How To: Pick the Perfect Wall Lighting

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3-Step Guide to Perfect Wall Lighting

Learn the tricks of the trade for custom decorating with contemporary wall lighting to beautify your space and provide excellent illumination.

Whether you are looking to make a fashion statement with unique lighting effects in the living room or simply provide plentiful task lighting around your bathroom mirror, there are some basic guidelines to follow when selecting and installing wall lights.


  • Wall sconces and wall lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  From the elongated slender wall torchiere to the compact half-moon decorative sconce, your wall lights should add definition to your design scheme, while providing illumination according to specific function.
  • In general, wall lights bracketing doorways should measure in length about one-fourth the height of the door.  If using only one sconce positioned at the doorway, you may choose to size up.
  • Wall lights flanking a mirror should be large enough to provide broad, balanced illumination.  Slender wall brackets should measure about half-way to three-quarters the length of your mirror.  You may also choose to install wall lighting across the top of your mirror.  Choose a fixture that is at least 24 inches in length.
  • Miniature wall swing lamps in the bedroom or den seating area may provide the perfect task light.  Choose wall lights that will complement your design scheme and be sure to include a compatible lamp (bulb) to supply focused task illumination.
  • Size up when choosing decorative wall lights for large foyers and dining areas with cathedral ceilings.


  • Generally, with standard 8-foot ceilings, wall sconces should be installed about 5 to 5 1/2 feet above the floor.
  • In rooms with vaulted ceilings, sconces may be placed higher to accommodate room proportions.
  • Height guidelines may vary according to personal preference—taller individuals may choose to install fixtures a bit higher.
  • Take care to position wall lights so that bulbs are not in view.  If the bulbs are exposed in sconces from the top, provide a diffuser to prevent glare from hitting the eyes of taller individuals.  Diffusers may also be added to control glare through the base of a wall light fixture, as well.
  • In hallways, sconces should be installed about 8 to 10 feet apart staggered on either side so that halfway between two sconces on one side is a sconce on the opposite wall.  In very narrow hallways, sconces should be installed high enough so that they do not present a safety hazard.
  •  Be sure to check ADA codes for the most current restrictions on lighting placement and installation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) dictates that wall light fixtures installed six feet or less above floor level must be within 4 inches or less from the wall.  A variety of decorative slim-profile sconces are listed as ADA-compliant.  The latest LED (light-emitting diode) wall lights are extremely thin and comprise some of the most innovative styles.
  • Most wall sconces look and function best when placed at eye-level:  Bedside wall lamps should be installed about 30-36 inches above the bed.
  • Wall light brackets on either side of a mirror should be installed at least 28 inches apart. Wall lighting installed along the top of a mirror should be installed 78 inches above floor level.
  • Furniture placement, art work and decorative accessories should work in unison with lamps and wall lighting. A good lighting design should provide soothing ambient and focused task illumination for individuals whether they are seated, standing or moving about the room.


  • Compact fluorescent (CFL) wall lights are energy-efficient and work well in areas that require evenly balanced shadow-free illumination.
  • Eco-halogen and LED wall lamps are better at creating specific lighting patterns, providing dramatic lighting effects and delivering bright, focused task illumination.
  • LED wall lights are now the go-to choice for contemporary wall lighting because they run cooler, last longer and are the most energy-efficient light source to date.
  • New wall light fixtures are perfect for accenting walls and offering generous illumination to traditional, transitional and modern home or office design.


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