10 ways to customize lighting in any space – no electrician needed!

DIY, Lighting

When moving into a new home, lighting is one of the key elements to making the space feel warm and inviting. Yet very often, the lighting that exists is less than ideal, something that is especially true of rental apartments. You name it, I’ve seen it, from not enough lighting, to light switches being in the wrong place, to unattractive lighting fixtures. So over the years, I’ve come to rely on a few quick and inexpensive ways to deal with the many lighting challenges I’ve faced, which I’m happy to be sharing with you today!


1) LED Light Bulbs

The first thing I do when moving into a new apartment is to switch out all the incandescent light bulbs for LED light bulbs. They last longer and consume less energy so you save money in the long run. I like to buy dimmable ones because they can be used with any type of light switch.


2) Wall mounted switch and plug-in receiver 

My life changed for the better when I discovered wall mounted switches and plug-in receivers and I’ve used these in just about every home I’ve lived in since! They give you the ability to add a light switch anywhere to control plug-in lamps. You simply plug the receiver into an outlet and then plug your lamp into the receiver. Then you place the light switch anywhere you want in the room.


I did this in my NYC studio apartment to control a table lamp and in my LA apartment, I used an adapter to connect 2 wall sconces to one receiver. This gadget really opens up a lot of possibilities to customize the lighting in any space.

Wireless wall switch and receiver NYC apartment_edited-2

3) Easy Plug-in Dimmer Switch

Having light switches with dimmers makes it easy to change the mood of a space – it’s fairly easy to switch out regular switches to dimmable ones, but an quick alternative is to use plug-in dimmer switches instead. You simply plug the lamp into the switch, plug the switch into an outlet and you’re done! Just be sure you select the right one depending on wether you have incandescent or LED lightbulbs.


4) Electrical Socket Adapters

Electrical socket adapters are another staple in my “lighting kit” and my favorite by far is this one that can turn a regular lamp socket into extra outlets – they are great to plug in electronic devices at your desk or even a glue gun for craft projects.


5) Lighted Decorative Wall Panels

Decorative lighting elements, like these wall mounted lighting panels I made for my NYC Apartment. They work really well in hallways or for large blank walls because they add mood lighting in the evening, give some architectural detail and interest and also provide a way to add color to otherwise plain and boring walls.

Ep-10-Lighted-floating-wall panels main image web

6) Plug-in Wall Sconces

When there isn’t enough lighting in a space and not a lot of floor space for table lamps, plug-in wall sconces can be an easy solution that works especially well for rental apartments. There are many that you can buy pre-made but you can also make your own – these wall sconces that I made are easy to customize with different shades to fit any decor or style.


7) Battery Powered LED Lights for Closets

It’s difficult to find things in a dark closet – I’ve used stick-on battery bowered LED lights in one of my closets that I turned into a mini-workshop and they work great. To make them easy to remove when I move out, I used removable double-sided tape to stick them to the bottom of the shelf.


8) Replace Lamp Fixture Shades

Builder grade light fixtures can be pretty unattractive – one option to deal with them is to replace the fixture entirely but another solution is to simply replace the shade with a new one, like I did here in my NYC Apartment: By making a drum shade, I was able to customize it to fit my decor and give a whole new look to the fixture, but you could also find inexpensive shades at thrift stores or yard sales.


9) Under cabinet Lighting for the Kitchen

Having enough light where you need it is especially important in the kitchen, and often times, the existing ceiling fixtures don’t give off enough light where you need it: at the counter. A simple fix is to install LED under cabinet lighting – it takes only minutes to do and you can easily remove it later when you move out. Doing this in my LA apartment kitchen made a huge difference it how functional it is in the evening.

Finished kitchen lighting

10) Outdoor Lighting

If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space, don’t forget to add some lighting there too! It will make it feel more like an outdoor room and it will give a beautiful view in the evening. There are a lot of options these days, from solar powered LED lights to SMART LED lights that can be controlled with your phone, which is what I installed on my LA balcony.


I hope these tips are helpful to brighten up your space and if you have any tips you want to share, please add them to the comments below!


  1. This is a great article! Thanks.

  2. This is wonderful thanks. I’m a long time renter in Sydney, Australia and lighting is extremely important to me for ambience as well as practicality. I had no idea about wall mounted switchers and adaptors for dimmables and love the lamp shade on the ceiling effect. Great blog.

    • Thanks so much Kate! I’m with you on how important lighting is and I love those little gadgets. They really make it easy to customize lighting anywhere but especially in a rental 🙂

  3. 5 years after publication this list is still so very useful and offers creative solutions for bringing light into our basement den area. Thanks!

    • Glad to hear it’s still useful info!

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