Since the early 1900s, these gas-filled, electrically charged tubes have been a mainstay in advertising and commercial architecture. But in the past decade, neon’s glow has found its way home, adding a look-at-me shock of color that can trace witty phrases, icons, and geometric patterns.
“Neon signs tell a story better than any other medium, and demonstrates our desire for the uncommon,” says Max Mondo, owner of New York City–based Mondo Neon, which specializes in custom-crafted signs and buzzy art pieces.
Ready to light up your digs with a neon revival? Here’s what you need to know about bringing this radiant trend home.
Why neon now?
Photo by Antonio Martins Interior Design
If you have any doubt about neon’s place in the home decor world, just take a spin through Pinterest and Instagram. Neon is a design element that exists simply to be noticed, and it’s having a moment on social media, says Kenny Colvin, creative director at Giant Squid Creative, a New York City design and branding agency.
“Residential neon’s popularity can be summed up in one word: Instagram,” Colvin says.
Even if you’re not doing it for the ‘gram, adding a flourish of neon to your living space can help shape a hip but inviting atmosphere.
Pick a room, (most) any room
Neon is also a natural fit when incorporated into an art or gallery wall, says Colvin, who also appreciates how neon light in foyers and entryways creates a bold first impression. And while he’s not a big fan of neon in the bedroom, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it can work well there—especially in a room where light levels change frequently.
You can let neon take center stage…
Photo by Urbanspace Interiors
There’s nothing wrong with the neon Milwaukee’s Best sign hanging askew in your uncle’s basement. But if you want to help neon reach its full hipster-chic potential as a decor statement, you’ll need some finesse.
Allow the neon to take center stage, and avoid any design elements that might compete for its attention.
… or let it be a supporting actor
Think of neon as an accent piece to complement the room’s existing colors and design elements, Mondo recommends.
“Go with a series of minimalist straight tubes to highlight the richness of other objects in the room,” he suggests. “Not every neon sign has to scream ‘Here I am!’”
Of course, you can always skip the show-stopping, custom neon installation in favor of a more diminutive piece.
“LED neon lamps are a really easy way to incorporate a pop of neon into a space without having to invest a ton,” Sheingold says. “A simpler shape like a heart or a rainbow is a subtle way of incorporating neon into a room without feeling like you’re making too much of a statement.”
The cost of neon
Photo by Red Door Design House
Worried about what this trend will do to your electric bills? There’s good news: Neon actually is an efficient form of lighting regardless of whether it’s the real deal or the LED variety. Considerably more cost-effective than traditional filament bulbs, LED bulbs don’t waste energy on heat.
A typical neon sign eats up only 0.9 amps—roughly 95 watts—and is unlikely to even trigger a change in your electric bill. Even better, neon tubes usually last five to 10 years and, in the right environment, can last even longer, Mondo says.
Bright, eye-catching, and efficient? What could be more deserving of a double tap on Instagram?
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