Colorful lights, when done right, can make your home look cool and futuristic. LED light strips have come a long way, which means you can ditch the year-round Christmas lights for something cleaner-looking. LED strips are thin and flexible, so you can put them places traditional bulbs can’t go, like under cabinets and inside of drawers. This means they’re also functional — they can shed a little light on what’s going on in the back of the fridge or under the bed. Some versions can even be cut to size.
Your options for where you want to put LED strips are limited mostly by your imagination, where you have an outlet, and where you don’t mind a little tape or glue. We’ve rounded up some Instructables and how-to videos to help you get started.
If you need help finding the right lights, check out our recommended LED light strips here, or look at our smart bulbs guide here if you think they may be a better fit.
Open-riser stairs look especially cool with LED lights, and they’re also functional, because those gaps can be especially treacherous at night, but you might be too blurry-eyed to want a full-fledged assault on your retinas. As you can see in this Instructables tutorial, there are ways to make the lights turn on automatically as you head down for a midnight snack.
Mirrors or picture frames
You know those vanity mirrors surrounded by light bulbs starlets are always looking into in old movies? You can get a more subtle effect and not take away any of the reflected surface by covering it in bulbs.
This works well for picture frames, too! If you’re looking for a simple way to give your family portraits a little extra pop, you can find simple lightbox frames online. If you’re more of the DIY type, these directions from Instructables will allow you to create an illuminated decoration that’s just as cool — or you can just surround a current frame you already like with a carefully selected strip.
Under couches and beds
Sometimes hip lounges have cool glowing lights under their couches. Sure, it looks swank, but who needs the prices? Create the effect by putting LED lights under your couch and enjoy the ambience with far-less-expensive bottle service. And, you’ll never lose a sneaker again if you add some LEDs under your bed.
As a nightlight
This takes a bit of work, but the result is sort of like having your very own Bat Signal. The how-to is over at Instructables.
Shelves are great for organization, but if you also want them to double as displays for what they hold, adding some LED lights is a great addition. Just plain white ones might do the trick, or you could follow along with this Instructable and turn box shelves into color-coded showcases.
If you fear your peaches turning moldy and you have leftovers from three Thanksgivings ago somewhere in the recesses of your fridge, it might be time to add some more lighting to your ice box. Higher-end models may already have extra bulbs, but for older and less-expensive varieties, you can DIY it quickly and fairly cheaply. Add a motion sensor and timer, so the lights aren’t always on.
Under cabinets and bars
While adding a strip of lights under cabinets might be purely functional and help you see your crockpot a little better, getting a color-changing strip for your bar is just going to make it look really cool. It will fit right in with your glowing couch.
As dusk turns to dark, the patio becomes a little less hospitable. Sure, it’s lovely to gaze at the stars (or city lights, depending on your location), but it’s also nice to be able to see your drink or the person you’re talking to. Outfitting the deck with tons of LED strips is definitely more time-consuming and expensive, but the effect is pretty spectacular.
There are lots of LED bulbs that can sync with your music, but this Instructables guide shows you how to make your lights match up with what you play on your piano.
If your junk drawer looks anything like ours, then it could definitely benefit from a little extra glow. Ikea has some LED light strips, which it made specifically for places such as cabinets and bookshelves, because they’re low-heat. As with the fridge, a motion sensor and timer would be great additions.
For some people, the advantage of putting up LED light strips instead of Christmas lights is that they blend in easier, so you can leave them up all year. Check out this Instructable, which demonstrates how, since they’re up there anyway, they can become Halloween and Thanksgiving lights, too.
There are waterproof LED lights that are suitable for outdoors and even pools. Considering it mixes electricity and water, you might want to get a professional.
Over the tub
Water and electricity don’t mix, but if you want an ethereal glow while you soak away your stress, you can always use LED light strips around your tub. The rest of the nature-inspired ambiance might be harder to come by, though. You can put some strips under the tub, but only if they have a waterproof rating of at least IP65 (these can also look great around some sinks).
Don’t turn on the lights. Don’t step on a sharp toy. Don’t wake your child. Motion-sensor bed lights provide just enough visibility, allowing you to move through the room without creating much of a disturbance. These LED strips from MyLights can also be installed on your own bed, in the bathroom, or the hallway, ensuring you’ll always have light when you need it.
One reason people use LED strips is that they can provide light in places that are hard to access with traditional lighting methods, such as a pool or kitchen drawer. Sometimes, however, people use LED lights because they just look cool. With the right set of LED strips, an old coffee table, an infinity mirror, and these directions from Instructables, you can build a futuristic coffee table for your living room. This also works great for gaming/poker tables, etc.
Making your own art
If you’re feeling creative and a little ambitious, think about creating your own personalized sign for wall art! Thin LED ropes are ideal for bending into cursive words like “Love” or “Friends” or whatever you have in mind. You can even try to mimic an old-fashioned neon sign look for a particular display. This Pinterest guide is a good starting place, while this blog goes into more detail for creating a sharp-looking piece of art.
Behind the TV
LED strips around the background of a TV are one of the most common home applications. Although it may sound odd at first, low-level brightness from the LED lights creates the perfect ambiance for an entertainment center, and the bold, central shape of the TV looks great with a little DIY backlighting — especially for a game room. Lepro has a pretty great guide for beginners. By the same token, you can use this same lighting scheme to illuminate your gaming screens to enhance your gameplay experience.
If you are an avid craftsman, hobbyist, or indoor game player, LED lights are the perfect addition to illuminate your projects and activities. Placing a simple string of lights over the top of your table is great for cheap lighting and full visibility, but you should also think about surrounding the edges of the table with a light strip to help illuminate every possible angle. Some people even like to put LED lights around equipment like sewing machines or vice grips. It’s a fairly simple project, but this guide on turning sharp corners with less flexible LED strips could be helpful.
There is a wide variety of lights on the market, so if you’re interested in exploring what’s out there, you can start by looking at our list of these awesome star nightlight projectors.