1. Pay Attention to Lightbulb Color Temperature, Not Wattage
As incandescent bulbs are phased out and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs fall out of favor, many of us are switching to energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs)—rated to last nearly 50,000 hours. Yet many of us are confused by the newer bulbs. "There is no Google Translate to convert watts of incandescent bulbs to watts of LEDs," Urban Chandy founder Cassidy Schulz Brush says. If you're used to a 100-watt incandescent bulb and grab the same wattage in an LED equivalent, the switch would be blinding, Brush says, because LEDs consume much less energy (and measure fewer watts) than incandescents do in order to reach the same level of brightness (or, lumens).
A better way to choose the right bulb is to look for the color temperature (measured in Kelvin), says David Weeks, founder of David Weeks Studio. The lower the number, the warmer, more yellow the light is. To create an inviting atmosphere, bulbs that fall within the 2600K to 2700K range are ideal, Weeks says. Most incandescent lightbulbs produce light in this color-temperature range. Specialty studios -- including Urban Chandy -- are also starting to offer even warmer options at around 2200K. These bulbs mimic the candlelight glow of old-fashioned Edison, or filament, bulbs (which are typically lower in color temperature than incandescent bulbs are). Brush, who makes vintage-inspired chandeliers with recycled materials, says -- "2200K is the magic number for LEDs that we've determined gives the same fireside glow as traditional incandescent bulbs." To see a quick visual display of the difference, click here.
2. An Easy Addition to Light the Darkest Corners
To light some of the darkest parts of your home, consider LED strip lights, says Sheila Schmitz, editor of Houzz, a leading platform for home remodeling and design. The flexible strips with adhesive backs can subtly illuminate challenging areas. "You can light up just the floor area, which can be a light suck," Schmitz says. Houzz users have incorporated LED strip lights in the toe-kick area under bathroom counters, in living-room entertainment displays and bookshelves and underneath cabinets in the kitchen. (Stringing twinkle lights around windows, over your bed or around doors is another easy and energy-efficient way to add extra illumination that's easy on the eyes, Schmitz says.)
3. The Versatile Light for When You're Short on Square Footage
For smallish apartments with low light, suspended pendant lights are incredibly effective, Brush says. (Although you will need an electrician, it's not a big job). "This way you don't take up any more floor, or surface, space," Brush says. These fixtures throw light in multiple directions, so they're great for dark rooms. The suspended fixture can provide focused light (over a dinner table) or an ambient glow (for an entire room). You can also highlight a favorite area, such as a reading nook, or an artwork this way. Schmitz recommends classic chandeliers and Japanese-style pendants, which are more streamlined. "A very small amount of light gets amplified by all the surfaces of the paper used in the Japanese-style pendants and that's a very classic look," Schmitz says.
4. The Rule That's Especially Important in Dark Spaces
Following the three-layers-of-light guideline (ambient, accent and task lighting) is especially helpful in a dim space. Don't forget your base -- it helps to ensure you have a general basic layer of ambient lighting before adding anything else, says Brush. Recessed, or track, lighting can provide overall illumination and enough light for reading and working. Great lighting options for renters (don't require renovation or an electrician) include "standing lamps, desk lamps and wall sconces that have a plug option," Weeks says.
5. Remove Barriers to Natural Light
This may seem obvious, but it's often overlooked: Window blinds and curtains should be completely open. "Make your curtain rod wider than the glass in your window so you can stack the curtains completely off to the side of your windows," Schmitz says. "A couple of inches makes a big difference." If you own property, look outside for possible obstructions. Pruning, or cutting back, any branches directly outside low windows can help maximize natural light.