9 Tips to Choose the PERFECT Bathroom Sconces

How to Choose a Bathroom Sconce

Sconces are the first choice for bathroom lighting. These bathroom lighting fixtures have been popular for years. But, how do you choose your bathroom sconces? While there are so many designs, styles and shapes it isn’t difficult if you know what to look for. 

Let’s learn what to consider when choosing a bathroom sconce.


How to Choose Bathroom Sconces

Down or Up Bathroom Sconces?

There are so many factors to consider when choosing the best bathroom sconce for your bathroom. It can feel overwhelming.

But choosing the right bathroom sconce doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. By following these steps, you’ll be able to choose which bathroom sconce is the right fit for your bathroom.


1. Decide the Purpose of Your Bathroom Sconces

Bathroom Sconces on Side of Mirrors

The first step is to decide what you want your bathroom sconces to achieve in terms of lighting your bathroom.

There are three different types of lighting you can use in the bathroom. When you use all three together, your bathroom will be able to achieve the mood you want while being bright enough for you. You can use sconces to achieve any of these types of lighting:

General Lighting

Ambient lighting or general lighting is the overall light in the bathroom. This is the type of lighting that usually is found in the ceiling and provides an overall light in the room. General lighting is more diffused and permeates evenly to all areas of the room. 

Task Lighting

Task lighting is more directional than general lighting. This type of light, as its name suggests, provides more light in a specific area to perform tasks. Use this type of bathroom lighting above the mirror so that there is more light to apply makeup or style hair, or use task lighting to illuminate a certain location in the bathroom like an alcove.

Accent Lighting

Accent light creates ambient light or can be used for a pop of color. An example of accent lighting in a bathroom might be candle sconces near the bathtub to create a romantic atmosphere.

Sconces can work to achieve any of these purposes depending on which style of sconce you choose, what bulbs you use, and where in the bathroom you install them.

 If you decide you want sconces for task lighting, then consider other types of fixtures for general lighting (perhaps recessed lighting) and accent lighting (why not a pendant light?).


2. Determine If You Want to Match Metals on Bathroom Fixtures


Decide if you want the metal on your bathroom sconce to match metals on other fixtures such as faucets and doorknobs. It can, but it doesn’t have to: You can choose to be more traditional and ensure that everything matches in color and style or you can create a dramatic contrast with different colors and metals.

If you opt for a more contrasting look, you could have sconces with a black finish and then a bathroom faucet with a gold finish. By choosing more contrast in your bathroom, you will create a style all your own.

For a designer’s advice on how to use different metals in the bathroom, read Should Bathroom Faucets Match Light Fixtures and Doorknobs?


3. Pick a Bathroom Sconce Style You Love


Bathroom sconces come in a wide variety of styles. the one that sends your heart aflutter! Here are just some of the styles available:


Lantern Sconces


1STOPlighting - Lantern Bathroom Sconce
See the modern Designer’s Fountain Monroe Wall Lantern at 1STOPlighting.


Bath Bars

1STOPlighting - Bath Bars for Lights in the Bathroom
Check out the Minka Lavery, Parsons Studio, 3 Light Bath Bar at 1STOPlighting.


Candle Sconces

LNC Home - Candle Bathroom Sconce
Check out the LNC Home Pencil Arm Candle Sconce.


Up AND Down Sconces

See the Kira Home duo 14 inch modern wall sconce with frosted glass shades at Amazon
See the Kira Home modern wall sconce with frosted glass shades at Amazon


Up OR Down Sconces

LNC Home - Down Sconce for Bathroom
Check out the beautiful LNC Home Industrial Bell Sconce Light.



1STOPlighting - Wallchiere Bathroom Sconce
Check out the beautiful Kenroy Home Weston Wallchiere at 1STOPlighting.


4. Choose Your Sconce Direction 

Down Bathroom Sconces Above Mirror

Determining which type of sconce you use is dependent on what type of lighting you need. Are you looking for focused, task lighting or more diffused, ambient lighting?

Consider where you will be placing your bathroom sconce before you choose it. Will the fixture face up or down? 

