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Wall Lighting: Your Complete Guide to Modern Wall Sconces


What are wall sconces?

A sconce is a wall-mounted lighting fixture, traditionally used to hold candles or torches. Today's sconces come in various shapes and sizes and are powered by an electric light source.

What is a wall light? What is the difference between a sconce and a wall lamp?

The terms "wall light" and "wall sconce" are often used interchangeably to refer to a lamp mounted on a wall. Technically, a wall light has a covered light source, usually glass, while a sconce does not. However, these technical differences are not often considered in modern lighting design and manufacturing, where sconces and wall lamps are often grouped together.

What are the different types of wall sconces?

Contemporary wall lights come in various shapes, sizes, and makes. Here is a quick round-up of the most popular and common types of wall sconces:

  • Flush mount wall light
  • Semi-flush mount wall light
  • Spotlight sconce
  • Armed sconce
  • Recessed light sconce
  • Lantern-type wall sconce
  • Half-moon sconce
  • Floodlight sconce
  • Wallchieres
  • Candle sconce
  • Picture light

Lighting design companies like FLOS are known for their massive range of wall sconces and wall lights crafted by the best designers in the world. These collections feature a variety of sconces and lamps, including iconic designs such as the Mini Glo-Ball Sconce, IC Lights Wall Sconces.

Where to place wall sconces?

Whether you wish to install them indoors or outdoors, modern wall lights can elevate the lighting design and décor of any interior space, while also providing effective illumination in terms of ambient lighting, accent lighting, or general lighting. Sconces that provide uplighting are generally preferred as the primary or secondary source of illumination in driveways, porches, stairways, entryways, hallways, corridors, or large dining/living rooms.

Here are some common places to consider:

  • Hallways & Staircases: Wall sconces in hallways provide ambient light and help guide the way. Flauta Wall Sconces by Patricia Urquiola
  • Bedrooms: Wall sconces on either side of the bed create a warm and inviting atmosphere. See IC Lights, Wall Sconce.
  • Living Rooms: Sconces can be placed on either side of a fireplace or a piece of artwork to highlight it. See Coordinates Wall Sconces.
  • Outdoors: When installed on the exterior walls, porch, deck, patio or driveways, wall sconces stand out as decorative pieces while also providing soft illumination post sunset. See Captain Flint Outdoor Wall Sconce by Michael Anastassiades or Invitro Wall Sconce by Stark.

How do you install wall sconces?

Installing wall sconces can vary in complexity. Although lighting manufacturers provide a comprehensive manual, it is recommended to have a lighting professional install the lamp. Instead of struggling with wiring, it is a better option to hire an expert for an efficient installation.

At what height should a wall light be? How far apart should wall sconces be?

When you talk about wall sconces as a series of wall lamps, it is important that you make sure they are placed and installed at equidistant points. How far from each other they should be would largely depend upon the size of the room/wall and the kind of effect you wish to achieve. In terms of the mounting height, remember that upward-facing sconces should be approximately 20 inches from the ceiling. Since they are throwing light upwards, such lamps can accentuate the beauty of a false ceiling or designer ceiling. For bedside sconces, make sure that the light is at eye level when you sit on the bed. For smaller designs (generally used in bathrooms next to the mirror), they should be mounted according to the user’s height.

What is wall washing lighting?

Wall washing lighting, also known as fill lighting, is a technique used to evenly distribute light on flat walls from floor to ceiling. This type of lighting draws attention to a large portion of a smooth surface, typically an indoor wall, by illuminating it evenly. In addition, modern wall washing lamps now offer LED lighting options.

What to consider when buying a wall light?

It is essential that you first determine what your purpose for buying a wall light is. This would largely depend on assessing your needs, putting down your design and décor plan on paper and gauging what kind of wall lighting you need. The type, size and brightness of the wall sconce are all important factors for consideration once you establish your unique needs. Most modern wall lamps are dimmable, or at least offer you the option to install a separate dimmer switch. Lights with dimming capabilities allow you to experiment with their output – adjusting the intensity according to the time of the day and the tone you wish to set in the said space.