red rope lights

Red, white and blue like the US flag or the red and green of Christmas time – outdoor installations are probably the associations most people make when someone mentions string or rope light sets … but there is more to them than these unsubtle and holiday-centric applications.

rope light computer desk DIY

The big difference: direct or indirect visibility – when they are out in the open it is hard for these bright lights (particularly the potent pure white ones) to look anything but tacky inside a home, but set behind or beneath a piece of furniture they can cast a cool and elegant glow around objects, across floors and up walls.

rope lights under bed

One of the advantages to this kind of ambient lighting is the relative safety of low-heat LED bulbs, and of course the ease with which each snaking series can be bent, twisted and tied or taped down. A push-bottom on-and-off switch makes turning it on simple (and location-flexible).

Jason of Lifehacker started out in his office but ended up bending these strings around living, dining and bedroom furniture pieces to create low-level mood-lighting alternatives to main fixtures. It might not be the classiest design solution, but it works and it is darned cheap and easy (not to mention less of a fire hazard than real candlelight).

rope lights living room

“A big part of my extreme home office makeover was setting up ambient lighting around my desk and keyboard using inexpensive LED rope lights. Many of you were interested in more details, so let’s take a look at the step-by-step of my desk setup, and how to incorporate ambient lighting into other living spaces the same way.”

“The core of my ambient lighting system is inexpensive LED rope lighting. I purchased my LED rope lights for ~$8 per 18 foot strand.”

Interested in replicating this project? Check out the tutorial at Lifehacker.