You can use both directions in your bathroom, but up sconces and down sconces have different purposes:


When to Choose Upward Bathroom Sconces

Bathroom Sconces Up

If you are wanting general ambient lighting, always choose upward sconces. These sconces provide more diffused lighting to ensure that there is light in every area of the space. 

You can place these lights anywhere in your bathroom to make the overall bathroom brighter.


When to Choose Downward Bathroom Sconces

Modern Down Bathroom Sconce

Use downward bathroom sconces when you want task lighting. These sconces provide the best task lighting.  Use these sconces above the mirror because they provide directional light to perform daily routines.

Before you choose your bathroom sconce, read Up or Down. Why Sconce Direction Matters, to learn more about sconce direction. 

Remember, choose an up or down sconce based on your lighting needs.


Brighten the entire roomBrighten a specific dark corner or area
Reduce shadows in the roomProvide directional light to accomplish tasks, such as applying makeup
Light a large spaceCreate flattering light when shaded and positioned at head height


5. Determine How Big the Sconce Should Be

Now that you’ve chosen what bathroom sconce style and direction, it’s time to choose the size of your bathroom sconce. 

The most common places to use a bathroom sconce are above the bathroom vanity mirror, or else on either side of the mirror, and the size of your bathroom sconce will depend on the size of your mirror.


Sconce for Above the Vanity Mirror

Bathroom Sconces Up or Down

If you install a bathroom sconce above the bathroom vanity mirror, the sconce should extend to 75% of the width of a rectangular or square mirror. 


Sconces Beside the Vanity Mirror

Light with Sconces in Bathroom

The size of the sconces on the side of a mirror is determined by your bathroom size and how high the sconce will be installed. These sconces range in height from 12 to 19 inches. 


6. Pick a Damp-Rated Sconce 

small bathroom vanity

Next, you’ll need to find a sconce in the style you like that is damp-rated. Why? A damp-rated light fixture is safe to use in a humid area of the house. (And a wet-rated fixture is safe for a wet area, so don’t confuse the two.)

Needless to say, your bathroom is the most humid location in your house. Small bathrooms and poorly ventilated bathrooms are even more humid, making it even more important to consider the damp rating.

It’s important to consider the damp rating when you choose a bathroom sconce. Lightbulbs and sconces are all rated with the universal IP rating, which tells you the level of humidity that is safe for a particular bulb or fixture.  

Safety is important when installing your bathroom sconces, to learn more about IP ratings and other lighting safety precautions, read How to Safely Use Smart Lights in the Bathroom.


7. Decide How Many Sconces You Need

wainscoting on wall behind freestanding tub

Before you purchase your sconces, you’ll need to decide how many sconces you should buy. If your bathroom is small, you may wonder if there will be enough wall space to have 3 sconces around your mirror. 

You don’t have to have more than one sconce in your bathroom, however, if you have the space, more light is usually better. 

While more light is often better, it may be cost or space prohibitive to buy two. If this is the case, put one larger downward bathroom sconce above your mirror. 

This will give you the directional light that you need. Then, ensure that your ceiling lights are providing enough general lighting for the room.


8. Blending Multiple Sconce Styles

washroom design

Planning on more than one sconce in your bathroom? If this is the case, should the style and finishes match? The answer is: Yes and No. Your sconces above your mirror should not match the sconces beside your mirror. 

The reason for this is that they are used for different directional lighting, so the styles will not match. However, you may want to consider coordinating the colors and design, so that they don’t clash.

That said, when you have sconces on both sides of a mirror, they should match exactly. Why? If you use a different sconce on each side of the mirror, they may look unsymmetrical and provide different lighting due to their different styles. This is likely to cast shadows on your face when you look in the bathroom mirror.


9. Determine if You Want Warm or Cool Light

Mosaic Accent Tile in Shower

Don’t forget to consider color temperature when choosing your bathroom sconce bulbs.

Color temperature measures the warmth of the light and is measured on a scale of 1,000  to 10,000 Kelvins.

