When decorating a room, one common question that comes up is whether wall sconces need to match. Sconces are decorative lighting fixtures that are mounted to the wall and often flank furniture pieces like beds, sofa, or fireplaces. They help provide both ambient lighting and visual interest to a space. But do they need to perfectly match?
The Short Answer
The short answer is no, wall sconces do not necessarily have to match. While having identical or coordinating sconces can create a cohesive look, it is not a hard and fast rule. Mixing and matching sconces is an increasingly popular option that allows for more creativity and individuality in home decor.
When to Match Wall Sconces
While matching sconces is not required, there are some instances where having identical or paired fixtures makes the most sense:
- Formal spaces – Formal living rooms, dining rooms and foyers will look more elegant and polished with matched sconces flanking a fireplace or entryway.
- Symmetrical furniture arrangements – If you have two identical sofas, beds or other furniture pieces arranged symmetrically, matching sconces enhance the balanced look.
- Minimalist or contemporary rooms – Clean lined, modern rooms benefit from the streamlined look of matching sconces.
In these situations, choosing sconces of the same size, shape, finish, and light source will provide that tailored, intentional feel. This doesn’t mean they have to be exactly the same brand or model, just close enough in appearance to look like a set.
When to Mix and Match Sconces
While matching sconces can be great for certain spaces, don’t feel afraid to mix it up in rooms where a bit more character is welcome. Mixing sconces allows you to incorporate pieces you love, even if they don’t perfectly coordinate. This eclectic approach works especially well in:
- Casual spaces – Family rooms, bedrooms, and kids’ rooms are prime spots to express personal style with an assortment of fun and whimsical sconces.
- Bohemian or eclectic rooms – rooms decorated in a free-spirited, eclectic style benefit from the charm and interest of mismatched lighting.
- When using sconces as accent pieces – Accent walls or furniture focal points can be illuminated by sconces that match the style of that feature, even if they don’t match other lighting in the room.
Mismatching materials, shapes, sizes and lamping styles in these types of rooms makes for a warm, collected look. Be adventurous and pair black wrought iron with brass, modern acrylic with traditional crystal, small with oversized. The varying textures and designs will add character.
Tips for Mixing and Matching Sconces
If you’re sold on the idea of eclectic, non-matching sconces but are unsure where to start, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose a color palette – While finishes don’t have to identical, sticking to one or two color families will create some harmony. For example, combine chrome with nickle and brass.
- Repeat shapes or materials – Varying shapes like rectangles, ovals and rounds can complement each other if done in the same finish. Or repeat finishes in different shapes.
- Align visually – Position sconces at the same height and orientation to create a visual connection, even if the styles differ.
- Add coordination – If sconces themselves don’t match, add commonality with the same light bulb color, lampshade fabric or wall color.
With these guidelines in mind, you can thoughtfully mix sconces that strike the right balance of diversity and cohesion for an overall look that is purposeful and not haphazard.
Lighting Design Principles
Beyond deciding whether to match sconces, also consider fundamental lighting design principles as you choose fixtures:
Determine what purpose sconces will serve in the space. Do you need focused task lighting at a desk? Ambient lighting for the whole room? Accent lighting on artwork or architectural details? Let purpose guide not just style but also lighting needs like lumens and light temperature.
Placement of sconces matters both functionally and visually:
- Space evenly between furniture or architectural elements.
- Align vertically and horizontally with other fixtures and design lines in the room.
- Place appropriately above furniture based on room use and activities.
Choose a style that aligns with the room’s aesthetic and complements other decorative elements. Options include:
- Modern – clean, streamlined rectangular shapes
- Rustic – wrought iron, natural materials
- Transitional – curved classics that span styles
- Coastal – woven textures, seashell details
Finish impacts the overall look and feel. Consider:
- Polished metals like chrome and brass for glamour
- Oil-rubbed bronze or antique brass for traditional warmth
- Powder coated colors to contrast with neutrals
Size should suit the room proportions. Overly large or small sconces will look out of sync.
Choose light warmth and brightness to set the right mood. Cool-toned light is energizing while warm glows are cozy. Dimmer switches allow adjusting brightness for different activities.
Sconce Ideas for Popular Rooms
Still unsure how to decorate with sconces? Here are some inspiring ideas for popular rooms:
Welcome guests with light on each side of the front door. Black metal sconces flanking a decorative mirror amplify glamour. Or introduce nature with woven rattan shades.
Reading in bed is easier with adjustable swing arm sconces. For a romantic look, hang faceted crystal sconces above nightstands. Mix metal finishes for eclectic flair.
Moisture-resistant sconces light up sink areas. Coordinate with mirror frames for a pulled together look. Or contrast with different finishes and shapes.
Dining Room Sconces
Candle-style chandeliers framed by matching sconces create ambient lighting for meals. For modern cool, try grid-patterned sconces in sleek metals.
Living Room Sconces
Accent a focal point like the fireplace mantel with elegant crystal sconces. Exposed Edison bulb sconces bring industrial edge to transitional spaces.
