How To Update Ordinary String Lights For A More Stylish And Modern Look

String lights can be super convenient for adding life to dull interiors and exteriors. Those flexible, glowing lights can elevate anyone's space, whether you want to brighten up your dorm room, Christmas tree, outdoor hangout area, or even your home office. Just ask movie star and noted string light enthusiast Jessica Alba. But don't be surprised if the glamor of your string lights wears off and you get tired of the look after a while. When that happens, don't just throw them out and decide you're 100% over string lights. Instead, get more creative and consider the vibe you're going for to re-hang and re-style your lights or explore new options.

"For a more casual, boho style, low-hanging, casually draped lights are the way to go, but if you want to elevate it a bit, make sure that you have real anchor points that are dedicated to your lighting," Whitney Leigh Morris, who wrote the book "Small Space Style: Because You Don't Need to Live Large to Live Beautifully," told Domino. "Anchor some hardware that is made specifically for the lighting and that will help you to designate spaces for your lights that feel really framed." There are many other ways to refresh your string light look, too.

Try using them as an overhead light alternative

Of course, when many people mentally picture string lights, they probably envision them hanging from and across walls. But if you want to do something modern, different, and practical, why not be bold and hang your lights across the ceiling instead? This method offers a contemporary twist on the look and an exciting spin on overhead lights. 

For instance, instead of spending big on installing a pendant lighting, TikTok user @pie_sees_everything hung upbeat string lights with Command hook products on her ceiling. The results are modern and quirky, so anyone looking for a new overhead lighting option should consider using string lights for that stylish look.

TikToker @strictlykendra also used string lights as a source of overhead lighting, as her living room didn't come with any other overhead lighting. She even impressed many viewers by having the overhead string lights plug into an outlet so she could turn them on and off with a switch for a super contemporary vibe and pragmatic feature.

Create a little outdoor movie theater

Are you looking for tips for creating an outdoor movie theater? String lights can help set up the cozy vibes. "String lights are an essential part of my backyard set-up for movie nights," said Beth Murton, head of gardens for Homes & Gardens. "I was worried that having lights near our outdoor projector screen would make it difficult to view the image on the screen due to a lack of contrast, but it's never been an issue. If anything, it just adds to the fun vibe of the whole evening."

Once upon a time, you had to go to an indoor cinema or find a drive-in outdoor option for the movie theater experience, but in the 2020s, all you need is a projector and chic string lights. Secure the lights across study structures in the outdoor area, and let them brighten the night as you wait for everyone to gather around the "screen" at your modern movie theater.

Take the light look further with lanterns

There are plenty of other ways to keep your string lights interesting. You can style them with lanterns to make them look more intriguing and unique. "You could also hang paper lantern lights for parties and diffused lighting," Sheva Knopfler, the creative director and decor expert who co-founded, told Livingetc. While the expert's tip is excellent, you shouldn't feel limited to adding lanterns to your more traditional string lights exclusively for parties. If you want to bring any room or outdoor area to life, try the idea at any time of year, even if there's no occasion.

There are various ways to DIY a paper lantern and let it embellish your string lights. One relatively easy way is to create a fan-inspired shape on cardboard, cut that outline on your paper, then wrap and tape those shapes on as many of the lights already on the string as you want. For safety, be super careful to avoid putting the paper around overly hot lights — and don't let the light itself touch the paper. Also, remember to use paper in colors and patterns that you like and can imagine being lit up on the string. You may even want to mix and match different hues and patterns.

Light up your favorite memories

Another fun spin on hanging string lights is to add pictures, letting the lights draw more attention to your favorite moments, places, and people. "Twinkly lights and Polaroids were meant to be together and can create the ultimate personalized display for your bedroom," Becky Tasker, Lights4Fun's PR manager, told Real Homes. "Peg your cards and photos to your lights for the picture-perfect look! LED lights stay cool, so you don't need to worry about them overheating — they can be left on all day and night."

Anyone interested in this exciting spin on string lights should know that there are even string lights that come with clips for photos, such as the best-selling Mainstays battery-operated 20-count lights available for under $10 at Walmart. Or, if you want another lively option where the clips themselves light up on the string, check out the Photo Clip LED lights selling for $10 at Party City. Either way, your photos will be in the spotlight thanks to the string lights.