Renting: Adventures in Lighting

Guestpost by Joyce Underwood on Feb 21st

lots of lamps © by allielovestea, used under Creative Commons license.

When looking at places to live, there are certain things that just don't cross your mind. I never realized how important lighting was until I started to rent. Apparently, I need a lot of light to function. Or, rather, I like having the option of a lot of light.

Growing up, my dad was legally blind, so to help him see better in the house, he installed an 8 foot ballast fluorescent light in the dining room of our 800-square-foot trailer. That was all the light anyone needed in the common living area. That thing was bright! There were also four different windows that let in natural light throughout the day if you didn't want to feel like you were living in a science lab. I got used to this. When I moved to college I lived in dorms that had huge windows and fluorescent lighting as well, so in that sense I was right at home.

Then I got my first apartment.

There was one light fixture in the kitchen and that was it. I have come to realize that this is normal. I guess most people use lamps in common areas. Up to that point, I was unaware of this commonality. There were no light fixtures in the bedrooms either. This was much more confusing. We got some lamps, but I still found it to be rather dim. I was also surprised by the lack of windows. There were three windows and a sliding glass door in the entirety of the 1000-square-foot floor plan. It's no wonder that I went through one of the worst cases of depression I can remember while living there. It was flipping dark.

Since moving on, I have yet to find a domicile that adequately meets my unique lighting needs. My current rental home is better than the previous one, but it doesn't get "OMG SCIENCE LAB!" bright. I hadn't even thought about the lighting issue until recently, when I was contemplating dragging a table into the yard to work on a project. I assure you, in future house hunting, checking the lighting situation will be near the top of my checklist. It's not that I can't see in here. I really think it's just a comfort thing. I don't like having to turn on the lights. I would rather let the sun do the work. However, if the lights are on, I want it to be, like, effective.

Here's what I've learned.

For those who like it bright

  • Are there windows in every room?
  • Are there windows on all sides of the domicile?
  • Are there (at least) windows on the east and west sides of the domicile?
  • Are any windows obstructed by buildings, trees, or otherwise immoveable objects?
  • How many light fixtures are in the domicile?
  • Are the light fixtures compatible with fluorescent lights?
  • Are the walls/floors a light reflective color? (White walls are the best.)
  • Are there enough outlets to add auxiliary lighting if needed?
  • If there are covered porches or decks, how do they effect the natural lighting?
  • Are candles allowed as per your lease?

If you prefer it dark

  • Do you want "work third shift" dark, or do you just prefer it to be dim?
  • How big are the windows?
  • How many windows are there?
  • Will you have to purchase window treatments?
  • Are there blinds on the windows?
  • How easily can you block out the light with curtains/paper/tin foil/all of the above?
  • Are the walls/floors color absorbent? (Wood paneling is good.)
  • Are there any rooms without windows? (Bathrooms usually.)
  • Are the light fixtures low-watt bulb compatible?
  • Is the light coming from doors (windows or sliding glass) easily obstructed without blocking the egress?

So, what do you look for, you light-finicky renters?

Psst: Need some lighting ideas? Offbeat Home has a whole board of 'em on Pinterest. Enjoy!

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About Joyce Underwood

When she's not busy mommy-ing her Sprout and two dogs, you can find her writing letters (on paper -- by hand), watching stand-up comedy, or driving aimlessly. She enjoys writing letters, watching stand up comedy, and driving aimlessly around Coastal Georgia. With her B.A. in English she hopes to someday be famous on the interwebs.