Ensconced LEDs

Article By : Michael Dunn

Install a custom LED-strip wall sconce light design; for when off-the-shelf won’t do.

The three wall-mounted light sconces in my bedroom had to go, and no replacements at the usual home stores inspired me (or those that did were just too pricey for my taste). Once again, LED strips to the rescue.

The trickiest part of this exercise became of course designing the shade, or some facsimile thereof. I eventually settled on simplicity itself: a sheet of translucent Plexiglas (acrylic) mounted a small distance off the wall, with a few lengths of LED stripping stuck to the wall.

After further bedroom redecoration though, I realized I didn’t want the distraction of white or other light-coloured panels on the fairly dark walls. I ordered matte-black sheets (in European A4 paper size (210×297 mm)), and then had to figure out a way to mount the LEDs that would actually produce some light output! [Sometimes I think I should be in marketing, given I often seem to consider aesthetics first, then struggle to solve the functional aspect to fit.]

My initial half-baked idea was to make the wall and rear surface of the shade reflective, and angle the LED strip such that the light would reflect to and fro (like a fiber optic!), and somehow diffuse out that way. A bit more thought resulted in this simpler solution:

Figure 1  LED strip wrapped around an improvised foil mount and heat sink.

The downside is that, given the metallic wall paint, and the somewhat bumpy surface, which, yes, I should have prepared better, all the imperfections become visible.

I retained the idea of reflective surfaces, and the gold paint warms up the white a bit too.

To negate any further suspense, here’s the finished installation:

Figure 2  It’s a bit odd, but I like it. And as a big fan of Kubrick, and 2001 especially, I’d say it makes a pretty serviceable monolith. The original monolith had sides of 12:22:32, whereas this is 1:


, which I think conveys alien intelligence even better.

The hardest design struggle I faced was how to support the shade. For a while, my best idea involved drilling a couple of blind holes in the back of the shade that would fit over screws or nails or something in the wall, with a third something nearer the bottom to prevent the sheet from angling in. Fortunately, I came up with a better solution…I think.

Notice the bent coat hanger in Figure 1?

Figure 3  A pair of rare-earth 53 mm magnets attached with CA adhesive, which sit atop and hold onto the hanger horizontals. Make sure to mount them correctly (poles vertical), and hold them in place until the glue sets! The surface has been roughened to better accept the reflective paint.

This works really well. Magnets are truly the closest thing we have to real magic.

Figure 4  The PSU fits nicely into the electrical box.

I’ll be using larger, A3-sized, translucent white sheets for hallway lights. These will follow my original plan of attaching the LED strips to the wall. If I really like how they turn out, I may reconsider the strange bedroom implementation. After all—I’ve already used the gold paint on some bedroom trim. Gold-painted translucent sheets wouldn’t look too out of place on the walls…


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Michael Dunn is Editor in Chief at EDN with several decades of electronic design experience in various areas.

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