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Follow these easy Christmas light tricks to decorate your apartment



Wherever you live, there are tons of ways to get creative with Christmas lights. Residents of condos and condos may not have outdoor outlets, but can still radiate festive flair to the neighborhood.

I grew up with parents who went crazy with Christmas decorations in our house. But now, decades later, as a tenant I live with my own children. And that means finding creative ways to light windows, doorways and balconies for the holidays. Here are some of my tips for how to display Christmas lights that are simple, inexpensive, yet professional. (You can also watch my tutorial in the video embedded above.)

Christmas lights on a tree and around a window

Connect size C9 LED lights along a window edge for all to see.

Bridget Carey / CNET

Border the windows

Lights around a window are a super easy way to spread cheers – and you’ll want to buy some big, chunky lights to make sure everyone can see those cheers. That means size C7 or C9. And for anyone with an apartment or condo, you must attach them to the inside edge.

Stay away from interior decoration light bulbs. I say that as someone who has bought them for years because they are, well, they are cheaper. But these bulbs get hot, which is no good if the bulbs are touching anything – or if you have children or pets. The C9 size LED bulbs may cost a little more, but they are safer and more reliable. For my windows, I used the Home Depot brand Home Accents, a multicolored LED string of C9 bulbs marked “super bright”, and these are remotely indistinguishable from incandescent bulbs.

Compare incandescent and LED Christmas lights

Incandescent and LED look the same. Here the LED is depicted above the light bulb.

Bridget Carey / CNET

For a large window, a string of 25 lights should work well (about 4 feet long). You also have clear, plastic, 3M Command Decoration Clips. A pack of 40 small hooks is more than enough for one window. Stick one every six inches along the edge, keeping the hooks in the same direction. The distance between the hooks does not have to be exact. The bottom line is that you can keep the bulb’s cord taut and in a straight line as it lies along the edge, with the bulbs facing out in the same direction.

Christmas light bulb

Tuck a string into the hook along the window edge and try to keep the line straight and taut as you walk around.

Bridget Carey / CNET

Wait at least 30 minutes for the adhesive to apply to the window edge wall before attaching the light cord to the hooks. Be sure to plan where the end of the plug will attach to an extension cord before you begin.

The best balcony on the block

Decorating the railing of a balcony can be tricky if there is no outlet outside. But there are possibilities.

Light socket adapter

This $ 4 adapter turns an outlet into an outlet.

Bridget Carey / CNET

If your balcony or outdoor space has a fixture that uses a standard bulb, you’re in luck. Take out the bulb and unscrew one light socket adapter, which converts a light socket into two sockets. (And you can still screw a bulb into the bottom.)

Now you have a way to power lights to place a balcony railing. But don’t just hit a strand haphazardly – keep the bulbs in an uncluttered design. A simple method is to take a string of C7 or C9 bulbs and have each bulb face up on the railing, keeping the cord in a straight line. Use zip ties around each ball to secure the strand, with all balls facing up.

Secure Christmas lights with cable ties.

Secure lights to a railing in a straight line, facing up, with cable ties.

Bridget Carey / CNET

Test extension cords and lights before secure them with cable ties. Be aware that wall outlet adapters use two-prong plugs, so grounded three-prong extension cords will not work.

I also recommend covering open outlets with a strip of electrical tape to prevent water from entering the exposed slots.

Christmas magic on batteries

If you don’t have an outdoor light to turn into an outlet, go for battery-powered lights. I see tons of choices in stores this year, several of which have been marked as safe for outdoor use. Some have timers that automatically turn off the lights after six hours. Some lights have options to switch between flashing and chaser effects.

A string of microdot LEDs wrapped around a handrail.

This rope of 100 micro-dot LEDs extends just over 7 meters and requires six AA batteries.

Bridget Carey / CNET

This year I’m using a long rope of 100 micro-dot LED lights to decorate the railing on my front staircase. A light hose is easy to turn around the railings. It cost me about $ 20 for one rope – but six AA batteries are required for each strand. I also use two smaller strands 20 C3 size LED lights to decorate some of the miniature tree shrubs I bought for outside the front door. Those smaller outdoor safe strands only need three batteries.

I’ve lit these every night for a week and haven’t had to replace the batteries yet, but I’ll update this post when I reach the end of battery life.

Try a different tree every day

Rainbow colors on a Christmas tree

You 2020 could use a cascading rainbow tree.

Bridget Carey / CNET

Today’s fake trees are a breeze to set up and they have fun effects. But I don’t have room to store a fake tree, so I’m going with a fresh real tree. This year, I tried a high-tech string of lights called Twinkly, and it effortlessly brings next-level Christmas magic to a tree.

For my six-footer, I wrapped a string of 250 lights around the tree just like any other string of lights. This Generation II Twinkly series of RGB leds, priced at about $ 120, is managed by an app and requires Wi-Fi to work. Launch the app and point your phone’s camera at the tree so it can read where every light is in the tree. Once it maps the location of each light, you can choose from a variety of vibrant light effects that fade, twinkle or spin around the tree in cool patterns.

Red and white lights on a Christmas tree

Or maybe you are in a squirming candy cane animation mood?

Bridget Carey / CNET

Change your design in an instant with an app full of preset effects. Depending on my mood, I can drop a rainbow fade waterfall from the top down, or a red and white candy cane, or cheerful sparkling tropical carnival colors. Adjust the speed, color and brightness or design your own patterns. If you spend a lot of time at home, you can keep it fresh every day with a different lighting design.

Smart plugs keep it simple

When sockets are in hard-to-reach places, smart plugs can save you some trouble – and you don’t need a smart speaker or hub to make them work for you.

Plug a smart plug into a socket and attach your light string to the smart plug. Now it can be turned on and off with an app, instead of straining to unplug extension cords at the end of the night. I use Amazon’s smart plug ($ 25), which also allows lights to be turned on and off with a timer. There is also a button on the side of the plug so that others can operate it without an app.

Installing lamps in a window

Do not use light bulbs indoors. Molten blinds don’t make for a happy holiday.

Bridget Carey / CNET


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