Hate the Lighting in Your Rental? Try These Bright Ideas

If turning on the lights in your home makes you look like you’ve been pulling an all-nighter, you've come to the right place. While your options are definitely more limited when dealing with the rules of a rental, there are still some easy fixes you can make to help give your space that perfect glow. I consulted my sister, Robyn, who happens to be a lighting designer at HLB Lighting, for all her best tips and tricks. (That's what sisters are for, right?)



windows in the night

Photo by: Photo: Noriyuki Araki/Getty Images | Graphic: Erica Reitman

Photo: Noriyuki Araki/Getty Images | Graphic: Erica Reitman

Make the Most of Floor and Table Lamps



VIOLET - Since the robes of kings and queens have long been created from violet fabrics, the color is associated with wealth, prosperity and sophistication. Scientifically speaking, violet is known for stimulating brain activity used in problem solving. When used correctly, controlled doses of violet can bring a sense of mystery and wisdom to a space.

This seems like an obvious one, but it truly is the easiest way to transform your space while still making sure you get your security deposit back. Lamps also let you truly flex your design muscles as the style, color and shade choices are virtually endless. Try putting a lamp in an unexpected spot, like your kitchen or bathroom, for even more impact.

Photo by: Lamps Plus

Lamps Plus

Our Product Pick: This arc floor lamp would work for a variety of design styles.

Yes, You Can Use Sconces

Modern White Bedroom With Industrial Wall Lamp

Modern White Bedroom With Industrial Wall Lamp

The bent wall lamp helps create reading light and relaxed room lighting independently in this clean and simple bedroom. A brightly patterned nightstand adds a bold splash of color.

Choose sconces with a standard cord and plug that require no drilling or rewiring. If you want to hide the cord, you can use some wire mold, then paint it the same color as your walls. Or go for a more industrial look and just leave the cord as is.

Photo by: West Elm

West Elm

Our Product Pick: Here is a great midcentury modern-inspired sconce that we especially love.

Swap in New Pendants and Chandeliers

Shared Kids' Room With Bunk Beds and Desks

Shared Kids' Room With Bunk Beds and Desks

Light bulbs suspended at various heights and an oversized photo image on the wall keep desks free of clutter, while bunk beds allow for extra space for the kids to work and play.

Photo by: Matthew Williams

Matthew Williams

As with the sconces, you have cord and plug options for pendants and chandeliers, as well. These allow you to replace the builder grade lighting you might have with chic, new fixtures. Just make sure to keep your old light fixtures so that you can put them back before you move. If you find that you have discoloration on your ceiling that needs to be covered, try a ceiling medallion.

Our Product Pick(s): Head to Color Cord Company for mix-and-match varieties of fabric wire, cord sets, shades and bulbs. It's a wonderland for DIYers. For an option that's a little sleeker, check out Flos' string lights (designed by Michael Anastassiades). 

Are You Using the Right Bulbs?

White Bedroom With Vivid Blue Ocean Photograph and All Black Lamp

White Bedroom With Vivid Blue Ocean Photograph and All Black Lamp

This bedroom combines a light gray headboard with white accents, which creates a light and airy feel. This is contrasted with the eye catching blue ocean photograph and all black contemporary table lamp.

Once you have your lighting figured out, you need to make sure you have the right light bulbs. Stick with LED lights, and choose bulbs with a color temperature of 2700k. This will give you that warm light that flatters everyone.

Our Product Pick: This 6-pack of dimmable LED bulbs will get you started. 

10 More Ways to Lighten Up Your Home

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Make Your Home Light and Bright

HGTV Spring House 2014 is packed with expert lighting ideas like a clever use of mirrors and a proper filtering of natural light. Discover how you can make your interior feel airy and sunny, too.

Drapery Liner

Window treatments can have a huge impact on filtering light as long as the proper drapery liner is used. Homeowners on tight budgets can add a thermal liner to ready-made drapery panels with adhesive bonding tape and an iron. Or, for a more high-end approach, the liner can be professionally sewn to custom panels.

©Rustic White Photography


A lampshade's coloring and material can have a tremendous effect on its lighting. To brighten a room, it's best to choose pure white lampshades made from light, airy organic fabrics such as linen or cotton. This ensures the lampshade will filter artificial light vividly, casting a more flattering glow on the space.

©Rustic White Photography

Mirrored Furniture

Rooms with abundant natural light can be elevated to new heights with the addition of mirrored furniture. Once placed in the space, the reflection from mirrored console tables, coffee tables or end tables adds instant glamour while also bouncing the light into adjacent rooms.

©Rustic White Photography

Glass-Paned Interior Doors

A smart trick for passing natural light from one room to another is to replace any solid doors adjacent to the room with glass-paned doors. Here, the abundant light from the sunroom cascades into and throughout the living room thanks to the glass panes.

©Rustic White Photography

Proper Wattage

A common problem with lighting is improper wattage. While most table lamps or ceiling fixtures are outfitted with 75-watt bulbs for practical reasons, the wattage is too high for decorative purposes. To cast more flattering illumination throughout a room, swap out 75-watt bulbs with 25- to 40-watt bulbs.

©Rustic White Photography


Designers are adamant about installing light fixtures on dimmers to rid rooms of hot spots. This same method is applicable to table lamps with plug-in tabletop dimmers.

©Rustic White Photography

Updating Old Lighting

Homeowners illuminating their home with antique table lamps may wonder why they don't output sufficient light. This may simply require a change of the lampshade harp, the metal accessory which connects the lampshade to the lamp. If a lampshade sits crookedly and too low on the lamp, consider upgrading to a taller harp. This will allow more space below the bulb for light to peek through.

©Rustic White Photography

Globe Bulbs

Chandeliers are routinely outfitted with flame bulbs which can appear stuffy and formal. Instead, add a softer touch to traditional chandeliers with globe bulbs. These are available in two different styles, opaque white or clear. For a more diffused look, it's best to choose opaque white. Clear bulbs put out harsh light which reads more yellow, creating an unflattering effect on a living room.

©Rustic White Photography

Battery-Operated Ambience

Rooms frequented by children and pets aren't the best fit for candlelit ambience. For the same effect without fire safety concerns, use battery-operated candles instead.

©Rustic White Photography


Uplights are used to highlight decorative accents at night. Small in stature, uplights plug directly into outlets and shine up and onto featured objects, dramatically putting them on display.

©Rustic White Photography

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