy to install (and easy to remove).

Any renters out there dealing with bad lighting? How are you coping? How can we help?

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