We just built a new home and I now realize that the lighting is insufficient. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this earlier. I guess we didn’t know that were supposed to be thinking about it.
I’ve been reading all of your lighting posts but am waiting anxiously to read about wall sconces and maybe floor lamps? I know that there are two types of sconces.
Those that are hardwired into a box behind the wall.
Those that plug-in, but then you have the weird wire thing hanging down which looks cheap to me.
The issue is that now that everything’s been painted doing the first one means putting holes in the wall, patching and repainting and my husband is going to kill me if we do that. It means getting the contractor back here and we’re already way over budget!
It’s funny, but throughout my career I’ve noticed three things.
One, folks tend to focus on paint colors first when that should be last, if anything.
Two, they forget about lighting until the end and that needs to be done before the foundation is laid.
Three. Almost everyone underestimates how much all of this is going to cost.
Okay. Wall Sconces – Yet another HUGE topic!
It’s so funny. Well, not really funny, haha, but the ironic kind of funny. I remember some 23 years ago when I worked for a decorator in Bedford, NY, how we would bemoan the lack of great lighting sources.
Well, obviously, the store was bugged, because it wasn’t long after that, when it all changed. Not only are there a plethora of great lighting sources (like some 220 sources!) which are in Laurel’s Rolodex, but there are thousands of wonderful wall sconces.
So, first let’s go back in time to see the origins of the wall sconce.
La Toilette-Francois Boucher 1742
A pair of Rococo sconces that look almost identical to those in the painting. whoa!
I just so happen to have a pair of these that I bought about 20 years ago in Bedford, NY. They were a lot less than the ones from Ruby Lane. But the RL are in better condition. The mirror of course, was to reflect back as much light into the room as possible. Have to say that when I’ve put a candle in these, they are quite extraordinary. There are modern versions of these available but usually they are much larger.
Another type of sconce that I’ve always loved is this Georgian Lantern wall sconce. I always associate them with John Rosselli and Furlow Gatewood. This image is from their shop from some time ago.
Another version has three lights in Furlow Gatewood’s home. This image is from his magnificent book — One Man’s Folly.
For some reason, I haven’t been able to fit in floor lamps but since we have a dilemma of fitting in lighting after the fact, I need to interject at least one. Floor lamps aren’t a big deal, but one thing I’ve been dying to share is the fact that no matter what. If you have electricity nearby but no space, you can always fit in a tiny floor lamp. No holes at all. No fancy wiring. No tables.
The Very Skinny Floor Lamp From Wisteria
I think I’ve talked about the skinny floor lamp from Wisteria. It takes up no room at all. You could stick one in each corner, by a chair, next to a fireplace. Anywhere.
Okay, good night. I’m going to go and make dinner now.
Oh, I wish! I mean, what I wish is that there weren’t SO many fabulous wall sconces that I love.
But first a little technical info. I know that many of you know this, but some may not.
There are two options for installation of wall sconces.
- Hardwired, meaning you don’t see any wires coming out.
- Plug in. The sconce plugs in to a regular ol’ socket and then we have either a cord dangling or a small case for the cord that runs down the wall. In either case, an electrician should be able to make most sconces go one way or the other.
The problem with doing the hard wire after the fact is obviously, that the electricity has to be able to get to the sconce from behind the wall and that might be a big to do and prohibitively expensive.
Here’s a sitch where Rachel of Maison De Pax took an antique or vintage sconce that is the hard-wired type and turned it into a plug-in version for her son’s room. Notice how the cord thingy virtually disappears. In fact, I think it enhances the charm of this fixture.
One note about DIY. Don’t. Don’t, unless you really, really know what you are doing.
Best & Company Photography/ Alison Gootee
A wonderful trick that’s been mentioned before is to augment the room’s lighting capacity with mirrors. I love how this sconce is mounted on an antique mirror inside the moulding.
Here are some of my favorite Visual Comfort Wall Sconces
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18
I used the #17 sconce in a home recently and you can see it here, here and here. It’s really lovely.
Ashley Gilbreath via Circa Lighting blog
One of the hottest trends that I am seeing EVERYWHERE, is some version of the classic library sconce. But they are showing up in stairwells. Above is Aerin Lauder’s version for visual comfort which is numbers 3 and 16 on the chart.
And here it is again in this cool bedroom by Best & Company
Bill Ingram – Southern Living Idea House
And of course, in libraries too.
Someone asked how it works to have a sconce over the sink if the projection isn’t far enough.
Here’s your answer.
Imbrie Articulating Wall Lights
More articulating wall sconces from Rejuvenation, a terrific company that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here, but I’ve ordered from them numerous times. It’s a well-priced handsome line with an insane amount of customization possibilities as evidenced above with the Imbrie Articulating sconces.
One of my long-time favorite vendors and one of the 36 sources I can’t live without in Laurel’s Rolodex is Authentic Designs made in the USA and in Vermont.
