Want to improve the lighting in your rental but can’t make permanent changes? Here are 8 easy ideas that don’t require any hardwiring.
Good lighting is key to creating a warm, welcoming and practical home. What you want are layers of different light sources for different purposes. What you often get in a rental is a single overhead light per room – too jarring and sterile to give a relaxing mood, yet not bright enough for comfortable reading, working or cooking.
You might assume your options for improvement are limited when your landlord – or your budget – won’t allow for any hardwiring. But fear not: there are plenty of ways to transform the lighting in your home without making permanent changes or hiring an electrician. Here are eight easy ideas to get you started.
1. Add plug-in pendants and wall lamps
Plug-in pendants and wall lamps are a fuss-free way to add more lighting – particularly if you want to create a focal point over a dining table or sitting area, or make a statement by your bedside. You’ll probably need to do a bit of drilling to screw the lamp to the wall or attach a hook for the pendant cord into the ceiling, but it’s nothing a bit of filler won’t fix when you move out. And, as the cables sit externally, there’s zero wiring work required.
Photo credit: Emma Hopkins of @thecrapflat
2. Swap the shades
Changing the shades on existing pendants and lamps can make a big difference. Not only is it a chance to make the place feel more like home by choosing something that reflects your style, it also allows you to improve the quality of the light itself. If you find a particular lamp too glaring, try softening it with a diffuser shade. Or, if you want to cast more light in a certain spot, pick a shade that angles it in one direction.
Most lights and shades use standard fittings so they’re generally interchangeable, although you’ll need an adaptor ring for many IKEA designs. Just remember to keep the old shade somewhere safe so you can swap it back again when you move!
Photo credit: Emma Jane Palin
3. Replace the lightbulbs
Another quick win is switching the bulbs for something that better suits your needs. Light output is measured in lumens and the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the bulb. How many you need varies according to purpose, but in general you’ll want more lumens for task lighting and fewer for soft mood lighting.
It’s also worth considering the colour temperature of the bulb, as this has a huge impact on ambiance. For example, you might prefer crisp white light in kitchens and desk areas, and something cosier in the living room and bedrooms. Colour temperature is listed in kelvins, with ratings above 5000k (roughly equivalent to natural daylight) getting progressively cooler and those beneath getting warmer, but you might just see bulbs labelled as ‘warm white’ or similar.
Lastly, if you have lights with visible bulbs, you could consider a squirrel-cage design with a decorative filament. They’re a little more expensive than standard bulbs but they look stunning, and most modern designs use LED filaments that last for years.
Photo credit: Kerry Villers
4. Vary the mood with dimmable smart bulbs
Smart bulbs screw straight into existing fittings and are operated via remote control or an app, meaning you can alter the brightness (and often also the colour temperature) in an instant without the need for wired-in dimmer switches. IKEA and Phillips both do good ranges, with various shapes, sizes and fitting styles to choose from.
Photo credit: IKEA
5. Go portable
Want to light up a dingy corner with a table or floor lamp, but don’t have a handy power socket nearby? Then try a portable lamp. There’s a vast array of rechargeable, wireless designs on the market nowadays, and many will last 10 hours or more between charges. They also work brilliantly perched on shelves or windowsills, as there are no trailing leads to worry about – and if you have a garden or balcony, you can take them outdoors, too.
Photo credit: Abi Dare of These Four Walls
6. Brighten counters and cupboards with stick-on LED lights
If gloomy kitchen lighting means you struggle to see what you’re cooking, you can illuminate your worktops by sticking adhesive LED lights to the underside of the cabinets or shelves above. There are spotlight styles and more subtle lighting strips, and most just need a quick tap or push to operate.
Stick-on LEDs also work brilliantly as accent lighting beneath bookshelves, or inside dark wardrobes and cupboards – some even come with motion sensors that turn them on automatically when you open the door! And if you want to get really creative, you can place them inside wall sconces for a wired-in look without any actual wiring – see how here.
Photo credit: Kasia Fiszer Photography. Image from Maisie-violet Rees’ home tour
7. Be imaginative with string lights
String lights aren’t just for celebrations and holidays – they help bring a welcoming glow to your home all year round. Wind them around headboards and window frames, swag them along shelves or mantelpieces, or use them to add a touch of magic to children’s bedrooms. You don’t need to drill any holes to hang them, either, as stick-on hooks from Command will easily support their weight.
Photo credit: Kasia Fiszer Photography. Image from Teri Muncey’s Home tour
8. Get cosy with candles
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of candles to create a warm, relaxing mood. If you’re worried about fire hazards or wax spillages, try battery-operated LED candles. Many flicker to mimic the dancing light of the real thing, and they often have timers or remote controls. For a stunning effect place clusters of them on windowsills and tables, use them to decorate empty fireplaces, or dot a few large floor-standing ones around your home.
Photo credit: Rachel Cohen. Image from Salsabil El-Awaisi’s home tour
There you have it – eight easy wiring-free ways to transform the lighting in your rental and create a beautiful, functional home. Have you tried any of them, or do you have any other tips to share? If so, comment below!
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