Design: the Canvas Is the Night

Hot pink flowers illuminate the De Luxe Antique and Contemporary. A few blocks away, a ruby red couple sizzles in a clothing-store window. And across the street, Rocket Video glows brightly. This is Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, and so striking are the electric patterns stitched across the night that passing cars slow down for a better view. The attraction? Nifty new neon signs.

Little more than a decade ago, neon was considered a visual vagrant, synonymous with tacky retailing and seamy night life. Now it is going through an efflorescence. Boutiques and malls throughout the U.S. are aglow with it....

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