The quickest way to make an apartment feel like home is to add a slew of greenery. It brings instant life to any space — especially a kitchen, as evidenced by the bright and lively Chicago apartment of Joe and Kim Klomes.
Why is it that all rental apartment kitchens have terrible lighting? I’m not talking about the nipple-like light fixtures that are curiously commonplace in New York (that’s a whole other story) — I’m talking about the light itself. The harsh light glares at you and you glare right back — or you would if you weren’t squinting. It makes everything look bad, including your food (your Instagram cred is suffering).
First, make sure your kitchen light is bright enough. “The rule is 100 watts,” says Hopp, but something in the range of 80 to 100 watts works (or around 15 to 17 watts for an LED light).
With limited cabinet space, California renter Kym Pesola took her pot-and-pan collection to new heights with a hanging pot rack over her butcher block counter. Get a pot rack that hangs from the wall instead of the ceiling if you’re worried about patching the holes when you leave.
5. Place a table lamp on the counter: If all else fails, consider the humble table lamp. It’s an untraditional choice for the kitchen, yes, but a small, cheap table lamp with a bright bulb can solve a myriad of lighting problems, especially in the interim.
3. Buy a few battery operated stick-on lights: Last Fall Anne bought a pack of Stick ‘N Click lights for her pantry, which she says was “one of the best things [she] did.” Battery-operated puck lights like these are often cheap and don’t require any hardwiring. Put a few in a dim cupboard or pantry, or any place where you’d like a little more light.
1. Get a brighter bulb for your overhead light: This is the most obvious solution, but you’d be surprised at how overlooked it is. Experts say overhead kitchen lights should have an 80-100 watt bulb. You need a bright bulb to be able to see, so if you’re using anything less than that, switch it out right away and see how much that improves things.
Incandescent bulbs are most likely what you think of when you think of a lightbulb. They give off a soft glow that makes everything and everyone look their best. They do use quite a bit of energy and don’t last as long as other options.
I use Edison bulbs, which are a type of incandescent bulb (along with halogen bulbs) where the filament is exposed. I like that the light isn’t overly bright and, because I also have a window, which provides some natural light, my kitchen feels cheery and well-lit except during the darkest days of winter.
The downside is that these trendy bulbs don’t come cheap — and they tend to use a lot of energy. Finally, there are LED bulbs. These are energy-efficient, emit low amounts of heat, and have a lamp life of a few decades.
They’re also dimmable and come in a wide variety of flattering tones — but they’ll cost you about $15 per bulb. Still, if you spread that cost out over the life of the bulb, this is a great choice; I’m slowly in the process of switching out most of the lights in my house to LED.
3. Turn up (or down) the heat.
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Decorating Inspiring Kitchens Organizing Rental Kitchen Tips & Techniques
If you’re a renter, there may be a lot you don’t like about your current kitchen, but you don’t necessarily have the resources (or permission!) to changes things up. Your options? You either live with things as-is or you get creative and craft a space that works for you, makes the most of what you have, and doesn’t break any of your landlord’s rules.
When Danielle moved into her Montreal apartment, she couldn’t help but be slightly embarrassed by her small, old kitchenette. Now, though, we’re totally jealous of it. She brilliantly stole some space from the adjacent room to extend her countertop and create a bigger work area.
4. Put in under-cabinet lights: Adequately lighting the countertop is crucial if that’s where you usually prep food. The most popular and most affordable under-cabinet lighting choices are fluorescent, halogen, or xenon bulbs, but if you have a bigger budget, LEDs are smaller, last longer, and emit less heat. For more on specific under-cabinet lighting recommendations, see the posts below:
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Even once you’ve decided on the wattage and type of bulb, there are still more choices to be made. If you go to any Lowe’s or Home Depot and take a stroll down the light bulb aisle, you’ll find bulbs labeled “Soft White,” “Bright White,” and “Daylight.” These correspond to different bulb temperatures, and the answer to which is right for you depends on your kitchen.
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Hopp concludes, “As far as color goes, if it’s feeling sterile, then you want to go with a softer, warmer-tone light; the opposite is true if you feel like you’re living in a 1970s, dingy, yellow Stevie Hall kind of way — then you want one with a cooler, bright white tone.”
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Design-savvy North Carolina renter Kate Sykes added a dose of color and charm to her all-white kitchen with a piece of ruby-red art over her sink. While the kitchen isn’t necessarily the first place you’d think of for your favorite screen prints, it is one of the highest-trafficked areas in your home — so why not? It’s especially fun if you don’t have a window over your sink and you want something to look at while you do the dishes.