In fact, in our old home, we had three of the Williamsburg Keeping Room Sconces on our stair well. They gave off such a lovely light– on a dimmer, of course. They also sell these smaller than normal candle bulbs which are very pretty.
This is a small family owned business that’s largely by word-of-mouth. They are exceedingly helpful. Oh, and they do custom. Just about anything. Wonderful company!
Well… I could keep on going… but that’s all for now.
This post contains affiliate links for products that I use myself, specify and love to share!
I just added a sconce to our entry hall. Hard wiring it was not a problem but adding a switch turned out to be an unwelcome complication. I found a gorgeous Hudson Valley Lighting fixture with a pull chain that fit our needs perfectly. It wouldn’t work for every application but I was happy to discover the option.
Thanks for sharing that!
Thank you for all the wonderful information that you make available. I have read every one of your posts on paint colors, in particular the one on north facing rooms. I found one color that has worked especially well for me in dark rooms, BM Ylang, Ylang. It has an LRV of 80 and still has a lot of color– a nice creamy yellow. I wonder what advice or thoughts you might have on finding high LRV colors that look like they actually have color when used in dark rooms. Many light greens, light blues, light grays with LRVs in the 70s look like nothing without light. When testing them in dark rooms it is hard to distinguish one from the other. Any thoughts on this topic?
This is true. In low light, it’s more difficult to see differences in color. And it’s impossible at night.
Great timing! I’m picking out like light fixtures for my new home and have been stymied by finding traditional sconces that don’t have a bare lightbulb. You gave some great examples…will just have to see if I can afford them. 😉
Lighting is soooo important. Our architect prepared a lighting plan, but there were still many holes. Luckily I walked through with the electrician before wiring, so we could talk through choices. He had great insight, and gave me good ideas that I may not have considered.
Wish I had known of that Wisteria floor lamp in our last home, it was a builder grade special with fan light kits as the only ceiling fixture in many rooms. We had lamps galore. When we bought our current house (a 70s ranch), my husband had the electrician come in before we moved in to wire it for decent lighting, Amazing what a difference it made.
I’ve found that most electricians are a wonderful source of great ideas and knowledge about lighting. After all, that’s primarily what they do!
One of my best bits of advice for aspiring designers, is to surround yourself with the best tradespeople you can find! They make you look good! And I’ve learned so much from them too!
The new paint board is it added at the bottom or at the begining of the collection. Is it the best paint colors for Kitchens, bath etc that I see at the bottom. Or is it not posted yet?
Sorry, not following you. If you’re talking about the new board for paint collection owners, it went out last night but after you wrote this. (I was busy making the board!) :]
Your blog is becoming my go-to for all decorating questions! My pinterest button disintegrated while pinning from your site…ha! One question…in the chart that you labeled as some of your favorite sconces, number 17 was my favorite. However, when I click on 17 it goes to another sconce…can you give me the source of that particular one?
Oops! Sorry about that. I fixed it and also added in three links to other posts where it shows that sconce in a job I did last year.
Hi Laurel. Thanks again for another valuable post that was very relevant to me. I just met with my contractor yesterday and one of the issues I found was the sconce placement. I was very surprised, and not in a good way, when I saw the electrician’s planned placement of my sconces. He had two at the same height as my living room chandelier (UGGH!). I’m not a professional but normally I think a room looks the best when the different types of lights are staggered in height. Do you have any rule of thumb when you have multiple sconces in the same room–the sconces being variable in heights (mine are 19 to 25 inches tall). Should the top of the shades end up about the same level on the walls or does it really matter. I think that the electrician must not be familiar with large sconces because with the long stem and the shade they would have been inches from the ceiling.
I have read so many of your posts while remodeling my house and will be tempted to send you a photo when it is complete. If I muck up things terribly that will be embarrassing but if it does turn out wonderfully then I owe you a lot of the credit!! I went over the kitchen plans yesterday as well and had a pile of photos from your blog for inspiration. Thanks for doing all that you do!!!
I can’t give specific advice because I’m not there to see the situation.
But if you are doing the same sconce in one room and I think you should, unless you need to do a one-arm version and a two-arm version, doesn’t matter– they should all be at the same height unless there’s a compelling architectural reason for them to be at different heights.
And yes, the size and shape of the sconce needs to be given careful consideration, but most sconces are at about 62″-67″ on center. I think I said this in another comment and that is that if the ceiling is significantly more than 8 or 9 feet, then the sconce might go a little higher.
My antique candle sconces are exactly @ 65″ to the middle of the back plate, not the middle of the fixture. But if your fixtures are a different shape, that can also affect how high they go.
Since people need to be able to walk underneath a chandelier in a living room. It really should not be lower than 84″ off the floor. True, most people aren’t seven feet tall, but you don’t want anyone to feel like they have to duck as they walk across the room.
