Many of us remember well the neon craze of the 1980s, whether we want to admit it or not! Blinding yellows, oranges and pinks, plus in-your-face blues and greens shone like beacons on everything from tracksuits to jelly bracelets and legwarmers to lampshades.
Almost every trend sees rebirth at some point, and neon is no exception. The bright colors have taken a step away from fashion and have been showing up all over Instagram in home interior designs. Before you shake your head, take a look at what a couple of designers have to say about the renewed focus on color that pops, and a few rooms that pull off the style in living color.
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First, Choose the Color
Kenzie Leon Perry, creative director and founder of Ze Haus Design Studio in Miami, says, “There are no rules when it comes to design. Neon shades in traditional and nontraditional spaces will make the decor feel original and innovative.” However, he does have three things to consider when considering adding neon to your home. The first is color. “Select a color that is complementary to your existing design scheme,” he says. Perry illustrates this with complementary blues in the flooring and accent walls set off by bright shades for the wigs that make up a focal art point. He even added a neon sign to brighten up the space.
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Go Bold ...
Ali Smyth of the lifestyle blog My Interior Motive, based in Northern Ireland, adds that personal taste is a good yardstick when measuring which color to add. “People who like bright and bold should stick to that,” she said. “If their home historically has a lot of color, then it probably can handle the classic neon yellow, pinks, and greens.” Tilly Hugs of Heneddy House and co-host of @Rainbow Home Monthly followed this track by building a colorful living room around a traditional fireplace in a dark neutral.
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Or Keep It Light
Not everyone is a fan of the screaming neons that demand full attention. “Those who want to play with the neon trend, but who are used to softer tones, might prefer the neon pastel shades that are very popular at the moment,” says Smyth. This dining set surprises with bright pink and green chairs paired with a white wooden table in a minimalist design.
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Compare and Contrast
Designer Perry’s second pillar of decorating with neon is to pay attention to how your brighter pieces play with the rest of the room: “Decide how vibrant you want the color to stand out amongst other elements in your space.” Some rooms will mix and match a variety of colors, while others will keep things in the same shade family. It’s up to you how you want to do it. This eclectic living room, designed by Sam of Sam’s Pretty Little Home, blends varying degrees of neon pink against a gray wall for a clean, cohesive look. Adding a surprise piece such as a Frida Kahlo planter amps up the fun factor.
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Neon furniture, art or other accessories look great when positioned in front of a neutral canvas, such as a white, gray or black wall. The stark contrast draws your eye directly to the accent item, which is the intent. Kansas artist Anissa Marie chose to go this way with this refinished dresser, set against a black wall and perfectly playing off similar colors swirling on the floor and on the canvas above.
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Sometimes, a little goes a long way. “Small touches here and there is the way to do it,” says Smyth. “To me, the neon trend is about giving classic design a bit of a twist. A cushion with neon typography resting on the sofa, funky neon candles in classic gold candlesticks or an abstract print using neon colors in a gallery wall.” For Angie of Something Blue Home, it means painting the main staircase in her home a vibrant yellow. Her Instagram post on the update highlights her fondness for the color: “It’s just so fun and bright when I come downstairs in the morning—it literally brightens up my day!”
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Small, colorful accents can make a big impact in spaces for little ones, too. This toddler's bedroom, designed by Born & Bred Studio, features splashes of hot, neon pink with bed linens and a fun chair and a few more bright shades on the wall shelves. Plus, this little one got a chalkboard to create art, too.
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The final part of Perry’s neon design rules focuses on saturation. “Choose how much of the color you would like to incorporate within your living environment,” he says. Perhaps the neon shade is within a piece of furniture, textile, accessories, or wall paint.” Or, in the case of this kitchen, it is on the wall, the floor, the light fixture, and more!Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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You might not associate the clean, serene vibe of Scandinavian-based design with neon, but that doesn’t mean the two can’t meld. “There are no rules when it comes to design. Neons shades in traditional and nontraditional spaces will make the decor feel original and innovative,” says Perry. Instagrammer Esther B. Schmidt added a piece of bright yellow cookware to her Scandi kitchen for a pop of color that also can be popped into the oven!
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Take It Outside
Some living spaces more naturally align with neon colors that others do. Perry says, “Depending on your design aesthetic, I would venture to say neon shades could work well in many spaces, particularly in a living room, a foyer, a dining room, a bedroom, and even outdoor spaces.” Outdoors? Yes! Most of us don’t just live inside; we also spend time on our patios, porches and backyards. This lime green neon chairs complement the white table and linens by adding a little extra color kick.
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“I think if you are really strict about sticking to an interior genre, neon won't be for you,” says Smyth. “If you like your Scandi neutrals or your period features, I can't see neon being up your street! I, on the other hand, am okay with bending the rules. If you apply the neon trend the way I have described, then any style can have that neon twist and spice things up a bit!” The designer is true to her word in her own dining area decor, above, with a neon chair pillow and Japanese ramen print adding an extra splash of color to her more traditional home.
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Bright colors are a natural choice for spaces where children gather. Babies and preschool age children are in the process of developing their visual abilities, so presenting a variety of colors and visual stimulation is important. The room shown here shows one potential design, with high contrast between the walls, carpet, and storage bins.