Indoor Lighted Dry River Bed




Introduction: Indoor Lighted Dry River Bed

About: Love design, gardening and cooking. Combining all three together - even better!

This was part of our “ultimate home theater on a budget” project, where we converted a spare bedroom into a dedicated movie room with a 120” screen – for less than $2,500! If you want to read about that, please go to my website link:

For this project, we wanted to add some designer accents to the room. Since we were already planning on putting in a new bamboo floor, it was a simple matter to add a lighted, dry river accent along one wall for a dramatic effect. If you’re planning on putting in a new floor, this is a nice and simple side project that can really transform the look of your room!

A few considerations:

First, you really need to have a certain floor thickness for it to look right. For example, if you’re just putting down a 3/8” thick plank over a subfloor, the river bed won’t be deep enough for the pebbles. In our case, we got the thickness we needed because we were nailing 3/8” plank over an existing hardwood floor, so we just removed a section of hardwood for the river bed. That gave a good ¾” deep river bed.

Second, decide which side of the room to do this. This will determine if your planks run parallel or perpendicular to the river bed. Either way works, but just make sure you start your planks on the river bed side first, because you need to have as straight and clean an edge as possible.

Third, think about where to run the wiring for the lights. We went through a closet on the right side and installed a remote control switch on the outlet. This makes it convenient to turn the lights on and off. Also, because this will be used as a theater room, we conveniently hid speaker wires for the sub and surrounds under the rocks.

Flooring: This instructable is not about how to install flooring, just a side project to complement your new floor. For our project, we chose a 3 7/8” x 37 ¾” x 3/8” Black Bamboo plank.

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Step 1: Materials

1. River Rocks: ½” – 1 ½ ” black river pebbles

2. LED copper wire lights – 20 feet. Warm White color temperature (2700k)

3. Remote Control Light Switch (optional)

Step 2: Prep the Surface

You’ll basically be making a 5” wide x ¾” deep channel in your floor for your pebbles and lights. The length is whatever you want, but we prefer that it doesn’t run the full wall. Here’s what we started with – carpeting over an old hardwood floor.

After removing the old molding, we had to smoothen the wall underneath. In our case, you can see that there isn’t even any plaster behind the molding!

Step 3: Create a Channel in the Floor

Remove a section of the old floor – this will be the river

bed. We made ours 5” wide.

In addition to the LED wire lights we’ll be using, we’re also running speaker cable for rear surround speakers under the river bed, so now’s a good time to prepare the wiring. The old wood plank along the wall is still loose, so we can hide the wiring underneath.

Step 4: Position River Bed

Do a dry run of the first few pieces to determine exact starting point of river bed. Make sure it doesn’t hang too far or too close to the edge of the river bed. Once you’re satisfied with the positioning, remove new planks and secure old floor to the subfloor.

Step 5: Lay the New Floor Down

Step 6: Put in Pebbles and Wire Lights

I’m using a black, unpolished river pebble, ½” - 1 ½” size

We decided to cover the white vapor barrier paper with a black cloth for cleaner appearance. Then just run the wire lights and lay the pebbles around and over the lights.

And that’s it. Here are pictures of it in the daytime, and at night with the lights on.

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    7 Discussions


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Got those tree branch decals on amazon too - probably spend way too much time and money there ;-)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Really cool idea! Did you use LED strips? If so you could change the color and brightness of the lights.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the suggestion! I actually used an LED copper wire light. They're tiny led bulbs soldered onto bendable copper wire. Got em on Amazon.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Huh, I've never seen those. I'll need to look into them sometime.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, one more thing about those lights - they seem a bit delicate, so if you have kids and are afraid they might step on the river bed, it might be better to choose something more durable, like a rope light.