Photo: Courtesy of the retailer
While lamps and overhead lights like chandeliers tend to be folks’ first recourse when it comes to brightening up a room, wall sconces can be just as functional — especially in smaller spaces. As Alessandra Wood, a VP of style at online interior-design service Modsy, notes, “Wall sconces don’t take up a footprint on the floor or require an end table to host them.” Incorporating wall sconces somewhere that’s already furnished with other lights can make that space even more functional, according to the experts we spoke to. “This type of fixture can provide more direct lighting closer to something you’re doing, like reading, without needing the entire room to be illuminated,” explains Becky Sturniolo, a luxe designer with Modsy. Like other elements of décor, wall sconces are also 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. Brooke McReynolds, another luxe designer with Modsy, agrees, telling us that wall sconces can “change the interior of a space in a dramatically effective way.”
To find the best wall sconces for spaces of all sorts, we asked Wagner, Sturniolo, McReynolds, Wood, and ten 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.
Three of the experts we spoke to — Sturniolo and Decorist designers Lina M. Gómez and Fendy Castillo of Nemai Studio — 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.”
For something that swivels, consider this sconce from CB2 that Decorist designer Eda Bejko and interior designer 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 Decorist designer 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 swiveling wall sconce, according to Gómez and Castillo, has a “classic industrial look that can work with many styles due to the simplicity of its design.” With longer joints, it looks a touch more dramatic. As for where to put it, they say above nightstands, near a desk, or “next to your favorite reading corner.” This sconce can either be hardwired or plugged into an existing wall socket and comes in two finishes: antique bronze and brass.
If you want to add two lights for the price of one sconce, consider this double-headed option that Sturniolo told us about. She says the swiveling fixture with conical shades would be another great choice for folks looking for a “more industrial option.” In addition to the blackened-bronze finish shown, it’s available in a more subdued brushed brass.
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.
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 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.”
For something a bit more whimsical, Jessica Davis, the principal designer at JL Design, suggests this sconce designed to look more like a candlestick made of bamboo. Embellished with details like petals and the ridges you’d find on actual bamboo, it comes in a bunch of colors (nine, to be precise), including lime green, turquoise, coral, and yellow. “This fun sconce is the perfect way to brighten any room with an unexpected pop of color while staying classic and simple,” Davis says. “Try a pair in a bathroom, hallway, or flanking a window — the sconce can be combined with any style.”
If you’ve got a bit more money to spend, this swiveling sconce also received three recommendations — 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.
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.” 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.
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 $199). Shown in green, it’s also available in a matte-white finish.
“The Flynn is one of my favorite wall sconces around,” says 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.”
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.”
This maximalist sconce that Arditi and Bishop both told us about has a lot going for it: The fixture is double-headed and multicolored — 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.
For something with a far more traditional look, Havenly 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.
With a wood veneer shade that’s bent like a scroll, Woodhouse says this sconce would give a room a more natural, organic touch. “They can look so fun in a bar room, powder room, living room — really anywhere,” she says. “I love these sconces.”
Bishop calls this sconce “sculptural, raw, and soft,” telling us its curving, Old World–inspired silhouette would “make a statement without stealing the scene” when placed in “an entryway on either side of a mirror or above a fireplace framing art.” While she’s a big fan of the white-plaster finish shown, you can also get the sconce finished in a gilded gold and burnished silver if you want a more luxe look.
This, one of the most expensive sconces on our list, comes recommended by McReynolds as a fixture with no shortage of drama. Its “interlocking wrought-iron rectangles, in a gold-leaf finish, bring modernism to any space,” she says, adding that the sconce is “a contemporary twist on the Paris International style.” While she says it could go most any place, McReynolds notes it seems particularly suited for a bedroom, where she says it would “add a touch of elegance to the room’s ambience.”
The most expensive sconce on our list, this sculptural style has been a favorite of 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.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.