Modern wall sconces can enhance your current lighting decor while adding task, accent, or general illumination to the most used areas of your home, inside or out. This guide will walk you through some of the important considerations when shopping for the best wall sconces for your home. You might even find the perfect fit among this list of top recommendations.
- BEST OVERALL: Globe Electric Harrow 1-Light Wall Sconce
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Design House 504977 1 Light Wall Light
- BEST LANTERN: Globe Electric 65931 Williamsburg 1-Light Wall Sconce
- BEST MODERN: TRLIFE Cool White Acrylic Wall Sconce Lighting
- BEST RUSTIC: LightInTheBox Retro Rustic Nordic Glass Wall Lamp
- BEST FOR LIVING ROOM: Linea di Liara Effimero Brushed Nickel Wall Sconce
- BEST FOR BATHROOM: hykolity 3-Light Bathroom Wall Sconce
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Wall Sconces
There are an overwhelming number of options when it comes to selecting the best wall sconces for interior design and function. Sconce type, decor style, material and finish, purpose, brightness, and installation are essential considerations to keep in mind when shopping for wall lighting.
Within the world of wall sconces, there are five popular forms that stand out in the market. All of these come in a wide array of styles and materials:
- Directional scones point light to illuminate target areas. The light can be directed up, down, or both up and down.
- Swing-arm sconces are lights at the end of a swinging arm that you can move into different positions. These are typically found in bedrooms and living rooms, where they function well as reading lamps.
- Candle sconces pay homage to the premodern age and mimic the look of a candle, candelabra, or torch.
- Lantern sconces hang on the wall and resemble old-world style handheld lanterns, offering a rustic look to outdoor spaces, long hallways, or rooms featuring this aesthetic.
- Wallchiere sconces are often decorative and ornate, functioning as accent pieces in a room.
The material from which a wall sconce is constructed influences both longevity and price. Most wall sconces feature metal, glass, ceramic, crystal, or plastic. Depending on your budget, some of these options will be more suitable than others.
Wall sconces featuring metal are generally the most durable and long lasting, typically falling in mid-range price points. This is especially true if the hardware and bulb housing contains thick metal. Fixtures containing glass, ceramic, and crystal are often the more expensive options available. While these materials can last for years, if they fall to the ground due to improper installation, or sustain impact (for instance, while moving furniture), they may shatter or crack.
Fixtures made with plastic are the most affordable, although low quality plastic may wear down more easily. High quality, painted plastic wall sconces can effectively mimic the look of metal hardware and glass, ceramic, or crystal bulb housing. With these plastic models, budget-conscious shoppers can still find attractive options to suit their price range.
When shopping for wall sconces, give some thought about the purpose the light will serve. For example, these fixtures can provide ambient, task, or accent lighting, depending on purpose and where you install them.
- Ambient lighting provides general illumination to a room. This base lighting can be bright, serving as the only source of light in the room, or create a softer glow that can be added to with task lighting.
- Task lighting is more concentrated and illuminates a particular area to assist with specific jobs like cooking, reading, and writing. This type of lighting is often brighter than ambient lighting.
- Accent lighting casts light on and draws attention to a piece of art or decor on the wall.
As an example, many spacious bathrooms have wall sconces on either side of a mirror, in addition to ambient lighting. This task lighting helps with morning routines or makeup applications. On the other hand, a single wall light fixture with multiple bulbs can be hung above the mirror in a smaller bathroom, serving as ambient lighting that illuminates the entire room.
Style, Finish, and Details
The way a given material is finished and details included in the sconce, like hanging ornaments, contribute to the fixture’s decor style. Vintage or rustic lights may be painted to look tarnished with age, while contemporary and mid-century modern sconces often have a clean matte painted or glossy metal finish. A wallchiere featuring a globe bulb atop a simple metal holder exudes modernity, while a candelabra fixture with hanging glass ornaments evokes vintage luxury.
You may want to opt for a decor type in keeping with the room style for consistency, or choose a contrasting piece to make a statement. If you prefer to match the sconces with surrounding decor, consider the room’s color theme and the space’s focal points, furniture, and accent pieces you’ll want to complement.
Bulb Type and Wattage
Wattage is often confused with bulb brightness, but these elements are distinct. Wattage is a measurement of energy use; the more watts a lightbulb supports, the more energy it consumes to generate light. This is an important distinction to keep in mind when considering the main bulb types for wall sconces: LED, incandescent, and CFL.
- Light Emitting Diode (LED) light bulbs generate a significant amount of light at a lower wattage, consuming less energy than the other types. Compared to incandescent and CFL bulbs, LEDs are more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. LED bulbs have a long lifespan (approximately 25,000 hours) because less heat is emitted and there is no filament to burn out. LED bulbs are more expensive than incandescent and CFL bulbs, but if you use LED light fixtures often, their value is shown over time.
