String Light Nightlight | DIY

It's the very end of July and therefore, finishing up the kids' room is first on the agenda.  I've got one tiny little thing left to do and then I'll snap some pictures and get those fun afters up here!  I'm going to sneak ahead of myself quick though and show you one little corner.  This one:
That, of course, is what it looked like prior to a whole bunch of wallpaper removal and wall sanding, popcorn ceiling removal, you know, alllll the things.

Here's what it looked like a few days ago (and ha!  It's even changed since then with the addition of some new art!):

I'll get the current situation up with the room reveal but let's talk that lit star on the wall.  In our rental, the kids had this big lamp on their dresser that was uber cool but also, uber heavy.  It was great for awhile until they started thinking they could turn it on (the knob to turn it on was on the very top of the lamp and pretty much out of their reach) and started reaching and pulling the cantilever part down, down, down.  Not my most kid-friendly piece of functional decor, that one.

So, when we moved, I got rid of that lamp, vowed to not make a decor decision like that again, and on went the search for a more kid-friendly light source.  I almost bit the bullet on this clearanced lamp* (it's touch activated aka very kid-friendly!!!) but then I pulled out a strand of string lights one day and a light bulb went off...well, not literally...until later.

That idea?  To make some sort of shape out of the lights on the wall that could easily be turned on and off and function as the room's lamp or nightlight.  Initially, I was going to go the big heart route but then decided that I'd move more towards the gender neutral side considering this has to be a very gender neutral room with three ladies and a gent (not that hearts aren't gender neutral enough...but stars definitely fit the bill just a tad bit better).  

I'm no good at free-handing a perfect star up on the wall though so first, I googled "star" on my phone, pulled up the first image that came up, placed a scrap piece of paper over my phone screen, and traced that star onto that paper.  Then I cut out the star, and taped the cut-out to the top side of one bunk bed.

Ok, that's weird.  Why the heck would you do that?

I know...but wait for it.  

Using my phone again, I flipped on the flashlight, sat that flashlight behind that paper star cut-out just so, and marveled at the projection happening on the wall across from me.

And you know, I really did marvel because, until the point I saw the star actually did project onto the wall, this whole scheme seemed a little hair-brained in my head.  ;)

With my star on the wall, I strategically hammered in some nails - one at each point of the star, those on the outside and those on the inside.  (It was hard to get a picture of the nails in the wall with the lights off and the projection but hopefully you get the gist minus seeing the projection.)  

The way that I hammered those nails in matters though.  On the outside points, I hammered the nails in so that they angled out; away from the center of the star.  On the inside points, I hammered the nails in so that they angled in; towards the center of the star.  By hammering them in at angles like this, it made sure that, when I went to wrap the string lights around the nails, the nails were more able to hold the string in place.  Make sense?  So the string wraps around the outside points but inside the inside points and the angles of the nails made sure it's nice and secure.  Neither the string nor the nails are going anywhere.  (Pssst...these nails are my very favorite nails to use for hanging stuff on walls.  I bought a big pack of them a few years ago and I still have at least 100 left.  I like them because they're really thin so they don't make huge holes in the wall, they're strong, they're CHEAP, and they come out as easily as they go in which means they can be reused multiple times.)

Maybe a visual will help if that's still foggy.  Here I photoshopped in arrows showing the direction that the nails are going:

To make the shooting trail of the star, I added a few nails to the wall to give a slight arch to the string before it hit the extension cord below and behind the dresser.

Next, I painted over each nail with some leftover wall paint to camouflage it, making the string light star look like it was really just hanging out shooting through mid air on the wall.  ;)

The last thing I had to do before this light became functional was make the on/off process an easy one.  The one outlet on that wall is behind the dresser and wiggling my arm down the back of that thing or up the back from underneath every time I wanted the lights on or off didn't sound fun.  It sounded more like it would never get turned on.

Instead, I grabbed a pack of these extension cords* with an on/off switch (PS, these are also great in green* under that Christmas tree)...

stuck a command strip* to the back...

and stuck it to the top back of the dresser.

The trail of the star falls behind the dresser where it connects to the extension cord.  It's out of sight, which is great, and the adults and kids of the house can turn the new star on and off with ease with just the press of a button.

Huzzah!  That's it!

Just a few more things:
--I measured how long the string of lights was before knew how big my star had to be on the wall.  I wanted the string lights to wrap around the star twice and then have enough for a "tail" (which ended up being two tails - one long and one short.  The short tail is the end with the outlet on it, and I just stuck that outlet right behind the canvas of the colorful elephant, where it's good and hidden.  The canvas is fairly thick so the outlet sits right behind it without making it bulge out or anything.
--Also, I thought about grabbing some of these highly-rated fairy lights* from Amazon that would have probably made a more linear star, but then decided to use what we already had.  But, there's that option for anyone considering making a shaped, string light nightlight.  :)
--Another idea I had was to somehow draw the moon onto a big piece of cardboard or even just paper (I use 'draw' loosely because I'm no artist but I can draw a circle with some circles/craters in it), get that paper up on the wall, and string lights around it.  The lights would illuminate the drawn moon and then, of course, you could have the moon on the wall at night.  Maybe it looks better in my head but either way, it'd be a fun try.

Here's the kids' shooting star in all it's bedtime glory:
We don't leave it on all night but it's a fun way to light up the room during the whole bedtime routine.  And bonus, no one is going to get knocked out by a heavy, cantilever lamp after they decided to attempt to turn it off with too big of a reach.  I can just see it now - "TODDLER KNOCKED UNCONSCIOUS BECAUSE MOM DECIDES TO PUT FORM OVER FUNCTION".


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  1. I love it! I intend to use string lights for my daughter as a makeshift night lamp, but I'm indecisive about how to do it because the outlets are far and there'd be cords around... Maybe a battery operated set would work, but I don't know if they'd be too dim (she reads before going to sleep). Anyway, I'm digging the star shape you used but also the idea of the moon!

    1. It's tough when you have outlets to consider with projects like this. Our lights are definitely too dim for anyone to read with, so you're right in questioning that. The only way they'd be able to is if they were right over their headboards or to their direct side. Maybe with more lights? I'm sure you'll figure something out! Her room is so cute!!

  2. So cute! And your makeshift projector idea is just pure genius.