We’ve Run Out of Money. Is It Too Late To Install Wall Sconces?

Dear Laurel,

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!


Connie Wall




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!

Ruby Lane

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

Structures Building Company

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.

Rejuvenation Imbrie articulating wall sconcesRejuvenation

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.

Authentic Designs Keeping room wall sconce natural brass

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!


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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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