Before and After: How to Light a Windowless Dining Room

I love my pre-war Brooklyn, NY, apartment for its original trim work, weathered wood floors and gracious, nine plus-foot ceilings. What I don’t love are the dark, railroad-style middle rooms—specifically the windowless dining space—which, until recently, evoked sitting down to dinner in a holding cell...

This Is What a $15K Kitchen Before & After Looks Like

light windowless dining room before
Courtesy of Grace Beuley Hunt


Woof. Even in peak daylight, the room was cave-like. As a first order of business upon moving in, I swapped out the dinky ceiling fixture for this three-bulb, Serge Mouille-inspired chandelier. (One day I’ll replace with an original!) But with no budget or permissions for electrical work, what in the wide world of lighting choices was my next move? And so, I sent a photo to my interior designer pal (and Lamps Plus lighting expert) Lori Dennis, who prescribed me a high-end, low-budget lighting concept that’s super easy to replicate. Here’s what we did.

bright dining room 3
Malcolm Hunt

Step 1: Plug-in Sconces

Guys, plug-in, dimmable sconces exist! Dennis assured me that a set on the back wall would “bring light up to eye level and frame the art piece beautifully.” “Especially if you plan to entertain often, sconces shine light on everyone’s face instead of right above their heads, which can often create dark shadows. Nobody wants to look tired at a dinner party!” With this vote of confidence, I ordered a pair of inexpensive, brushed brass sconces to flank my painting. To hide the plug-in wires, I applied small, clear wire clips to the wall, following the lines of the console table. One last pro tip: “Install a light source at around 66" off the floor!” (Just above standard eye level.)

light windowless dining room 21
Malcolm Hunt

Step 2: Plant + Uplighting

Secondly, Dennis insisted upon a final layer of accent lighting. Otherwise known as “decorative lighting,” this describes fixtures that are used to highlight architecture, art or plants. For a kick of shmancy on a budget, Dennis suggested filling one of the dark corners with a plant and adding a small uplight behind it, to create some interesting shadow play. I never would have thought of this, and I’m delighted with the end result. (Disclaimer: I’m not so good with real plants—so I ordered this fabulous six-foot tall faux fiddle leaf fig instead.)

bright dining 60
Malcolm Hunt


With the holy trifecta of lighting now in place (ambient, task, accent), the room now reads bright, nuanced and best of all, cozy. The wall-mount sconces add such professional polish and the illuminated plant injects color and whimsy. Thanks to a new rug—and loads of candlelight when entertaining—I’ve almost forgotten about the lack of windows entirely.

bright dining room 1
Malcolm Hunt


Chandelier: France & Son
Sconces: Lamps Plus
Uplight: Lamps Plus
Faux plant: World Market
Chairs: Vintage
Table: IKEA
Art and custom console: ATH Studios
Rug: Wayfair
Paint: Benjamin Moore Simply White