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While lamps and overhead lights like chandeliers tend to be the first consideration when it comes to brightening up a room, wall sconces can be just as functional — especially in smaller spaces. Like other elements of décor, sconces are an easy (enough) way to give a room a new look without a complete overhaul. “Layered lighting always creates many moods for a space,” says Melissa Wagner, who works in creative and design at online interior-design service Havenly.
To find the best wall sconces for spaces of all sorts, we asked Wagner and 17 other designers about their favorites. Before we started reporting, we set a budget of $500 — and the designers, in fact, told us they try to stick to that price ceiling, too, because most sconces are typically sold individually but look best in pairs or multiples. As for where to put them, the experts say sconces can be most effective when flanking another object, whether that’s a bed, a couch, a dining-room table, an oversize mirror, or a piece of art. One final note: Because most of the sconces on this list are hardwired, they may require an electrician for installation. For those who want to keep things as easy as possible, we’ve noted which options are plug-in and therefore easier to install.
Four of the experts we spoke to — Becky Sturniolo, designers Lina M. Gómez and Fendy Castillo of Nemai Studio, and Victoria Adesanmi — told us about this wall sconce from CB2 that’s made of two overlapping discs of cream onyx and a glass globe light. At right around $100 a sconce (technically a little less), it is one of the most affordable options on this list. Sturniolo, who often turns to CB2 for décorlike sconces, calls the Astr “a gorgeous, more natural, modern option.” Gómez and Castillo add that in addition to being a light, the piece also functions as an artwork, describing it as a “sculptural focal point that adds uniqueness and a wow factor to a space.” Adesanmi recommends using a dimmable bulb, adding that the sconce is ideal for “creating a moody interior.”
For something that swivels, consider this sconce from CB2 that interior designers Eda Bejko and Brianne Bishop recommend. Bishop calls it “edgy yet so functional,” in part because the plug-in sconce is a cinch to install (all you have to do is mount it on a wall with a nearby socket). To wit, she says it’s a particularly great option for any wall where “you don’t already have electric wiring installed.” Bejko suggests putting it near a bedside table, telling us the piece’s slender neck, glossy brass steel, and warm walnut-finished ash-wood plate give it a “mid-century twist.”
This sconce, the most affordable on our list, also has a swing arm. It comes recommended by Vanessa Yufe of VY Designs, who again told us that swiveling sconces like this are great for framing a bed. “Mount a swiveling wall sconce strategically and it can illuminate your nightstand,” she says. But that’s just one place she says it could live in a home. “Depending on how you tilt it, the sconce can be used as task lighting near a desk or bookcase, or to illuminate artwork on a gallery wall.” Summing it all up, Yufe says the chrome-finished metal sconce “can pretty much be placed anywhere” and costs “a fraction of the price of a high-end designer light fixture.”
Bejko pointed us to this fabric-shaded sconce with what she calls “a subtle and refined look” thanks to its “warm brass finish and clean lines.” Shown in that brass finish, the fixture, which has a linen shade, also comes in brushed-nickel and matte-black finishes.
This super-basic sconce would be a good option for anyone looking to inject a pop of color because it comes in 14 different shades, from orange to Kelly green to ochre. Decorilla lead sales designer Devin Shaffer loves how it “unapologetically juts its way into a room,” calling the sconce “simple with an obvious need to be noticed and talked about.”
You could also “hack” your own sconce, which is what Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens did, using these simple sockets and large, onion-shaped LED bulb. “We were a little sick of porcelain sockets, so we got a pair of these plain matte-black fixtures on Amazon and screwed on a pair of Tala’s LED oval bulbs — instant unfussy sconce,” says Kitchens. She notes, “Tala’s nontraditional bulb shapes can make a very simple light fixture look elevated.” While these were meant to be placeholders in the bathroom, “they looked so good, we’re keeping them for now.”
