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How To Choose Wall Lights


Wall Lighting Buyer’s Guide:
How To Choose Wall Lights


If you're looking to amp up the ambiance or add depth to your décor, the writing is on the... well, you know. Wall lights might be just the thing missing from your home's lighting scheme.

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Why do I need wall lights?

Where should I use wall lighting?

Wall lights have applications in any room, indoors and out. Working alongside , a wall-mounted fixture provides supplemental illumination, while using wall lights in place of overhead lighting creates a more atmospheric effect and can alleviate glare. In bathrooms, are a key part of light layering: Flank a mirror with wall fixtures to banish shadows from your face that overhead lights tend to cast.

In an office or craft room, a wall-mounted swing arm light is a practical alternative to a traditional desk lamp, freeing up your horizontal surfaces for your tasks. Artwork can be better displayed beneath a , while niches, sculptures and other architectural details benefit from wall-mounted spots. are commonly used on the porch and along exterior walls for security, though many designs provide a decorative touch as well as safety features.

How many wall lights do I need?

To get the most out of your wall lights, placement is key. A good starting guideline is to hang them at approximately eye level (5.5 to 6 feet), although the height of your ceilings and the size of the fixture will come into play. An important point to keep in mind is that whatever height you hang your wall light, you should not come eye-to-eye with an exposed light bulb (except, of course, in the case of stylized fixtures that purposely feature decorative bare bulbs).

Wall lights are commonly used in hallways, but the long, dark corridor can quickly start to resemble a runway if too many lights are installed. One fixture every 8 to 10 feet should be adequate, though you may want slightly more or less space depending on the lumen output and size of the room and fixtures. Staggering the lights so that they don't line up across the hallway is a more natural configuration. Of course, fewer or more fixtures can be arranged for a decorative statement.

What types of wall lights are there?

Choosing the right wall light for the job isn't complicated, as there are just a handful of basic types to be familiar with:

  • Uplights provide a wash of light up a wall, suitable for accent and atmosphere
  • Downlights may accent walls too, but more commonly illuminate the ground below for a practical purpose
  • Reading and swing arm lights have adjustable components that can bring the light to you
  • Bath and vanity lights are designed for even, glare-free illumination
  • Picture lights and spots are used to draw attention to—you guessed it—pictures and artwork

What if I don't have a wall box where I want a wall light?

Whether you're a renter or just don't want to enlist the work of a master electrician, you're not out of luck for hanging wall lights in your home. are wall lights that plug into a standard outlet, and come with a pin-up kit that hangs the fixture anywhere you'd like (no wall box required). They're ideal on both sides of a bed, in a reading nook or in a home office, and serve the same decorative-meets-functional purpose as their more installation-involved comrades.

How do I coordinate wall lights with the rest of my room design?

You can easily integrate wall lights into your décor by first determining what you'll use the light for. For instance, installing a depends on where your sofa or favorite chair is placed in the room. And while a soft wash of light is pretty on an accent wall, a downlight is far more practical over stairs. Secondly, is your need focused more on decoration or utility? While there are thousands of choices that marry form and function, you can narrow down your selection by deciding whether your wall light should unobtrusively blend into its space or become a focal point. Neutral metals with white or ivory glass are classic choices, but there is a huge variety of wall lights that range from ultra-modern to vintage in just about every color, finish and shape. There is no rule that dictates whether your sconces must match your chandelier—don't be afraid to mix it up with different colors and styles.