Ours is a house of many creaks.
Every step we take comes with an extended groan from the floorboards below. When I get up in the night for a glass of water, this 100-year-old place greets me with a crusty moan: Oh, you again.
But I’ve never been more aware of all the rumblings this old house makes — and the ruckus I stir up within its walls — than when I installed the Nanoleaf Light Panels. It’s a smart light setup comprised of nine flat triangular panels that you stick directly to the wall.
Although they interlock with one another, sharing the same plug-in power source, each panel is individually illuminated and effortlessly dances along the color spectrum.
And what’s all that have to do with creaky floorboards? Well, there’s an optional sensor, called the Rhythm, that slips seamlessly into any port on the panel. When it detects sound — and the device is remarkably sensitive — it bursts to life. Each panel glows a dark ember or twinkles merrily depending on what it hears.
When I climb those aged stairs to my attic office, the creaks become colors as nondescript panels suddenly illuminate. The colors spread along the panels in sync with every squeaky floorboard. The thumps of my feet, like percussion, cause the panels to pulse. They’re all so excited to see me!
It’s certifiably enchanting. I could creak on those floorboards all day — if I didn’t suspect it was such a drag for my grumpy old house.
A party on your walls
Everything — every cough and scrape and bump in the night — is music to the Rhythm’s ears. But it’s really in its element when there’s actual music. That’s when the Rhythm really takes it to the stage, a glittering constellation of every color in the universe.
Picture a house party with an entire wall of these panels responding vividly to every beat. Imagine a DJ’s delight at having an entire stage glittering with Nanoleaf panels.
Only your wallet will despair. A kit with nine panels and the Rhythm module will set you back around $225. Expansion packs, which add three panels to your wall doodle, are around $50. There’s a third component to all of this: the very peculiar looking Nanoleaf Remote. It’s shaped like a multi-sided die, plain white like the panels. But connected via Bluetooth, this simple cube puts on its own show. Flip the die on any of its dozen sides and it glows one color. The panels on the wall seamlessly follow suit. Flip it again, and the panels light up to a fresh tone.
It’s a great way to get past the sound-sensing lights and maintain a stable color for those times when you don’t need eye-popping twinkle, but rather home-accentuating warmth. You can customize with as many as 12 different lighting scenes.
Falling for the pretty lights
For those of us, who aren’t in the magician or DJ business, the Nanoleaf Remote adds a most welcome dash of practicality. But aside from the price, there’s another major hurdle to clear: How do you explain your purchase of these dancing doo-dads to your significant other? Who, aside from the Wizard of Oz, really needs dancing lights on their walls?
But a funny thing happened on the way to being mocked for these bright shiny wall baubles. My partner, Erin Kobayashi, got really into them.
She loves interior design, particularly plants, and she has the Instagram account to match.
"Aesthetically, this is a product that will fit seamlessly into a clean, contemporary space," she noted. "I think the Nanoleaf is perfect for condo living when you don't have floor space but still want to make a statement. You don't have to deal with any clutter on the floor since it hangs on the wall. Additionally, by design, condos are all hard-edged and angular, so the triangular Nanoleaf will fit right in."
But let’s face it, for all the reasons we drum up about why these lights make perfectly practical sense, the truth is, we fell for all the pretty lights.
It’s like Lite-Brite for adults. And it’s a really good listener.
"I loved how when we were using the Dustbuster, it heard the buzz and lit up," Erin added. "If it can make housework a bit less monotonous, that's a pretty great feat."
Sometimes, it seems, a product comes along that is so eminently want-able, we can pass it off as a need.
I need the panels. And the Rhythm. And even that curious cube. And maybe my old house does too. I’ve never known it to be so cheerful. Maybe that’s because after a long, deaf century, it can hear the world for the first time ever.