- Incandescent light bulbs generate light using a glowing tungsten filament while expending significant energy on heat. This makes incandescent bulbs inefficient and ultimately increases your energy bill. Incandescent bulbs are inexpensive upfront compared to LED lights, but once the filament eventually burns out, after a lifetime of around 1,000 hours, they are more costly to replace in the long run than LEDs.
- Compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs are often a compatible alternative for wall fixtures that require an incandescent bulb. CFL bulbs last between 10,000 to 15,000 hours and are slightly less expensive than LEDs. CFL light bulbs are less energy efficient than LEDs, but more efficient than incandescents.
Based on energy consumption (wattage), lifespan, and value, it’s not difficult to understand why LED bulbs are favored in modern light fixtures. To emit equivalent amounts of light, LED lights require a lower wattage, CFL bulbs require more watts, and incandescents even more.
The shape of a light bulb matters for aesthetic purposes, particularly if the housing is transparent, and the bulb is on full display. Only some wall sconces come with light bulbs, so it’s important to know the forms available. The following light bulb shapes are most popular for wall lights:
- Standard/arbitrary bulbs are the classic shape used for most home lighting.
- Candle bulbs are shaped like a candle flame and are great for providing a look of authenticity to candle sconces.
- Edison bulbs are reproductions of the first incandescent light bulbs introduced by Thomas Edison over a century ago, often used to match the antique appearance of vintage-style fixtures.
- Flame bulbs are similar to candle bulbs, but have a blown or etched glass design that makes light appear to flicker on the wall, offering an interesting ambient light effect.
- Globe bulbs are spherical, offering a modern look to directional, swing-arm, and lantern wall sconces, and are often featured in wall lighting above vanities.
- Lantern Chimney (H) bulbs are most commonly featured in rustic lantern wall sconces for an authentic appearance.
Given that many bulb shapes compliment or mimic certain decorative styles, once you decide on a wall fixture, it shouldn’t be difficult to select bulbs that match.
Brightness and Color Temperature
The brightness of a wall light is determined by lumens, a measurement indicating the amount of visible light generated. Simply put, more lumens means brighter light, and fewer light fixtures to illuminate a room. Naturally, task lighting tends to have more lumens to effectively illuminate a target area. However, there are ambient lighting options with enough lumens for a few to be placed in one room and to function as the sole light source.
Consider the following rules of thumb for lumens required by room type:
- Kitchen work areas: 7,000 to 8,000 lumens
- Bathroom: 7,000 to 8,000 lumens
- Home office: 6,000 to 8,000 lumens
- Dining room: 3,000 to 4,000 lumens
- Kitchen: 3,000 to 4,000 lumens
- Dining room: 3,000 to 4,000 lumens
- Living room: 1,000 to 2,000 lumens
- Bedroom: 1,000 to 2,000 lumens
The color temperature of light bulbs is rated on the Kelvin light scale that ranges from 2000K to 6500K—as the number increases, the light quality becomes cooler. At the bottom of the scale, the warm color temperature contains amber and yellow tones. As the light progresses up the scale, it becomes crisp white, and eventually takes on a bluish, cool tone at the upper end.
When selecting bulb color temperature, consider the purpose of the task or ambient lighting. For instance, you may prefer a wall sconce used as a reading light in the bedroom or living room to have a soft white light (2700-3000 K), amounting to a warm yellow. On the other hand, having a warm white/yellow white (3000-4000 K) or a bright white (4,000-5,000 K) color temperature is more suitable for preparing food in the kitchen or working in the home office.
The size of a wall sconce influences how many bulbs the fixture contains and the visual effect it has on a wall. A smaller wall sconce that houses one bulb may be designed for use with multiple versions of the same model in a given room, such as a line of matching fixtures placed along a hallway, or multiple sconces placed on living room walls to provide ambient lighting throughout.
A larger wall light containing three or four bulbs may be placed above the countertop workspace in a smaller kitchen, serving to illuminate the entire space. In comparison, a wallchiere in the living room may take up significant space on the wall for decorative purposes, and only contain a single bulb. If you’re shopping for a larger fixture that contains multiple bulbs, be aware of the total lumens generated per fixture to ensure there is an appropriate amount of light for the space.
When choosing an appropriately sized sconce for your space, note how tall the ceilings are. If you plan on installing wall sconces in a room with a low ceiling (8 feet high or less), opt for smaller fixtures that will not crowd the wall, which could make the room seem smaller than it is. Conversely, a smaller fixture may appear to be drowned out by a tall ceiling (10 feet high or more) and look unsuitable for the larger space.
The installation requirements for a wall sconce depend on the manufacturer’s mounting instructions and whether it is a hard-wired or plug-in fixture. Manufacturers often include mounting hardware and instructions on how to attach the fixture to the wall.
Hard-wired fixtures must be connected to the household wiring in order to function, operating through a wall switch. Plug-in wall sconces are much easier to install after mounting, only requiring that the light be plugged into a wall outlet. An on/off switch is included along the insulated wire or on the fixture itself. Some wall sconces are designed to be either hard-wired or plugged in, offering more options for installation.
