Help! My Apartment Is A Cave

You don’t need windows to make a place feel airy


My boyfriend and I just moved into a new apartment, and it’s so dark the apartment literally feels like it’s halfway underground. (It’s not. We checked, and double-checked.) We also just found out we’re expecting, so our budget is this side of none. How can I add some light to the place without spending a ton of money? I like the cozy feel, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m living underground since I’m going to be spending so much time at home. Help, please!

Thank you!


A. Over the years, I have lived in many “cozy” spaces (a.k.a. shoeboxes with few – or no – windows). And what I’ve found is that two factors make the biggest difference in terms of whether your apartment feels like a place you want to be: lighting and tidiness.

1. Lighting. Adding great lighting is such an easy fix, and it makes a huge difference. What you want to do is create a wash of light rather than having it come from one source, so place light fixtures at different levels around your space. And if your landlord will let you swap out the central fixture (or add one), go for one with multiple bulbs. My living room is pretty dark and a little cave-like, and adding this Sputnik-style chandelier (which is 41% off, btw) was absolutely transformative for the space.

2. Tidiness. Especially if you’re dealing with low ceilings, nothing will make a dark space feel uncomfortably confining more than clutter. I know I’m like the eight millionth person to jump on this bandwagon, but if you haven’t read this book yet, do it – because the less stuff you try to pack into your new space, the better (especially because you’re about to acquire a bunch of baby stuff on top of the stuff you’ve already got).

Gallery wall of vintage mirrors

A few more suggestions:

  • Mirrors! It’s a cliche, but it’s one that really works. (I love the idea of a gallery wall of mismatched vintage mirrors, as pictured above.)
  • White paint reflects whatever light there is and makes the walls sort of visually disappear; if you want a pure white (no blue/pink/green/whatever undertones) try Benjamin Moore Super White 02. (Pale greens and yellows are also good picks, because they’ll add a little bit of nature to the room – but my personal preference is white.)
  • You might also want to consider a (subtle) metallic wallpaper on one wall – the metallic detail will reflect the light and make the room feel larger while adding texture for warmth. (Lulu & Georgia has cute temporary wallpapers; I love this gold one.)
  • Plants do wonders to make a space feel bright and airy; philodendrons, parlor palms and peace lilies all do well in low-light conditions.
  • A ceiling or floor fan will keep the air moving and make the space feel fresher.
  • Try incorporating light-reflecting fabrics (like all-white bedding) into your decor wherever possible.

I hope that helps! And congrats on your new addition (and if you want some small-space nursery tips, click here 🙂 ).

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