I Should Have No Business Loving This Smart Light System, and Yet ...

Nanoleaf light panels can be configured in any shape to fit any space. (Photo: Erin Kobayashi)

UPDATE: Since I reviewed the Nanoleaf Light Panels, the company has introduced a new line of lights. Like their predecessors, the Nanoleaf Canvas is a system of wafer-thin, energy-sipping lights that are designed to interlock and form patterns only limited by your imagination — and your wallet.

The starter kit, which includes nine panels, costs about $300. You can add 17 more tiles for about $500. As you can see, it can really add up.

And that’s the first thing I noticed when I mounted the Canvas. I wanted more than the nine tiles in the starter pack instantly.

Maybe it has something to do with the new square design — the old triangles are still rocking on another section and I don’t see a need to add more.

But the new squares just beg to claim more wall space. Imagine, I tell my partner, this entire wall covered in these things!

The funny thing is she can imagine it — and actually likes the idea.

That’s a testament to how dazzling these lights are — everyone who’s seen them rocking my attic loves them.

Nanoleaf Canvas lights mounted on wall
It's hard to know how many tiles are enough. And, whether you're feeling pink... or blue?. (Photo: Erin Kobayashi)

Naturally, I love them too. Even more than the old triangles. They seem brighter. The app used to control them is more intuitive and functional. And these squares don’t need the optional sound sensor to react to music and sound. Did I mention each individual tile is touch-sensitive?

My partner loves pink. So she brushes her hand over them like a fairy wand and they magically turn pink. Think of the kids’ room! Movie nights!

Think of... your wallet.

And there's the rub. These lights are exquisite — truly the best customizable, mountable smart lights on the planet. But how much do you want to spend customizable, mountable smart lights anyway?

For me, at least, the answer is a little more. And maybe just a little more after that...


Here's my original review of the Nanoleaf Panels:

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

Nanoleaf lights panels over bed
The flat illuminated 'leaves' interlock to form any pattern. (Photo: Nanoleaf)

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

Smart light panels on white wall.
The Nanoleaf smart light system sticks to just about any surface -- making it an ideal way to add ambiance to any room. (Photo: Erin Kobayashi)

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.

Her take?

"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.