28 Ways to Use Those Magical String Lights

updated Jul 11, 2022
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(Image credit: Indie Home Collective)
(Image credit: Alysha Findley)

String lights, globe lights, fairy lights—no matter what you call them—have proved their staying power. Sure these strands always make fabulous balcony lighting, but we have seen them work wonders inside the home as well. String lights have become the secret weapon of sorts for amateur interior decorators, coming in all shapes, sizes, colors, and kinds, from vintage Edison bulbs to round carnival lights to understated twinkling strings. And, there are so many ways that you can use them to dress up a place in a modern, chic way. 

Whether you are trying to carve out “rooms” in a loft, add ambience to a dining room, or find something that vibes with your favorite new patio furniture, here are some of our favorite ways to experiment with them.

1. Create an outdoor oasis.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a cozy outdoor space, try stringing some twinkling lights over a pergola or overhead arch like @our_beautifuldestination did for a romantic space that also allows you to read when it gets dark.

2. Add tiny colored lights.

Of course you don’t want the inside of your space to look like a Christmas tree. But a small string of tiny colored twinklers adds a whimsical touch to an area you’d like to make a focal point. Shown here from @everlasting_charm, these colored lights coordinate perfectly with the photo reel boxes that are being stored on the shelves. 

3. Try a cluster of lights.

Sure, string lights are fun, but cluster lights are… even more fun! We love how @lytworxlights displays this cozy firepit setting from an Australian homeowner. They chose to string them on their outdoor fence, but these would be incredibly romantic hanging behind a bed, too! 

4. Hang up Himalayan salt lights.

Level up any indoor space with this beautiful strand of glimmering pink Himalayan salt lights. Shown here by @octopusnewtown, Himalayan salt is said to elevate mood and promote relaxation, making it a perfect choice for a bedroom. 

(Image credit: Gabriela Herman)

5. Glam up your dining table.

If you’re looking for dining room lighting, consider skipping the usual pendant or chandelier and string up carnival lights instead. Make them run from end to end to give the party room a festive touch, just like this setup on Kitchn. Just imagine the ambiance once you flick on the lights!

6. Illuminate an accent wall.

Use your lights to accent a gallery wall. Jove Meyer had a diagonally ascending gallery wall, so he strung lights to move up with the slant, and then zig-zag across the ceiling.

7. Use them to divide a space.

Sometimes it can be tricky to carve out separate spaces in an open-plan loft. Jess Levitz discovered that with some strategically placed lighting in her living and dining room, she was able to easily mark her entertaining spaces—no walls needed.

(Image credit: Ernie Enkelaar)

8. Play around with different shapes.

If you’re looking for a more playful way to add light to your kitchen, skip the usual sconce or pendant options and try out a cascading string of lights over your table, like Kim van Rossenberg did for 101 woonideeën (featured in the Style Files.) The tennis-ball-sized bulbs add a playful touch to the contrasting kitchen chairs and minimalist kitchen design.

(Image credit: 6sqft)

9. Fasten them to the wall.

A great way to brighten up an exposed brick wall is to add some lights to it. But to keep in theme with the industrial-like feel of the red bricks, try adding lights that are on a black string, so the dark color pops against the brick, like this space featured on 6sqft.

(Image credit: Boho & Nordic)

10. Hang them above the couch.

There is something so cozy about snuggling into your couch, turning off all the lights, but flicking on a string of lights. It’s a modern day version of sitting in candlelight. To achieve that level of ambiance in your own living room—without inadvertently mimicking a teenager’s bedroom room—try picking out clunkier carnival lights. Have them swoop from the window to a corner, and then disappear behind your sofa, like in this space on Boho & Nordic.

(Image credit: Jordana Longo)

11. Use them in your outdoor space.

An oldie but goodie: If you have an outdoor patio, string up some lights across the area so as not to blast your guests with one bright porch light once the sun goes down.

12. Hang them from the rafters.

If you live in an apartment or have a room in your house with a slanted ceiling, or a-frame, lean into that shape by outlining it with a strand of carnival lights, like Marzena Marideko did in her Warsaw apartment.

