4 Simple Lighting Ideas for Apartments and Small Spaces

by Apr 18, 2019Residential0 comments

Small spaces and apartments come with their own set of challenges—strict landlords, low ceilings, or just a lack of surface area. Good lighting is one of the simplest ways to elevate a space, making your design feel more intentional and your room look more spacious.

People often fall into the small space design trap of function-over-form. But following rules too strictly can leave your space feeling a bit lifeless. Personal touches are what makes an apartment feel like home, so go with what feels right, and keep these small apartment lighting ideas in mind while you shop.

Photo courtesy of ApartmentTherapy.com.

Keep it Simple with Sconces

Often, the first place to get cluttered when life gets busy is the bedside table. By the time you climb into bed at night, you’re ready to relax. So what if there are a few too many empty glasses, or a stack of half-read books teetering over the edge or your bedside table? And in the morning, it’s time to get up and go—no time to tidy.

Unfortunately, waking up and falling asleep to a cluttered bedside table can cause stress and irritation to build up day by day. The best way to keep this area clear and stress-free is to prevent clutter from building up in the first place.

You may not expect it, but strategic lighting for small spaces is a great way to guarantee that your bedside tables stay open and organized. Wall sconces hung on either side of the headboard are a timeless, chic design choice.

You’ll love it for the functional benefits alone, but the stylish design options are what really seal the deal. Sconces can be simple, old-timey candelabras fitted with LED edison bulbs for a vintage look. Or, try out silver, gold, copper, or wrought-iron swing-arm wall sconces that function as direct task lighting for bedtime reading.

If sconces aren’t your thing, you can achieve the same decluttering effect by hanging pendant lights from the ceiling on either side of your bed.

Whether you choose sconces or pendants to clear up surface space in your bedroom, look at it as an opportunity to make a design statement, and not as a last resort to make your small space “work.” Sconces and pendants come in a variety of gorgeous shapes, colors, and finishes.

Something simple will lend itself to a minimalist space. Go the maximalist route with something sculptural, bright, or mismatched. Whatever you choose, make sure your fixtures have complementary light bulbs. In the bedroom, it’s best to go for something warm and soft—we already get enough blue light from our phones at bedtime.

Photo courtesy of ApartmentTherapy.com.

Multitask with Track Lights

Track lighting is one of the most effective small living room lighting ideas. It provides surface lighting or accent lighting without the need for too many floor and table lamps. The many heads on track light fixtures allow you to deliberately direct light toward whatever surfaces or objects you want to highlight.

Directing light at walls or ceilings bounces light back into the room, making the space appear brighter and bigger. Lighting specific objects or areas, like bookshelves, desks, and artwork, directs your eye around a space, making the room’s layout feel more deliberate.

Having a separate light fixture for each of these areas can quickly overwhelm a small apartment. Track lighting does the job of many lights with one simple fixture.

Track lighting also helps you avoid the cyclops effect of the single, bright downlights that come with so many apartments. Rather than relying on one harsh bulb to light an entire room, track lighting uses evenly spaced fixtures to disperse softer light throughout your room.

As an added bonus, track lighting can serve as a sculptural, eye-catching element in contemporary spaces without taking up too much space or appearing bulky. Track lights come in sleek, minimalist designs that work best with modern design. But, be warned—they may look out of place in spaces with more formal or traditional decorations.

Aim High

Low ceilings got you down? Don’t just look away. Send light—and your eye—upward.

One great and budget-friendly way to extend light up to the ceiling is with simple floor lamps. Unless you’re looking to make a statement—which is still encouraged, even when lighting for small spaces!—make sure you get one with a relatively small footprint. Light that’s cast from the top of the lampshade will direct your eye upward, creating the illusion of a higher ceiling.

The best floor lamps for sending light upward are:

  • Torchiere lamps
  • Club lamps

Torchieres will send light only toward the ceiling, while club lamps will send light toward the ceiling and toward the floor. For a small apartment, club lamps are probably the most practical choice, since you won’t have to worry about taking up space with a second lamp. Of course, if you find a torchiere you can’t resist, indulge!

When deciding how to light a room with floor lamps, consider your corners. Lighting corners is a great design tip for any space, but is especially handy for when you want a room to look bigger. Corners have a way of receding into darkness, giving the impression of a more closed-in space.

With a floor lamp placed in a corner, you light both walls and the ceiling, maximizing the amount of light that bounces back into the room.

Photo courtesy of HGTV.com.

Unexpected Accents

When you’re living in an apartment with limited space, the multitude of unique, trendy, and timeless accent lamps at home stores and vintage shops can be taunting. So many incredible options, so few side tables!

You can justify that perfect yellow lamp with a little creativite placement. The lamp doesn’t have to take up space in a high-traffic area, like side tables, that you’d otherwise use for remotes, tissues, beverages, or whatever other daily items accumulate.

Do you have a decorative shelf or bookcase in your space? What about a plant stand with a little extra surface area? Maybe you’ve got a bar cart tucked in the corner, waiting patiently between guest visits.

If you’ve got a space that’s decorative or little-used already, consider adding lighting elements. This adds function, of course, but style and depth, too. Adding accent lighting in unexpected places is a great way to get your room design to multitask for you.

Most of these decorative lamps give off soft, ambient light, especially when fitted with the right bulb, so they’ll help you set the mood when you don’t need to see every single thing in your apartment—you just need it to feel cozy, relaxing, and homey.

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