Tommy Lei, an interior designer, stylist, and photographer, loves this 3-D-printed, dimmable LED sconce from Gantri. “I have a strong penchant for 1920s aesthetics with an air of modernity, and the Arintzea wall light designed by Muka Design Lab really seals the deal for me,” he says. Made with plant-based polymers, it has a ridged base and bowl-shaped diffuser, which Lei says “optimizes the lumens of light for bedside and nighttime activities.” Lei is partial to the deep forest-green base, which to him “evokes peace and serenity.”
For a diffused uplight, consider this sconce made from capiz shell that Havenly lead designer Heather Goerzen likes. “Between the capiz texture and the scalloped silhouette, these sconces bring a whimsical and playful touch to any space,” she says. “They’re unique and striking, which translates in a home to visual intrigue.” Shown here in white, it also comes in a soft pink shade.
Though certainly not what you’d expect, this nonelectric fixture fits the traditional definition of a sconce — a candleholder that’s attached to the wall by way of an ornamental bracket. It’s recommended by Havenly lead designer Toussaint Derby, who loves it for this very reason. Still, she says, “You can add a flameless taper candle and still get that ambient romantic lighting in any space.” Or, of course, an actual taper candle.
Interior designer Rozit Arditi calls this her “favorite sconce of all time.” She most recently used it for a living-room project in Astoria, telling us the light will complement various décor styles because of its “simplicity and flexibility.” (For other similarly versatile styles, see below.) The sconce comes with a tapered paper shade and is available in several finishes, including antique brass, bronze, and polished nickel. Small details like its notched stem and layered wall plate made of concentric circles make it more unique.
A little more streamlined than the Bryant sconce above is the Vendome, which Goerzen says is a “go-to” design for a “more traditional” space, calling it “classic, chic, and timeless.” She has them in her own home and particularly loves the “slightly tapered shade and vintage-inspired brass finish,” though it’s also available in three other finishes including bronze, nickel, and silver. “It’s just elegant.”
I love the traditional look of the two sconces above, but I wanted something even simpler for my living room and settled on this one to flank the mirror above my fireplace. The backplate and stem have straighter edges, which make the fixture look cleaner and more contemporary. I went with the monochrome “China white” style with a silk shade, which has a bit of a subtle sheen that looks great when the lights are on. It also comes in black and gold, as well as the option to choose a linen shade.
And if adjustability is important to you, here’s another swiveling sconce recommended by multiple designers — from Bejko, Gómez, and Castillo. All of the experts praised its versatility, with Gómez and Castillo telling us the modern fixture would work well at directing light onto a nightstand or home-office desk and Bejko calling it a worthy option “to add to any reading nook.” Made of steel, it has a bit of a heftier feel and a vintage silhouette thanks to its metal shade and sleek lines.
“The Flynn is one of my favorite wall sconces around,” says design historian Alessandra Wood. “The brass and black hardware has a vintage feel, and you can choose a white or wicker shade to match the style of your space.” The sconce has a swing arm, making it “perfect for reading in bed,” she adds. It’s also a little easier to install because it doesn’t need to be hardwired. As Wood puts it, great “for anyone who wants to add sconces without calling an electrician.”
This sconce also has a conical shade, but instead of wicker, it’s made of ceramic and is pleated. It’s a favorite of Adesanmi, who calls it “a fusion of traditional and modern design with a rustic touch” thanks to its mix of materials including said ceramic shade, walnut backplate and finial, and brass-finished stem, all of which come together to add “warmth and charm to your space,” according to Adesanmi, who suggests putting it a bedroom or living room.
If you’re shopping for a bathroom sconce, Bejko suggests this three-light style that she says is “simple and minimal while providing the perfect amount of lighting to a vanity.” The sconce’s three faceted shades are suspended below metal arms that come in several finishes, including brass, bronze, and chrome.
To those looking for a “touch of femininity,” Wagner suggests this “simple and elegant” sconce with a lustered, cut-glass shade that she says can go in a variety of spaces. The shade, she adds, “ups the ante” of the sconce’s otherwise classic silhouette, bringing a touch of drama whether it goes “above a vanity, on either side of artwork, over a buffet in a dining space, in an entryway, or even in a quiet reading corner.”
