sunset lamp
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I Bought the Viral Sunset Lamp Just to Feel Something

Is the new Instagram clout lamp worth the hype? We tested it.
New York, US
March 29, 2021, 7:25pm

“I am not a conjuror of cheap tricks.” —Gandalf

Same. But during these stay-at-home days, I’m also here to support any and all props the internet wants to hype me up on, from spray foam mirrors to fancy pube oil, in the hopes of bringing a little more oomph into these sensory-deprived days. 

I miss high fives (weirdly). I miss pizza parties, and sardine’d concert crowds. I miss being able to sit with my mouth agape on a bench, like a Gila monster in the sun, without having a chin-strapped mask and a visceral fear of death. So when sunset projector lamps began warming up my social feeds, I was damn curious. WTF were these ambient balls of honey?:

And purple:

They swept the socials with a kind of quiet, 2001: A Space Odyssey power, touted as relaxing home lighting for both a generation that is swapping out hygge energy for elaborate LED lighting situations, and anyone in search of the perfect selfie staging:

I haven’t been this jazzed for a life prop in a minute. Not since the tiny hand trend—the one that likely began with Kristen Wig’s SNL character, peaked in 2016 (think: post-Zooey Deschanel twee years), and survives in cursed manicures)—have I been this eager to smash that “order now” button. Neither was one of my editors, who Slacked over a now sold-out sunset lamp from a rando brand called Nebula, which, at around 60 bucks, was more affordable than, say, the Halo sunset lamp running around $1,000

The first tip in partaking in this trend? Get ready to wait. At least, if you’re ordering from a niche lighting company. Mine did arrive… eventually… after a gazillion (2.5-ish) months. Otherwise, there are plenty of other affordable sunset lamp options online that will probably arrive a hell of a lot faster, like this dupe on Amazon:

Amazon Sunset Lamp

Photo: Amazon

Sunset Projection Led Light, $20.37 at Amazon

As well as some alternative groovy lighting situations: 


Photo: Brookstone

TheoryHome Floor Lamp, $199.99 $129.99 at Brookstone

DIY Party Light

Photo: Etsy

Portable DIY LED Party Light, $61.49 at Etsy

When my sunset lamp finally arrived, I was surprised to see it in such a small package; the lamp can cast varying petite-to-wall-sized sunset shapes depending on how you angle it, and is roughly as big as, say, Yao Ming’s palm. As a New Yorker with limited space and a roommate, I appreciate that compactness. Set-up was also easy, and virtually a non-step; we just plugged our lamp into a USB wall charger, and got our brains drum-rolling to bask in its womby, planetary glow. 


The unspoken consensus: "Huh…. sick!"

We stared at it for the obligatory three minutes, and then went about the rest of our afternoons. I popped out every now and again to place it in a new corner of the living room, medium-tickled by the various shapes it cast. I tucked it behind a snake plant, which just reminded me of the strip mall planter light I threw up on as a kid after eating at Souplantation. I cast it on another corner as a long teardrop, and then used it to spotlight some flowers. It was high-drama in effect, as promised. I took some selfies (also high-drama), and while they looked flattering, it did kind of feel like looking into an eclipse. All of this took about 10 minutes. 

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“It’s beautiful, FR,” I slacked my editor, “but it looks even better in photos. Like it was made for Instagram.” 

I considered the book closed on the sunset lamp, and didn’t return to mine until the evening time, which was when I discovered that I was (and still am) absolutely not done discovering the depths of my sunset lamp. This baby has more to it than the fleeting high of social media bragging rights, and this was just the beginning of what it has to offer my quarantined nights. 

USB Rainbow Sunset Lamp

Photo: AliExpress

USB Rainbow Sunset Lamp, $16.39 at AliExpress

I plugged it back in after work, when I actually had time to sit, relax, and marinate in its glow. I actually did feel calmer, and more centered. Within 20 minutes of chatting under its benevolent rays, my roommate and I were somehow talking about some benchmark #deep topics (dead grandparents, and Titanic; the sex appeal of 1970s chest hair; and what a powerful cinematic metaphor werewolves are for STIs). After an hour or so of chat, it became clear: It’s the lamp. 


Change ya light, change ya life. Chromotherapy, otherwise known as light therapy, has long used “the visible spectrum (colors) of electromagnetic radiation to [address] diseases,” explains one report, positing that “the body is stimulated by colors, and colors are responsible for the correct working of various systems that function [in our bodies].” There’s a metaphysical aspect to a lot of that outlook, for sure. But there is definitely evidence to back up the effects of lighting on things like seasonal affective disorder, or the positive effects of light therapy on jaundiced babies. Even a decorative light supplier, ElectricalDirect, recently did a study about what color lighting is most often present in on-screen sex scenes, and found that “the majority of famous sex scenes (52%) used a warm hue but the most popular colour for getting down has been revealed as brown. Specifically a caramel shade of brown”—not too far off from the mellifluous glow of my sunset lamp. 

And if you're not ready to commit to a full indoor sunset, what’s wrong with a classic color-changing bulb? They're an increasingly popular way to test the waters of how you like living with ambient lighting situations:

Smart Wifi Light Bulbs

Photo: Amazon

Smart WiFi Light Bulbs, $18.99 at Amazon

Once you've started exploring the possibilities of mood lighting, it's hard to go back. Yes, a sultry sunset is great for the thrill of a silky selfie. But, if you let it, an ambiance-altering lamp can help you put your phone down, and will also develop its own creative, sentient personality in your home. At the two-hour mark of my roommate’s and my lamp marination sesh, we were on the floor doing shitty shadow puppetry, which continued for almost another hour—no phones, no board games, no blueprints. Just stupid finger condors.


Photo by Author

Yes, this lamp is an Insta-influencer gimmick, but it’s also a great tool for those of us who need to step away from our screens, and turn to a more tactile, spontaneous way to unwind. I definitely can’t wait to backdrop my aperitivos and dick appointments with this sunset lamp, COVID-permitting. But I also love it as a more intimate, personal sidekick. I love it for reminding me to unplug, stay a while, and play a while. 

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