Wall sconces have been around since before the days of Thomas Edison – back when they were used to hold candles. Mounted at eye level, their diffused light would bounce around the room, casting a beguiling glow. Though light bulbs have replaced wax and wicks, sconces continue to captivate, and decorators return to them again and again. These versatile fixtures are used to set the right tone and brighten a variety of spaces.
“Sconces create a feeling of coziness and comfort that you can’t replicate with overhead or floor lighting,” says Summer Thornton, a Chicago interior designer whose work has been featured by Domino, House Beautiful, and Lonny. “They also add a bit more structure to a room. Typically displayed in symmetrical placements, they bring structure and tradition to the space, making it feel more finished and organized.”
Sconces also inject spaces with personality, giving the eye permission to wander up from the floor. “I don’t think there’s a single room in the home where I wouldn’t use a sconce,” says Thornton. “Anywhere you want light, look for ways to incorporate them.”
We asked Thornton to share a few pointers for making these light fixtures work in your home.
Mix it up
Many homeowners stress about making things match when they shouldn’t, says Thornton, who likes to intentionally mix up lighting throughout the house.
“The result is a more timeless look that can endure the changes of trends for many years,” she says. A little brass here, some polished nickel and a little lucite or Italian Murano glass there, and you’re set. “Mix it all together, and it feels historic and worldly but fresh.”
You can almost never go wrong with vintage pieces, Thornton remarks – they add patina and character.
Give them a purpose
Knowing the purpose for your sconces will help you use them effectively, Thornton notes. “Around the bed, swing-arms are nice for reading and maneuvering around side tables,” she says. In a powder room, they can throw off “really pleasing, warm soft light,” perfect for checking and applying makeup.
In kitchens and dining rooms, sconces create focal points and interesting lighting patterns. They can also be used to flank wall art, accentuate a buffet table or heighten the drama of wallpaper. In hallways, they can break up long spaces.
Where to shop
- Interior Design Trend Report: 3 Looks on the Rise
- Spectacular Renovations: Old Homes with Timeless Appeal
- Art Deco Meets Steampunk in J.Crew CEO’s Manhattan Listing