Light Up Your Apartment

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Glass Jar Pendant Light

Glass Jar Pendant Light (Photo credits: West Elm)

Those living in apartments know how important lighting is – especially those living in center units. When there are neighbors on either side, above, and below you, it can be tough to get a lot of natural light. You may find that while the living room or dining area has plenty of natural light from windows, the bedroom or the kitchen could use some help. With a little work and some strategic light placement, those rooms lacking light will begin to glow.

If you don’t like traditional lighting or you want to add some personality through your lighting, or you just don’t have much money to go out and buy expensive lamps, you can still get a great look, have plenty of light, and have money left in your wallet.

You may have seen the fancy, round pendant lamps that look like balls of string and wondered how they were made. There are plenty of tutorials on how to make these, such as on Go to the local discount store’s toy section and buy a bouncy ball (if you plan to hang several, buy a variety of different size bouncy balls). Head over to the craft section and get some craft glue (make sure it dries clear) and several balls of hemp string. Finally, go to the hardware section and get a lamp-making kit (wires and hardware) for each pendant.

Toward the bottom of the ball (where the little air valve is), draw a circle with a marker, about an inch away from the valve all the way around. (You’ll have to be able to get the wiring and bulb in there so make sure the space is big enough for your hand to fit.) That area won’t contain any string. Cover the hemp with the glue as you wrap it around the ball. Go all around the ball until you get the look you want. Go around several times – the more you wrap the stronger your lamp will be. Make sure you leave space in the string pattern for heat to escape.

Let it dry then deflate the ball with an inflating needle. Pull the ball out and use your lamp-making kit to wire up your pendant. Use a low-wattage compact florescent light bulb (which gives off less heat) and make sure the bulb isn’t touching the shade.

Use your imagination to create lamps. Once you get the hang of using the lamp-making kit, you can turn wire planters, wine bottles, mason jars, and even old toys into interesting and fun lighting. (I recently came across a lamp base that was made of old action figures glued together and spray-painted gold. What a unique way to “upcycle” old toys!) If you are really handy (and tend to buy a lot of cookies and popcorn that comes in tins), you can even make a floor lamp by stacking a variety of different size and shape snack tins and securing them together.

If you don’t want to build lamps from scratch, you can find great old lamps at flea markets, garage sales, and thrift stores. Look for the size and shape you want, check to make sure the wiring, switch, and socket are in good shape, and ignore everything else – with a little craft (and spray) paint, some stencils, some craft glue, ribbon, fabric, and whatever else you can come up with, you can turn that old, tired lamp into a work of art.

Don’t just add a table or floor lamp to the room and call it a day. Your space will feel more vibrant if you add a variety of lighting options, from floor lamps to hanging lamps to wall sconces to rope lighting. Placement of your lighting is also important – soft lighting is fine in a seldom-used corner, but near your reading area or over your desk you may want something a little brighter. Hang mirrors in strategic locations in the room (on the opposite wall from the lamp, for example) where the light from the lamps will “bounce” and brighten up your space even more.

If you are allowed to paint in your apartment, brighten up darker rooms with pale colors that will reflect the light, such as a sky blue or a soft cream. Add a few touches of bold, bright colors in throw pillows and accessories to make the room even more vibrant, and add a few shade-loving potted plants to further create the illusion of natural light. Shade-loving plants include ferns, bromeliads, African violets, mother-in-law’s tongue, and jade plants. Plants will add color and texture, bring to mind the outdoors (and by proxy sunlight), and you can choose lively pots that will brighten up the whole room.

Don’t let the lack of natural light get you down – instead, turn it into a vibrant space. How do you brighten up those apartment rooms with little to no natural light? Share your ideas with us on Facebook.