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The word neon rarely conjures anything terribly sophisticated. It might recall 1980s spandex – something that is hard to surpass in gaudiness, even when wrapped around hard bodies like Jane Fonda. Or it might bring to mind Las Vegas. The city is awash in so much hot pink, green and orange light that there is actually a museum dedicated solely to discarded neon signage (described by The New York Times as the place “where Las Vegas stardust rests in peace”).

It’s understandable, then, why so few people aspire to deck out their living rooms in the radiant colour spectrum. That is, until recently, when the eye-popping hues started showing up at furniture fairs and in the pages of glossy decor magazines. For the daring, when applied with just the right amount of restraint, neon comes off as classy, not crass.

It’s actually not that hard to believe. The aforementioned aerobics outfits are one thing. But for every historic example that’s totally tacky, there’s another where neon looks completely stunning (take, for instance, the pop-minimalist art works of Dan Flavin and Bruce Nauman, where neon is mesmerizing, not nauseating).

For the home, neon achieves the right balance of elegant and electric when added in micro bursts, such as to the edge of a pillow, napkin or serving tray. Or even in bigger doses, as a stand-alone focal point, such as with a vibrantly hued side chair in an all-white or grey room. Basically, as long as it doesn’t bring to mind reruns of Saved by the Bell, it works.

Here, six ways to add it to your home.

Bright light, big city

The Hot Pink Lamp from Brooklyn studio Earth Sea Warrior is a mid-century desk light updated with a pop artist’s panache. The rust around the brim speaks to the piece’s vintage past, while the bright pink and green are completely arresting. $335 (U.S.). Through

Look at This

The This chair designed by Munich-based designer Stefan Diez is very restrained: made with just a few bits of wood, its simple lines would fit well into any modern space. The radiant pink, custom created by designer Farah Ebrahimi, ensures it won’t get lost in the mix. $820. Through

Lambent stripe

A sleek walnut serving tray is, understandably, a standby in many kitchens (like a little black dress, it goes with everything and is always in style). Colorado-based designer David Rasmussen refreshes the item with a stunning neon trim. The plate looks equally good topped with h’ors oeuvre or left empty as a piece of tabletop art. $49 (U.S.). Through

Inspired work

Designer Alexandra von Furstenberg started her career as an image director for DvF, the fashion line of her famous mother-in-law, Diane. In 2007, she launched her own line of acrylic furniture. Her pink Luminous desk emanates neon from all the edges like a contemporary, minimalist sculpture. $15,000 (U.S.) Through

Colourful crumb collector

For her eponymous Etsy store Smith Handmade, Toronto-based designer Amanda Smith handcrafts napkins out of all-natural, gorgeously textured linen. To contrast the earthiness of the fabric, she serges on an edge of electric neon. $55 for a set of four. Through

Ample food and sturdy drink

Waterford – Ireland’s most staid and stately crystal cutter – has added a jolt to its bar ware with these neon green tumblers. The limey shade is a little bit Shrek, but the etched pattern is elegantly adult. $200 per pair. Through