Color temperature is important because, depending on the temperature, it can change the entire ambiance of your bathroom. The color temperature will determine if your bathroom is a warmer yellow (2000 K) to a cooler blue color (6500 K).

The ideal light for your bathroom is neither warm nor cool light, but more neutral. Neutral temperatures for a bathroom are between 3000 K and 3500 K, depending on your preference. See the table below to learn when to use each type of lighting in your bathroom.


Warm Glow2,000K - 2,499K
Warm White2,500K - 2,999K
Soft White3,000K - 3,499K
Neutral White3,500K - 3,999K
Bright White4,000K - 4,449K
Cool White4,500K - 4,999K
Daylight5,000K - 5,500K


Learn a whole lot more about color temperature in  What’s the Best Color Temperature for YOUR Bathroom?


How to Pick the Best Height for Your Bathroom Sconces

round bathroom mirror above modern vanity with tub

Congratulations! You’ve picked the perfect bathroom sconces for your space.

However, before the sconces can be mounted on a wall, you need to choose where they should be placed. Don’t put your bathroom sconce too high or too low. Install your sconce at eye level.

The ideal height for a bathroom sconce is about 60 to 80 inches from the floor. This will provide the best lighting for your room. 

The table below provides the optimal locations of a sconce above or beside a mirror.


Above the Mirror75 in - 80 in (190.5 cm - 203.2 cm)40 in
(101.6 cm)
6 in from top
(15.24 cm)
Beside the Mirror65 in - 70 in
(165.1 cm - 177.8 cm)
about eye level4 inches from sides
(10.16 cm)
36 in - 40 in
(91.44 cm - 101.6 cm)


Sconces should be installed, centered, and at eye level. If people of varying heights use the bathroom, take the average height of the users and find the centerpoint.

For a designer’s advice, be sure to read How to Space Bathroom Mirror and Sconces.


Have a Professional Install Your Beautiful Bathroom Sconces

How to Choose Bathroom Sconces

Now it’s time to install your sconces. Can you install a bathroom sconce yourself, or do you need to hire an electrician?

 If you have no previous experience working with electricity, ALWAYS hire an electrician. While installing a sconce looks simple, it can be dangerous if done incorrectly. 

That said, if you have experience working with electricity or you just want to know what your electrician will be doing, check out the steps below. However, as previously stated, PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT without previous experience.

  1. Turn off the breaker to the light. (DO NOT FORGET THIS). 
  2. Take the housing (light covering) off and unscrew the sconce from the wall.
  3. Remove the bracket of the sconce.
  4. Disconnect the wires.
  5. Connect the wires to the new sconce.
  6. Mount the bracket of the sconce.
  7. Screw the new sconce to the wall and put the housing on.
  8. Turn the breaker to the light back on.

So, How Do You Choose Bathroom Sconces?

Bathroom Sconce on Both Sides if Mirror

Before you choose your bathroom sconce, take a moment to analyze your bathroom. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it currently bright enough with general lighting or could it be brighter? 
  2. Is there enough task lighting above the mirror?
  3. Should I have more ambient lighting around the mirror?
  4. What temperature do I want the bathroom to be?
  5. What is 75% of my bathroom mirror width?

Once you’ve answered these questions, choosing a bathroom sconce will be easy. You’ll know exactly what light you want and which sconce to buy. 

You may even decide that a bathroom sconce is not what you’re looking for after all. If that’s the case, read 7 Types of Bathroom Lighting Fixtures to Make You Go WOW!

When it comes right down to it, which bathroom sconce you choose for your bathroom is up to you! You can break the “rules” or you can follow them to a tee. It’s your bathroom. 

Design it in a way that makes you feel at home.

Note: If you’re about to start a bathroom remodel project, don’t miss out on my free Save Big $$$ Cheat Sheet. You’ll get designer hacks that can literally save you thousands of dollars. Just fill out the form below.


Tags: how to choose bathroom sconces, how to install bathroom sconces, types of bathroom sconces, up or down bathroom sconces, where to place bathroom sconces

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