When it comes to selecting light fixtures, sconces are among our favorite options, as they can serve as both the perfect finishing touch and act as efficient task lighting. Since it can be a bit anxiety-inducing to try to determine the right piece and placement, we reached out to Bob Jones of Baltimore, Maryland-based Jones Lighting for advice. Here, he outlines helpful rules of thumb, key considerations, and what to look for when seeking a quality pair.
Identify ideal areas for these types of fixtures. “If you thought of sconces as a pair of earrings that would frame your face to enhance it, then similarly you would look at placing sconces in an entrance foyer to reinforce the front door, above a piece of furniture, or over a sideboard or server in a dining room to complete a composition,” Jones says of how one might approach lighting placement.
Decide whether form is more important than function. Determining whether the way the sconce looks is more important than what it does (and vice versa) is a key part of the process, according to Jones. How much light does the space need? Are you going for supplemental light that’s inviting or charming, or are you looking to light a large space with architectural interest? These questions will determine output and whether or not the source should be obscured.
Take the environment into consideration, and know the signs of quality. When selecting a sconce, “There are many factors to take into consideration,” Jones says, such as whether you’re dealing with a patterned background or a solid background, and the metal finishes on surrounding pieces. It’s also a good idea to look for left and right facing pairs, which Jones says have more intrinsic value (and look better together) than two of the same kind.
Know the ideal mounting heights. The scale and placement of a sconce should be determined by the available wall space and ceiling height, but there are a few rules of thumb regarding where to hang the fixture. For sconces in living spaces with ceilings that are 8 to 9 feet or higher, 5’6” is the typical mounting height (the fixtures can be moved up proportionally). Swing-arm sconces, which are excellent bedside lighting options, are generally hung 42” above the floor. Exterior lanterns are typically hung 6 feet above the threshold.
Strive for symmetry. “Symmetry has a very calming effect. It makes people feel balanced and correct,” Jones says, noting that pairs of sconces are far more popular choices than their individual counterparts among customers at Jones Lighting. He also offers a helpful tip on achieving the right aesthetic balance for those who might be using a pair of sconces to frame an entranceway or opening in which the wall spaces on either side are not equal: “It’s more important that the sconces be symmetrical to the opening than to the wall they’re mounted on.”