Task lighting under cabinets illuminates food prep areas. Bold metal or glass pendants make a style statement over islands. Mix finishes for eclectic charm.
With so many options today, sconces can fit any style. Here are some top styles and popular examples:
|Clean lined rectangular metal or glass
|Orb smoke glass wall sconce
|Wrought iron, wood materials
|Horseshoe metal wall lamp
|Exposed bulbs, black metals
|Cage pendant light
|Curved shapes, polished metals
|Arch swing arm sconce
|Crystal accents, brass
|Beveled crystal wall sconce
|Woven textures, shell decor
|Rope and seashell wall sconce
|Mix of finishes, shapes and styles
|Set of 3 mismatched sconces
Where to Place Sconces
Sconces are incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into almost any room. Here are some of the most popular spots:
- Flanking bed, sofa, fireplace or shelves
- Above bathroom vanity/sink
- Beside interior doors and entryways
- In stairwells and hallways
- Behind headboards or beds
- Under kitchen cabinets
- Along gallery walls to illuminate art
Aim to place sconces approximately 60-75 inches above the floor, while adhering to any specific height your fixtures require. Position them equal distance from adjacent furniture or architectural features for harmony. Refer to lighting design guides for exact recommended placement based on your room dimensions.
Sconce Height Guidelines
Specifically, standard recommended heights for sconces in key locations are:
|26-32 inches above surface
|Above bathroom mirror
|66-72 inches from floor to bottom of sconce
|60-66 inches from floor to center of sconce
|Above fireplace mantel
|12-18 inches above mantel
|6-7 feet above floor
|Approx. 12 inches above furniture top
Use these general guidelines, but also refer to specific sconce installation instructions for proper height and placement.
In addition to placement, choosing the right physical size sconce for your space is key:
- Small rooms: 12-16 inches tall
- Medium rooms: 16-24 inches tall
- Large rooms: 24-36 inches tall
- Entryways/high ceilings: 36+ inches tall
Aim for sconces to be around 2/3 to 3/4 the width of the furniture or wall space they flank. Scale and proportion are important for achieving a natural, balanced look.
How to Light a Room with Sconces
When using sconces to light an entire space, follow these tips:
- Layer lighting – Combine overhead, accent, task and ambient light
- Use dimmers – Control brightness for different needs
- Include multiple sources – Use several sconces around the room
- Choose wide distributions – Look for “uplight” or “downlight/uplight” sconces
- Plan wattage – Follow the wattage-to-square-footage formula for ambient lighting
- Highlight what’s important – Illuminate artwork, architectural details, focal points
Sconces alone are usually not enough ambient light, but combined with ceiling lights and table/floor lamps, they create a warm, welcoming ambiance.
Sconce Bulb Types
Sconces come in a variety of bulb types to produce different moods:
- Incandescent – Warm, inviting light
- Halogen – Crisp, bright light
- LED – Long-lasting, energy efficient
- Fluorescent – Bright, uniform light
- Xenon – Compact bulb for track lighting
Choose bulbs that match the design style. Small filament bulbs or “vintage” Edison bulbs complement industrial and rustic styles. Sleek fluorescent or LED bulbs enhance modern and contemporary spaces.
Hardwired vs Plug-In Sconces
Sconces come in hardwired and plug-in options:
- Hardwired – Permanently installed directly into junction box wiring in walls. Pros: More permanence. Cons: Requires professional installation.
- Plug-In – Uses an outlet, power cord and plug. Pros: Flexible placement, movable, easy installation. Cons: Visible cords.
Hardwired sconces have a more seamless, built-in look but limit placement. Plug-in sconces offer versatility but may not be as aesthetically appealing.
Extend gorgeous lighting to outdoor living areas with weather-resistant sconces designed to withstand the elements:
- Covered porches
- Gardens and pathways
- Garages and carports
- Front entryways
Look for IP or Ingress Protection ratings that indicate water and rust resistance. Opt for durable materials like galvanized steel, copper, wood composites and Marine-grade finishes.
Bathroom Sconce Placement
Bathroom sconces provide safe, task-focused lighting at the vanity. Follow these tips for optimal placement:
- Install on each side of the mirror symmetrically
- Position sconces 66-72 inches above the floor
- Adjust height based on mirror/sink location
- Allow minimum 4 inches between sconce edges and mirror frame
- Aim for 30-40 inch distance between sconces
- Keep light sources outside the mirror reflection area
Place sconces strategically to reduce shadows and glare so grooming tasks are easy and accurate.
Bedroom Sconce Ideas
The right lighting transforms a bedroom into a welcoming retreat. Use sconces to create a cozy, restful ambiance with these ideas:
- Flanking bed – Install matching table lamps for balanced light.
- Above nightstands – Position 26-30 inches above surface for reading.
- In reading nooks – Try swing arm sconces on each side of a chair.
- Behind headboard – Backlight wall with uplighting sconces.
- In seating area – Hang pendant lights above chairs to illuminate conversation spaces.