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Photography by Bryan Gardner

“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” is a phrase you could use to describe my New York City apartment–hopping journey. There were, of course, the obvious pros and cons to each space like the luxury of a dishwasher (but no kitchen counter space) or in-unit laundry (to ease the pain of not having a closet)—but lighting always flew under my radar. It was only after I moved out of an apartment with giant east-facing windows and into a darker unit with harsh overhead fixtures that I realized lighting is important.

So when it came time to move once more, I chose right and landed in an apartment with incredible windows and minimal overhead lighting. Now, the sunrise acts as my morning alarm, and I have total control once it gets dark—a true dream scenario. Still, I needed to figure out not only the best but also the right lighting to bring in. Here’s how I approached choosing essential lighting—all from Mitzi by Hudson Valley Lighting—for my new space.

Lesson 1: Find Your Nooks

I always like to live for at least a few weeks in a new space before committing to new purchases or a layout. Once you’ve settled in, learn where you need more lighting or where your lighting feels like it’s a bit too much. Keep any overhead lights turned off, and then augment where you see fit.

In my bedroom, there’s no overhead lighting, so my focus was on adding bedside fixtures, ASAP. I had pendants in my last apartment, so I switched it up this time and opted for table lamps. Terrazzo is still having a moment (even though we’re already asking what’s next), so when I saw this exposed bulb design with a hexagon terrazzo base, I was sold. The bulbs give off a subtle, warm glow, so it’s perfect for late-night reading and relaxing.

If terrazzo isn’t your vibe, the base of the Lynn table lamp also comes in concrete and graphite, so the design can easily live in homes across any design style—the concrete is sure to make a splash in a more mid-century room, and the graphite is great for any high-contrast space.

Photography by Bryan Gardner

Lesson 2: Layer Your Lights

I’m lucky enough to have 12-foot ceilings, which gives me extra incentive to nail the scale and placement of all my furniture and accessories—lighting included. In the interest of drawing the eye up, I decided to layer in my lights at various heights and levels. The lowest being table lamp, followed by the floor lamp, and finally statement lighting overhead.

I have a hard time choosing floor lamps (they just don’t speak to me in the same way other lighting and accessories do), but I instantly fell in love with the Layla lamp. The poured-concrete base paired with the aged-brass stand and black backplate is just the mix of sophisticated and contemporary cool that I’m looking for. My aesthetic definitely leans more maximalist (I painted a rainbow wall in my last apartment), but in this space, I’m looking for bold designs that can also balance the space appropriately. Which leads me to my next point…

Lesson 3: Balance Style and Function

Designing your home is more or less an exercise in balancing functionality with your aesthetics. As much as I want my lighting to be functional—placed just so with the right intensity and color of light—the fixture itself must look good and fit in with the rest of my decor. It’s also about identifying what pieces will be a focal point for your room or serve as a nice accent piece. In millennial speak, an appropriate analogy might be finding what fixtures will serve as your pink velvet sofa and which will be your cute accent pillows.

In my case, the Layla floor lamp is an accent piece in my bedroom, while this Mia table lamp I’m also getting is more of a statement sofa. My favorite Lynn table lamp (the terrazzo beauty) lands somewhere in between. The lesson here? Some light fixtures will blend in and others won’t because they’re just meant to stand out.

Photography by Bryan Gardner

Lesson 4: Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Bulb

Renters, repeat after me. Switching out your light bulbs is just as important (and easy) as swapping your pulls on your kitchen cabinets. Don’t think about it—just do it. Upgrade to an eco-friendly LED, connect them to your smart home devices, adjust to warmer or cooler tones to set the ambiance—the sky’s the limit. It takes just one minute to screw in a new bulb that could completely change the whole vibe of your space.

I’m a fan of having the option to switch to colored lighting. In my last apartment, I kept a pink bulb in my floor lamp (our editor in chief is a fan too). This time around, I’m investing in smart bulbs that can change to 16 million colors (yes, really) with the tap of an app.

Next stop, switching out my overhead lighting. Stay tuned for more and browse Mitzi by Hudson Valley Lighting for more finds.

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