13. Try using fewer, larger lights.

If you have a small balcony, you can make it extra cozy. Take another page out of Marzena Marideko’s book, and skip the clunky patio furniture. Instead, put down a waterproof mattress and pillows right on the floor, adding in blankets and lanterns when you know that the weather will stick. For even more magic, don’t forget your string of Edison bulbs.

(Image credit: Emmas DesignBlogg)

14. Outline a doorway.

While it might feel a little college dorm-inspired, stringing your lights around a doorway is a cozy way to bring some light into the room. To make it feel more grown-up, consider upgrading from fairy lights to industrial drop lights like in this apartment for sale through Bolaget, spotted on Emmas DesignBlogg.

(Image credit: Serenity Boutique)

15. Use them in a child’s space.

If you have a little one in the house and they have a tent in their room where they can sprawl out and read and play, make it magical by adding a string of lights that cascade down the entrance, like Serenity Boutique did in their hung dome.

(Image credit: Gap/Instagram)

16. Illuminate your front entryway.

A sweet way to add warmth to your entryway is to string lights around your living room entrance, like in this scene from Gap‘s Instagram feed. We also love that this strand has a unique copper wire.

(Image credit: Petite Lily Interiors)

17. Combine them with other lighting.

Don’t be afraid to mix different kinds of lights together in one room. Just because you already have a pendant lamp in your kitchen or dining room, doesn’t mean you also can’t work in a light chain into the same space, as Petite Lily Interiors proves.

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

18. Frame a canopy bed.

If you have a canopy bed in your room, consider giving it a magical touch by stringing fairy or carnival lights across its beams, giving it a dreamy mood like Urban Outfitters did.

(Image credit: Behr)

19. Have them pop against a dark background.

While many people like to keep their walls white (or Chantilly Lace, or Ecru, or Eggshell—you get the idea), others love a vivid pop of color. If your living room or den has a deep hue, consider stringing lights across one of the walls. The bulbs will jump against the dramatic shade, as Behr showed in their bar cart styling.

20. Frame a window.

If you have a small space, it can be tricky to decorate without clutter. While a tumble of chotskies and bric-a-brac might make you feel closed-in, a tasteful string of lights around the window is useful and pretty. Exhibit A: this cozy space In My Room styled.

21. Opt for something simple.

If you love a good Scandinavian design scheme, accent a simple dining room corner with a black string of lights, like this dining area via vtwonen. If you have a black and white theme going, the black wires and white bulbs will help tie that together.

(Image credit: Facing North With Gracia)

22. Create a dramatic accent.

If you feel like your bedside table is missing something, try dangling a string of lights from the ceiling to act like a bedside lamp, like in this getup from Facing North with Gracia.

23. Use them on a kid’s bunk bed.

If you have kids in the house, dress up their bunk beds with a string of lights, like Rebecca McLennan did. The black lights went perfectly with the white and black room. (And be sure to check out her Instagram to learn more about that IKEA bunk beds hack!)

24. Decorate a rustic ladder.

If you have one of those rustic ladders in your house and are looking for a new way to decorate it, string it up with some big-bulb lights, like in this space spotted on Instagram.

(Image credit: Emily Henderson)

25. Use them wherever you need them.

If you have a nook in your dining room or kitchen that looks like it needs a little something extra, try filling it with a strategically hung string of lights. Emily Henderson proved it brings a lot of ambiance to the room without cluttering up the walls.

26. Light up a work space.

 If you have shelves over your desk and are looking for ways to make the workstation feel a bit more inviting, learn from Rebecca Eichten’s design ideas and string lights across the shelves.

(Image credit: Residence Style)

27. Incorporate a zig-zag pattern.

If you have an open floor plan in your apartment, loft or house, and feel like you want to add a little something special to those high ceilings. Take another cue from Jessica Levitz.

28. Light up dark spaces.

You can find creative ways to decorate every space in your house. Alistair Casillas‘ house has a seating area underneath the deck, and they made it seem more inviting by installing rows of lights across the ceiling.