Hope that helps!
Wonderful post as usual. We built a new home last January,and lighting was an important part of the plans for us. While the house was being framed, we were able to decide where to place 3 sconses in an upstiars hallway. First we measured the length of the wall, measured the 2 paintings that would go up on the walls, and showed the electrician how high and exactly where the wiring should be….also dimmers and small accent lights to spotlight the paintings. We also decided which paintings would go where in the DR, LR and FR and were able to have outlets to switch onto the paintings. This way we have no cords hanging down. Also used this process for sconses in the Powder Room. Adding extra outlets was also something we did do. Always thinking where I would plug in the vacuum!! With this being our first time building from scratch and not having a “home model” to look at, it was a lot of planning, research and imagining how the rooms would be used!! It was so much fun and we are enjoying every thing we did!! Ps , yes whole house paint color was not the first thing !
Hi Mary Anne,
Well, all I can say is that I’m very proud of you for having the foresight. Many people don’t, including the builders! Ack! And they should know better!
BTW, a reader clued me in about a year ago or so about a cordless vac. It has changed my life. lol It’s light as a feather, so I can vacuum in half the time. And I’m not constantly getting tangled up in the cord. It picks up just as well, too! It’s a Hoover Wind Tunnel, but cordless. I keep it on the setting where the brush doesn’t roll around.
You mean the beater bar?
If that’s what it’s called, then yes. I think it wrecks the carpets, but otherwise, a perfect vacuum!
Great post Laurel! I probably spent the most time on lighting for my newly built home…Finding affordable attractive lighting available in my area (Canadian Maritimes) was challenging to say the least! Plus did I mention there was a budget??? lol….I can stare at these lovely fixtures and dream can’t I? Hope your Spring is further along than ours!
I’m on a budget too! I am planning on doing some high – low options. (or at least lowER.)
The trees look like they’re getting ready to do something. Oh how I LOVE those “pregnant” trees! And then all the lovely chartreuse babies they produce!
I was walking home from the train the other day and noticing the daffs that aren’t usually up yet looking quite forlorn and shell-shocked. Yes, they really did. I almost took a photo, but it was so frigging bone, numbing chilly that I just scurried along.
It’s so funny you mention the Wisteria Very Skinny Floor Lamp — the one I ordered for a client’s bedroom just arrived yesterday and I love it!
Another source you should have in your Rolodex is Northeast Lantern, a family run business here in New Hampshire that gives a *lifetime warranty*. You should check out their sconces 100 and 101L for gorgeous period mirrored lighting. They also do completely custom work.
I wrote a huge blog post about them if you’re interested on their backstory. 🙂 http://homeglowdesign.com/2016/10/01/outdoor-lighting-shorter-days-lifetime/
Keep the goodies coming!
Thanks for the beautiful source. Some are very similar to Authentic Designs, all the way down to the finishes! But some wonderful different designs too. Love the onion lanterns. I did some outside for a client a few years ago from AD and they are beyond fabulous!
But NL’s mirrored sconce is the closest I’ve seen to mine. I wonder if they’ll do it with antiqued glass. Mine is obviously VERY antiqued- lol. But hell, it’s over 200 years old!
Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful source. Indeed, I’m adding them in for the next update.
Thanks for the great post! You just keep getting better and better! I really appreciate the solid decorating advice rather than just pretty pictures.
As other have commented, I’ve been on the lookout for great sconce ideas as I just repainted on top or my Venetian plaster and noticed that the light is no longer reflected into the room from the existing lighting and I need some additional sources.
I’m also considering adding beside sconces as the overhead light is too bright for reading and the tables too small for lamps.
Great ideas for my modern home as some of the “traditional” sconces meld very well with modern furnishings.
Actually, I wanted to do more and bedside swing arm lamps was one of those things! This is the third post recently about lighting and I don’t think that I’ve even even covered the half of it!
No time to eat ? I need a job like yours, laurel!
Thanks for the hard work & research you do on our behalf & even more thanks for presenting & illustrating it, in such a fun way.
LOL. Thanks Joanna!
Hello Laurel, I thought that I was tepid about most wall sconces, but you really show some great ones here that I would be happy to live with. In addition to floor lamps as moveable substitutes, torcheres are good for dim spaces because they give so much light. When my grandmother was downsizing, she insisted that I take her old-fashioned pole lamp (do they still make these?), and she was right; I found the perfect spot for it. Finally, ordinary table lamps can be considered–it is easier to buy a small table or stand than to tear up the wiring.
I do floor lamps when there are either already too many little tables and/or the space is really tight or the table is too small for a lamp.