A savvy DIYer can install even a hard-wired wall sconce on their own (don’t forget to start by turning off the breaker to the section of the house). If you’re not comfortable working on electrical projects, you can hire a professional for installation rather than deal with the potentially dangerous wires.
Our Top Picks
With the above considerations in mind, here are some of the best wall sconces for a variety of applications.
The Globe Electric Harrow Wall Sconce offers mid-century modern elegance at an affordable price. With a clear glass shade, matte black finish, and a gold-colored accent socket, this design can complement many decor styles. For a vintage-inspired look, pair this fixture with an Edison bulb.
The Harrow wall sconce is compatible with 60W bulbs and dimmable with a compatible dimmer switch (sold separately). The pivot head allows for targeted illumination to suit your room lighting needs. This Globe Electric wall sconce comes with mounting hardware for easy wall mounting. The overall dimensions are 9.28 inches by 8 inches by 10.6 inches.
An affordable wall sconce doesn’t have to be plain in design, and this Design House fixture is here to prove it. The satin nickel or rubbed bronze finish and frosted glass flute shade gives this sconce a traditional appearance that could look great in many rooms. However, this design may not pair well with a more modern or contemporary space.
The Design House light fixture measures 8.25 inches tall by 5.1 inches wide, ideal for soft ambient light in bedrooms or bathrooms. This versatile sconce can be positioned for upward or downward lighting. The light is hardwired and requires a 60W incandescent bulb.
This Globe Electric wall sconce has a great deal of character, with a warm dark wood satin finish, dark metal accents, and seeded glass. Its vintage industrial appearance is an excellent fit for rustic decor or as a charming porch light. Pair this fixture with an Edison bulb to complete the vintage look.
The Williamsburg wall sconce is dimmable with a compatible dimmer switch (sold separately).
The fixture is heavy, and the sconce should be hung with proper care to ensure it stays secure on the wall. This hard-wired light includes mounting hardware and works with 60W bulbs. The overall dimensions are 12.57 inches tall by 5.50 inches wide by 8.03 inches deep.
This bright sconce lights is great for a modern bathroom or bedroom and can function as ambient and task lighting. Made with brushed aluminum and acrylic, the TRILIFE light is lightweight and easy to install, particularly as it plugs into an outlet with a 6-foot cord for easy installation. Plus, it can be hard-wired for a seamless look.
This wall sconces can be installed horizontally or vertically, with a lifespan of up to 30,000 hours. The included bright bulb generates cool white illumination (6000 K). The TRLIFE wall sconce measures 11.4 inches by 4.33 inches by 1.8 inches.
If you want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time, this vintage-style candle wall sconce has the appearance of an antique oil lamp. A bulb is not included with the purchase of this wall sconce, but you can pair it with a candle or flame bulb for an authentic look. It has a brown metal finish and a glass shade that allows for great ambient light.
This wall sconce is well-suited for decor styles such as traditional, craftsman, and farmhouse. The LightInTheBox wall lamp is compatible with 60W bulbs with dimensions of 7.87 inches by 7.87 inches by 11.81 inches.
Designed with metal and clear glass, this wall sconce comes in several different finishes for a modern decor style. Mount two on either side of a featured art piece, use one or more for general illumination to a room, or for mood lighting using the dimmer feature. The Linea di Liara lights can be mounted up or down and works with most 60W bulbs, including LED, incandescent, CFL, and smart bulbs.
This hard-wired wall sconce includes mounting pieces and step-by-step installation instructions. The Linea di Liara Effimero light fixture measures 20 inches tall by 4.5 inches wide by 4 inches deep.
Illuminate your whole bathroom with this three-light strip sconce. Perfect for over the bathroom sink, this light is excellent for both ambient lighting and task lighting. Apply makeup or trim your beard with ease by the glow of these modern-style lights. This hykolity fixture comes with three Edison bulbs, which each generate 2700 K of bright white light.
A brushed-nickel finish and cone-shaped glass gives a very modern feel to this wall sconce, and it would fit best in a modern-style bathroom. This sconce measures 25.91 long by 7.28 inches wide by 9.06 inches deep, compatible with 16W LED bulbs.
FAQs About Wall Sconces
You may still have lingering questions on wall sconces. Avoid making common lighting mistakes and refer to these common questions.
Q. How do you hang wall sconces?
Each wall sconce has different installation requirements and usually comes with specific hardware and instructions. If you’re a DIYer, refer to this guide on installing a light fixture. If you have no experience with electrical wiring, it may be best to hire a professional.
Q. Where do you hang wall sconces?
You can install wall sconces virtually anywhere that light is needed. Wall sconces are most commonly used on either side of the bathroom mirror, beside the bed, along hallways, and as porch lights.
Q. How high should wall sconces be mounted?
This will depend on the purpose of the light and where it should be directed. For instance, if you’re illuminating a hallway, it will need to be higher, to see the path ahead. On the other hand, bedside wall sconces should be mounted lower for the light to cast onto the bed.