Fourteen illuminating ways to light up your life (and home) with LED light strips

Colorful lights, if done right, can 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. What’s nice about LED strips, though, is that they’re thin and flexible, so you can put them places traditional bulbs can’t go, like under cabinets and in 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.

Related: LED streetlights save cities millions but raise health issues — and urban residents hate them

Your options for where you want to put LED strips are limited mostly by your imagination, where you have an outlet, and what you don’t mind adhering something sticky to. We’ve rounded up some Instructables and how-to videos to help you get started. If you plan to tackle any of these projects, just make sure to use caution.

Stairs

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Archello

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

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Archiproducts

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 not take away any of the reflected surface by covering it in bulbs.

Under couches and beds

Sometimes hip, 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

led light strip ideas batman or lamp

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

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 Instructables and turn box shelves into color-coded showcases.

Refrigerators

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Instructables

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 might it look really cool. It will fit right in with your glowing couch.

Decks

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Super Bright LEDs

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 locale), 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.

Pianos

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.

Drawers

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Klus Designs

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.

Christmas lights

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 Instructables, which demonstrates how, since they’re up there anyway, they can become Halloween and Thanksgiving lights, too.

Pools

fiber-optic-lights-inground-pool-builder
Cipriano Landscape Design

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 over your tub. The rest of the nature-inspired ambience might be harder to come by, though.

Picture frames

light-frames
Backlit Box

If you’re looking for a simple way to give your family portraits a little extra pop, Backlit Box can deliver a nice LED picture frame to your doorstep. 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.

Cribs

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.

Coffee tables

infinity-coffee-table-2

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.

Updated 6/11/2017: Updated to include the bathtub and Batman light. 

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