What Is a Wall Sconce?

What Is a Wall Sconce?

A wall sconce is a fixture that is hard-wired into your home's electrical system the same way an overhead light, pendant or recessed fixture would be. It's important to consider the style of your other lighting fixtures when selecting a sconce.

Sconces usually look best when positioned high enough that they can't be bumped into, but not so high that they make a room seem too crowded.

How high should wall sconces be?

There are a few key factors that affect the height at which sconces should be mounted. One is the ceiling height. If a sconce is mounted too high, it will primarily light the ceiling and can cause unflattering shadows or glares. If a sconce is mounted low enough, it will primarily light the floor and can make the bulb visible (another no-no).

Another factor is the intended usage of the space. For example, a bathroom wall sconce is typically installed around eye level to prevent unflattering shadows or glares when using the mirror. A living room sconce can be mounted lower to provide a warmer, more inviting lighting scheme.

Another consideration is whether the sconce will be hardwired or plug-in. The location of the outlet or junction box is also important. If the sconce is being installed in an area where there is no existing junction box, it may be necessary to consult with an electrician. A hard-wired sconce will tap into the electricity in your home, just like a ceiling fan, pendant, or recessed light would.

How to install a wall sconce

Adding sconces to a room can define hidden corners, highlight wall art and accent a mirror while providing ambient lighting. Many sconces come with dimming capabilities so you can add or remove lighting at your discretion. If you are adding sconces to a wall with molding, be sure to allow for adequate spacing between fixtures – about six feet.

Consider the other light sources in your home when choosing a sconce style. Look for finishes that coordinate with overhead light fixtures, floor lamps or table lights to keep the look consistent. You can also find sconces in finishes that complement the colors of your walls, furniture or other home decor accessories.

For the most simple installation, opt for a plug-in sconce that can be plugged into an existing outlet. If you want to mount a hard-wired fixture where an outlet is not currently located, consult with an electrician for help installing a junction box and running the wires. You will need to cut a channel in the wall to run the wiring, and you may need to fish a wire from an existing switch to the new sconce location.

Swing arm sconces

Whether you need to add an extra light to a bedroom wall or accent a piece of art in the living room, swing arm sconces provide an elegant solution. These fixtures feature a jointed arm that can be moved as needed and are compatible with dimmers for customizable lighting options. They’re available in several finishes to match your existing decor, from traditional to modern.

swing arm wall light

These lights usually have a backplate and shade that are either ornate or sleek. They’re perfect for small spaces with limited floor space or for illuminating nightstands or bathroom mirrors. They also look great next to a window or on the dining room buffet. For the best effect, mount sconces between 6 and 6-1/2 feet from the floor. That way, they won’t be accidentally bumped or cause glare.

Unlike up-lights, swing arm wall lamp cast light downward, creating the illusion of a more spacious living area. They’re a wonderful alternative to table lamps and work well above home library shelving or in reading nooks. They’re available in a variety of styles and designs and can be mounted as plug-in or hardwired fixtures.

Candles sconces

Originally used as primary sources of light for pioneer homes, castles and more, candle wall sconces look stunning in modern spaces. They're ideal for providing atmospheric accent lighting, such as around a fireplace, painting or above a mirror. They're also perfect for creating an inviting entryway, with a range of finishes available to coordinate with your home decor.

Candles sconces

Picture lights are slender fixtures that are usually installed above a piece of art or picture, to illuminate the artwork and create a focal point in your space. This fixture style can also be used in an open concept living area to highlight a staircase or other architectural feature, and it's great for illuminating a gallery-style wall.

For a unique take on this classic sconce design, consider the Full Circle Sconce featuring a cylindrical fabric shade and backplate. The sconce's arm features a small ring that complements the shape of the shade, and the resulting look is streamlined and elegant. These sconces are also wet-rated, making them suitable for outdoor spaces like screened porches and entryways.

Wall Washer Sconces

An essential part of any layered lighting scheme, wall sconces provide ambient, task, and accent light. These versatile fixtures range in style from sparse to sculptural, complementing any design aesthetic. This type of fixture also makes a great addition to foyers, entryways and screened porches.

outdoor wall light

When selecting a sconce, consider its intended purpose and the amount of space you have to work with. If you're looking for a stylish accent piece, try a picture light or long-arm sconce that offers an elegant silhouette. For directed task lighting, choose a sconce with an adjustable arm or one that can be aimed. Sconces with no arm at all, like this bronze sconce, can still have a unique look thanks to their sleek, minimalist silhouette.

If you plan on mounting multiple sconces along a hallway or staircase, keep in mind that they should be spaced about six feet apart. This will help prevent you from bumping into them or hitting your head on the railings. If you have a low ceiling, shop for ADA-compliant sconces that extend no more than four inches from the wall.

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