Neon Signs: Chic or Outdated?

Kelly Allen
Photo credit: Nicole Gerulat

From House Beautiful

Neon lighting puts off a mood–one that’s both futuristic and nostalgic. In the decades following its discovery, neon lighting gave cities like Paris, Las Vegas, and of course, New York their bustling, nighttime glow. Now, they’ve made their way inside structures, too, shining in everything from office spaces to museums–and they even crept into the home space. But is that a good thing? Well, it depends, according to interior designers.

"With neon lighting, you’re dealing with a medium that’s really alive and allows you to emotionally feel the presence of art in your room by physically turning it on and off,” says interior designer Jenn Feldman says. She sees neon lighting as timeless and loves how personal it can be. When one of Feldman’s clients wanted her mantra “Change the narrative” to be reflected in the design of her first home, Feldman thought the best way to do it would be to put it in lights. For another client, it was about the physicality of her own handwriting. “She did this thing on a piece of paper in a meeting, and I said ‘I love how you just wrote that; what do you say we put it in the house?’”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jenn Feldman Designs
Photo credit: Courtesy of Jenn Feldman Designs

At Alice Lane Interior Design, the question isn’t whether or not you should have a neon sign in your home, but what are you going to say with it? “When you think of neon in a traditional context, it is being used to advertise or draw attention to a brand or place,” Suzanne Hall, the firm's vice president says. “In interior design, what we do for our clients is help them recognize their personal brand and work to establish that feeling in their homes. We think of neon as a statement of a lifestyle and personal brand.”

Ask designer Chauncey Boothby, though, and the trend has run its course. “Neon signs have saturated the marketplace and are teetering on kitsch at this point,” Boothby says. She suggests looking to the highlighter hues that grace the 2020 runways for a more sophisticated take on neon. You can incorporate bright colors into lighting accents, like with Urban Electric’s neon yellow pipe hang or forme fixtures.

If you do decide to bring neon into your home, it’s important to put the sign in a place that gives it breathing room, Feldman says. She convinced one of her clients to move a neon sign from the bedroom to the living room. The sign, which says “Because you love me,” means a lot to the couple, and they entertain often, so Feldman wanted them to be able to share the conversational art piece with others. “I really wanted them to see it more than just at night when they’re too tired and go to sleep,” she says. So, she made it the center of their living room.

Placing a neon sign in a more formal room can give it a nice, fun edge and bring some unexpectedness to the room's design, Hall says.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jenn Feldman Designs
Photo credit: Courtesy of Jenn Feldman Designs

Bottom line: Neon signs have a place in design if your aesthetic calls for it. If it doesn't match up with your style, it can take the form of bright colors as opposed to bright lights. As we always say when it comes to design: To each their own!

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