Neon lights were once tacky signs used to display the whereabouts of naughty and ill-advised activities; gambling, drinking, 24 hour convenience snacks - you know, all the fun stuff.
They’ve gone through an revolution and now neon signs are back; sanitised, sassy and recruited to bring contemporary cool light to our homes.
It’s such an everyday part of our cityscape that few stop to think how this bright, glowing type of light came about. Discovered by British scientists before the turn of the last century in 1898, neon is a noble gas that can be found on the periodic table and is responsible for making signs from Las Vegas all the way to London glow so invitingly.
Walthamstow institution God's Own Junkyard is full of lightbulb moments to inspire potential purchases, and they make bespoke signs too. The gallery’s MD Linda Bracey has tips for first-time neon sign buyers.
A guide to buying a neon sign from an expert
Location: Unless the neon is fitted with a clear front cover, it's advisable to install neon somewhere where it can't be easily knocked and broken or children can reach.
Mood: It's vital that you choose the right setting for the neon to give you the best mood / ambience. Neon is often used as alternative lighting to a side lamp.
Colour: Think about the glow you wish to produce. Reds and pinks will give off a warm glow whereas blues and whites will give a cooler feel.
Design / wording: Everyone has favourite sayings or mantras that personally mean a lot to them. Often people have an affectionate nickname for their partner and use these in a message; I loved the one we did which read 'Alright Sausage'. We had a couple who lost a child and wanted 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' in neon to feel her in its glow. The wording is important especially if used as a mantra. I would have the words 'Just do it', as this really helps stop procrastination. Whatever you decide on your design or colour ensure it feels comfortable and something to make you feel happy.
Installation: It is important that you decide during the design stage if you want your neon fitted onto a backing panel. It can be almost anything; we work with wood, metal, perspex, fake living walls, a picture or anything else you like. This can then be supplied with hanging hooks and be directly plugged into nearby socket. You may want the neon displayed onto a wall, but you’ll need a location to hide the remote transformer. This type of installation is often done alongside an electrician who can run the cables into the wall ready for the neon engineers to fit the transformer and neon directly onto the wall.
See our pick of the best neon signs to shop now
Bag & Bones The Queen
It's not Liz, but Kate, our Queen of Cool, who's the subject of this neon art piece. The light sits atop her head, helping to illuminate the Union Jack backdrop. The 80cm x 58.9cm piece is made of acrylic and comes with screw holes so it's easy to mount on the wall.
SELETTI Neon-Art ‘&’ neon lamp 17cm
Italian design house Seletti is well-loved by interior fans, and its range of chic single letters and symbols doesn’t fail to delight. Fitted with a UK plug, the characters come with screw holes so you can easily attach them to the wall, although we recommend Command Strips if you’re renting: they’ll hold your art up without denting the wall’s surface.
Golden Eye, LED neon sign by Jonathan Adler
Set your sights on interior design legend Jonathan Adler’s collaboration with neon specialists Yellowpop for wall art that will bring the entire room to life. Featuring Adler’s trademark style (graphic art pill, anyone?), the designer’s pieces do have hefty price tags to match - so one for the serious collectors.
Little Rae ‘Let’s Stay Home’ LED Lit Neon Sign
Restrictions may be dropping but home is still where the heart is. An ideal gift for homebodies and newlyweds who love nothing better than an evening than curling up together on the sofa, this LED neon sign is available in a 10 fetching colours and comes with a three metre cable that you can plug into the mains.
Oliver Bonas Bar Neon Sign
Take your home bar up a notch with a sign to light the way to happy hour cocktails. The acrylic sign lights up in a bright red and comes with an adaptor for the UK, US and EU.
SELETTI ‘Blow’ Neon Wall Light - Mouth
Keep it cool and contemporary with Seletti’s pop-art parted mouth neon wall light, fitted with a matching red light to heighten the appeal after dark. If these walls could talk...
Make Your Own Neon Effect Sign
For those who wish to make a statement that changes on the regs, get the creative freedom you crave with this option available at Prezzybox. It’s essentially three metres of neon wire that you can twist, curl and twirl into words or an image outline you fancy. It’s powered by two AA batteries, so you’re not chained to the wall socket either - take it to any space that could do with a bit of cheering up.
Hello Sunshine Neon Wall Light
For an instant mood-lifter, look no further than this cheerful light from online specialist Lights4Fun. It’s made with neon flex and embedded with 229 yellow LEDs that work together to flood the room with a happy glow - especially useful when it’s moody weather outside. Comes with a 5m cable and a rocker switch so that you can attach it and use it with ease.
£49.99 | Lights4Fun *On sale from £69.99
Pink Neon Heart Wall Light
Say it all with just a simple sign. This neon pink heart-shaped light is perfect for bringing a rosy glow to rooms, and thanks to its relatively small size (40 x 36.5 x 1.5cm) you can place it within a gallery wall or alongside existing wall art without it looking too OTT.
Ineonlife Shark Led Neon Sign
Transform your space into an electric underwater world with this shark-themed neon display available at Amazon. Set on a transparent background, attach it to your wall with nails or Command Strips, or simply rest it on a shelf against the wall.
I Put Hot in Psychotic
Available in a range of sizes, colours and plug types (so you can send to your pals abroad), this tongue-in-cheek sign is so easy to display, you can get it mounted on your wall in 30 seconds flat - without tools. Make it the centrepiece of your feature wall or bring an unexpected twist to a boring corner. With many more highly Grammable accent lights, find more Neon Filter pieces here.