For those looking for more out of a sconce than a light source, consider this one, also from Anthropologie, that Havenly lead designer Kasee Smith recommends. “It’s such a great piece because of its complete functionality in that it doubles as a side table,” she says. The fixture has an ovoid glass shade, a brass-finished iron stem, and an attached hardwood table that can hold a water (or wine) glass, candle, or other small essential. “It would be a great option for a cozy reading nook or small bedroom, as it takes up very little space,” says Smith.
This sconce with a faceted dome shade comes recommended by Shaffer and marries old-fashioned style with present-day technology. Its antique-y vibe is in part thanks to the visible red-cloth cord: “It’s great to see a light fixture that shows off its mechanics,” as he puts it. The sconce’s tech-y twist comes from a USB port installed in its base. (If you like the look of the light and don’t need that port, you can get the sconce without it for $271). Shown in green, it’s also available in a matte-white finish.
Arditi and Bishop both told us about this double-headed and multicolored fixture, and you can even choose the color combination that works best for your space. (The shade colors you can choose from include peach, oxide red, bone, black, and reed green — and the sconce’s backplate can come in any of those hues, too.) Bishop “loves all of the color combinations you can select,” telling us the fixture “hits the mark of being on trend.” If you’re more concerned about cost than colors, we noticed that if you choose a black backplate, a reed-green upper light, and a bone lower light, you can get the sconce on sale for $234.
Lei points to another sconce with Art Deco curves and lines from Human Home. The oblong fixture is ridged and made from engineered polymer, with a finished steel backplate to anchor it, a combination that is “simultaneously playful yet cosmopolitan,” according to Lei. Plus, it’s versatile: “You can orient the sconce to be horizontal or vertical,” he says. “This one belongs on any wall in your space.”
For something with a far more traditional look, interior designer Vivian Torres recommends this barrel-shaded sconce with a contrasting black-and-brass finish. While elements like its “timeless shade and classic finishes” lean a bit formal, she says the sconce’s “flared silhouette gives it a distinctly updated aesthetic.” A pair of these sconces, according to Torres, would look terrific “flanking a fireplace or above the nightstands in a bedroom.” But she adds that the fixture is “versatile and sophisticated enough to be used anywhere.”
While this sconce looks rather complicated — its blown-glass globe hangs from a brushed brass ring that is suspended from a black metal base — it is actually among the simpler ones when it comes to installation because it plugs in. Arditi told us that after using it for a design project in Greenpoint, the sconce has become a “recent favorite” because it “can be used to give any room a casual-yet-modern look.”
Interior designer Cara Woodhouse told us that Dutton Brown, which makes a couple sconces we heard about, is a go-to source for her because it sells “super-fun lighting that you can customize in different finishes and colors.” Like the brand’s other sconce on this list, this double-headed one comes in many hues: You can choose from 13 for the shade at the base of the bulbs (which is shown in Kelly green here) and from three for the base (which is shown in brass). “They are so fun,” declares Woodhouse, who told us one place she’s used this sconce is a kids’ bathroom.
Yufe says that anyone looking for something that functions like a sconce but is different from the average style should consider using a picture light, a fixture she uses a lot in her interior-design work. “Picture lights are not just for museums and galleries,” she explains. “They provide an added element of sophistication to any wall, bringing some drama to a room by illuminating your favorite art.” Yufe told us she recently used this picture light finished in hand-rubbed antique brass (that comes in other finishes) to brighten the gallery wall in a client’s home office. In terms of getting the size right, she has a couple of tips: “For portrait pictures, choose a picture light that is about half the width of the picture. For landscape pictures, choose a picture light that is between a third and a half of the picture width.” This model shown is 30 inches across, but you can get it in other lengths as well.
The most expensive sconce on our list, this sculptural style has been a favorite of interior designer Jessica Davis’s “for years.” After lusting over it for some time, she told us she was finally able to incorporate it into one of her design projects — her own powder room. “It brings me joy every time I see it,” Davis says. “This sconce gives unique character to any space that is lacking a wow factor.” Shaped like a hand, the fixture extends from an ornate backplate and appears to offer the corded light as a gift. The sconce is made of hand-finished brass and steel and available in brass as well as the black finish shown.
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