Shopping for Bathroom Sconces

Of all the light sources in a bathroom, the sconces over the sink are the most important.

“Whether you’re plucking your eyebrows, applying makeup or shaving, you need really good lighting in order to see what the heck is going on with that face of yours,” said Madeline Stuart, an interior designer in Los Angeles.

And if all you have is a ceiling-mounted fixture, the light will be “truly unflattering,” Ms. Stuart said, because it will “create these shadowy planes on your face” that make personal grooming difficult.

For “very even, shadowless light on the face,” Ms. Stuart said, you’ll need two sconces — one on either side of the mirror. But if space is tight, installing a single sconce at the top of the mirror can work almost as well.

Because they’re mounted at eye level, sconces also represent an opportunity to express your style.

“I look for bathroom lighting that creates mood and atmosphere,” Ms. Stuart said, “and a bit of fanciful decoration.”

  • What kind of fixture is best? Look for models that project light straight out, rather than up, down or back toward the wall. “If light doesn’t come through the front of the sconce,” Ms. Stuart said, the fixture “is for decoration only.”

  • How high should they be mounted? “Ideally, the light source should be even with your face,” Ms. Stuart said, so be sure that the size and shape of the fixtures work with the height of your junction boxes.

  • Should the sconces be wired to a dimmer? “Always,” Ms. Stuart said. “Who wants to walk into a bathroom that’s lit like an operating room in the middle of the night?”

Iron sconce with matte black finish by Mermelada Estudio

About $ 70 at CB2: 800-606-6252 or

Metal sconce with white glass shade by Thomas O’Brien

$ 755 at Circa Lighting: 877-762-2323 or

Cast-glass sconce with integrated LEDs

$ 580 at Rich Brilliant Willing: 212-388-1621 or

Glass globe sconce with various metal finishes

$ 199 at Cedar & Moss: 503-635-0820 or

Sconce with integrated LEDs by Jason Miller

$ 740 at Roll & Hill: 718-387-6132 or

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