I like the idea of torcheres because bouncing the light up is a good thing, but don’t usually like the way they look. And no, don’t recall seeing one in a long time. Oh, they’ll come back, one day, I’m sure. :]
Thanks for the tip for the skinny floor lamp!!!! I hear all the troubles trying to figure out wall sconces. I ended up buying a pair of wood articulating ones from West Elm with “vintage” cords and I love them. The cords are more decorative than you’d think and I don’t try and hide them. In fact, they’re red. Much of them are behind my fabric headboard.
John aka OrganizingLA
Those red cords are obviously a decorative element. Hey, why not?
Hi Laurel. Great post as always. I felt special that you remembered and answered my question about sconces over the sink, especially with the volume of posts you get! Thanks for your thoughtfulness and generosity.
Hi Gail. It is a very good question and one I hadn’t thought of.
Hooray, sconces! I have my first-ever, bought by myself sconces since we’ve rebuilt the house from the studs and had an opportunity to think things through. (at least to some extent))
Mine are all vintage (financially, it’s hard to outfit the whole house in both new AND beautiful lighting; and we had to have it all installed by the final inspection. So after some short time I realized my whole overall budget is what I allotted for the dining light of my dreams. So had to choose a different way. Everything(except 2 lights) is vintage. And yes, it was a huge PITA, since most of these were European and some had to be tweaked in some way).
I wanted library lights next to the bed(great for reading!), but my DH said, with some disdain “No, these look like library lights”. LOL. So we have something very different yet pretty wonderful instead-a bit Mission-like sconces I guess-fits the character. And then we have nightstand lamps too, and here I got a small tole library light for myself:). Sorry, gotta read in bed. And we have another charming sconce that came to me from France(or Switzerland? I don’t remember. They’re all from wherever), in our family/library room. This one looks more..French? than Spanish. These are all hardwired.
And I have one plug in in my DD’s room..since I wasn’t sure in the beginning what my lighting solutions there will be. And it’s a pretty weird thing-it’s called a wall chandelier:) Long body, and hanging crystals. Arrived without a shade( as my bed sconces also did..another month or two just trying to find the right shades..). Which brings me to the point-where is that wonderful place the different shades usually, you know, are? I know where to look for big lampshades and for chandelier ones. But this is kinda in the middle, in terms of the size. The chandelier one will be too small, and the regular lampshade will be too big. Maybe buffet lamp shade? If you’re planning to write about shades, at some point..well, if you don’t, you know I still gonna read everything you write, Laurel, since it’s a huge pleasure!
What I love about lights-you can mix them, and never repeat(unless they’re supposed to come in pair), and they will still work together..as long as you pick the ones that are sharing something in the feel..je ne sais quoi.
So I have mid century modern lights, and very traditional lights, very opulent ones and pretty simple ones, of higher provenance and just nicely made-and they all seem to like each other. The problem is-it’s hard to stop..:) I’m still constantly looking for lights and at lights..:)
Goodness, I swear to you it was supposed to be twice as short.
So sorry that this comment didn’t publish right away.
Laurel, I laughed out loud when I saw the topic for this week the last few weeks everything you are writing about is what I am researching! Keep up the good work!
Hey I am thinking about peacock colors for pillows and accessories to go with gray walls, that wouldn’t be your next subject would it? LOL!
Also, I don’t know how you keep up with all the people that write you, ceiling fans and best white paint I must have deleted 100 emails from just those 2, in the last week, you don’t have time for interior decorating!
Some days, I don’t have time to eat!
Hurray! Thank you for making a post about wall sconces! I love them but am so afraid to give them a try. Your Favorite Visual Comfort choices are fabulous! By the way, are there any hard and fast rules on how high or close to hang sconces around a fireplace or other commonly used sconce locations? Yours truly, a real live Connie Wall!
There are vague rules, because so much depends on the size of the sconce and where they are attached. But a good rule of thumb is that the height of the sconce next to a fireplace is from about 62″-67″ to the center of the sconce. If the ceiling is higher, then the sconce might go a little higher too. It’s always best to eye-ball it if you can. The problem is that the electrical box needs to go in early.
And that’s another reason why lighting, ideally should be selected early on.
As far as how close. Again it depends on if they are over the mantel or next to the mantel. How large is the wall? Is there a window?
One thing to keep in mind is that because a sconce is projecting away from the wall, perspective will make it look larger than it is. So, there should always be some breathing room.
If in doubt between being able to do a double arm and a single arm sconce, it’s better to do the single arm. Or else choose a double arm that isn’t so wide.
Hi Laurel – great blog on sconces. Funny thing, I just ordered 7 sconces today. Sconces are a lovely addition to any room and they provide light. And yes, most people select their lighting last, after the budget is depleted. I design my lighting layout and choose my lighting very early in the design process. Definitely rates higher than plumbing fixtures.
Thanks again for sharing your talents.
It’s really true and then they blanch when they find out how much nice fixtures and lamps cost. But lighting is the most important thing and I’m sure that we discuss it early and often as well.