See the whole home: A Bright Organic Modern Apartment in Chicago’s Logan Square on Apartment Therapy
Budget Interior Design Kitchen Life in the Kitchen Rental Kitchen
Are you a renter? What sort of brilliant storage or decorating ideas have you come up with for your kitchen?
Thankfully, there’s a cheap and easy way to make your rental kitchen bright and cheery.
“Lighting is tricky because every space is different and so has a different need,” says Megan Hopp, a designer for Homepolish. “Operating under the assumption that lighting is a challenge,” she says, “definitely ixnay on the fluorescents. Remove them as fast as humanly possible.”
Decorating Home + Housewares Kitchens & Spaces Rental Kitchen Tips & Techniques
Want to do the latter? Check out how these 10 renters made the most of their kitchens.
Poor lighting is a common problem in rental kitchens. Maybe it’s a sad overhead fixture that barely gives off enough light to tie your shoes, let alone cook a meal, or dim corners that swallow up whatever gets shoved into them. So what’s a renter to do? With little option (and motivation, likely) to make any permanent changes, many renters just learn to live with a dark kitchen. But there’s a better way — in fact, there are five. Here are a few ideas to help you light up your rental kitchen:
See the whole home: A Food Blogger’s Bright Modern Apartment on Apartment Therapy
Blogger Michelle Lopez and her partner Erlend (along with their cat, Penny), call a cozy 750-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn their home. An avid baker, Michelle needed a spot to store all her equipment and ingredients. The solution? Three tiers of exposed shelving housing all her pantry staples.
2. Hang a swing arm task lamp: If you still need more light, particularly around your primary kitchen workspace, consider a swing arm task lamp. I hung two RANARP clamp spotlights from IKEA in my own rental kitchen. Installed at varying heights on either side of my kitchen island, they give off a focused, bright light without any harsh shadows (that’s why you hang them at different heights). You can install a task lamp right on the wall, or clip one to the edge of a shelf or countertop, and the swing arm enables you to position it exactly how you want.
So what should you pick instead? When choosing a new lightbulb (or bulbs) for your rental kitchen, there are three main factors to consider: wattage, type of bulb, and temperature.
To make their 225-square-foot New York City apartment more livable, Courtney Duffey and her carpenter boyfriend DIY’d this toe kick drawer. You may need to get permission from your landlord before you do this, but it’s hard to imagine a landlord who will say no to extra storage.
If you have old cabinets, your landlord will probably be pretty cool with letting you paint them. Instead of a standard paint job, Philip transformed the wood cabinetry in his Boston apartment with a coat of inky black paint “dipped” halfway up the length of the doors.
There are three main bulb types — fluorescent, incandescent, and LED — and each has advantages and disadvantages. Fluorescent bulbs are efficient, long-lasting, and incredibly affordable over the life of the bulb, which is why they are often the de facto choice for landlords. They also tend to cast an unattractive blue-green light (although these days there are considerably more flattering options than in the past) and aren’t dimmable. Here are a few other options.
A wall-mounted swing arm task lamp offers great spot lighting.
See more: A Wellness Blogger’s Clean & Minimal Los Angeles Studio on Apartment Therapy
If you don’t have overhead lighting, opt for something slightly dimmer. And you may also want to think about additional sources of light. “I love to put table lamps on countertops,” suggests Hopp. “Something traditional with a shade looks great and is a super-smart move.”
See the whole home: Easygoing, Nautical New England Style in Boston on Apartment Therapy
Read more: Can You Spot the Ingenious Storage Space in This Kitchen?
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New York couple Tucker and Adam utilized the top of cabinets in their open-concept kitchen as a storage space for some of their massive book collection. The look is practical and charming.
In Maggie and Lucas’ Manhattan apartment, the two creatively minded professionals hung a mirror over a mini work station. Even though they have two decently sized windows in the kitchen, the mirror helps to reflect the light. Why? The more light, the bigger a space will feel.
Smart Solutions: Under-Cabinet Lighting 4 Types of Under-Cabinet Lighting: Pros, Cons, and Shopping Advice Under Cabinet Lighting Product Review: Utilitech Xenon Lights
Blogger Lee Tilghman outfitted the kitchen of her Los Angeles apartment with a small butcher block island. It wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for the kitchen, but the two tiers add storage and the wheels allow for it to be rolled out of the space when company comes.