How to Choose Vintage Wall Sconces

Are you looking to add some vintage charm to your home decor? Consider installing wall sconces!

How to Choose Vintage Wall Sconces

Vintage wall sconces are more than mere lighting fixtures; they are pieces of history that bring character and elegance to any room. Choosing the right vintage sconce involves considering both aesthetic appeal and practical functionality.

In this guide on how to choose vintage wall sconces , we’ll explore the key factors you need to keep in mind when selecting vintage wall sconces, such as the period style, compatibility with your existing décor, quality of craftsmanship, and the electrical considerations for your space.

Whether you aim to create a focal point in your living room, add a touch of nostalgia to your hallway, or introduce period-accurate fixtures in a historic renovation, understanding these elements is crucial in making a perfect choice.

What are the Uses of Vintage Wall Sconces?

Before we dive into the factors to consider when choosing vintage wall sconces, let’s first discuss their various uses. Wall sconces have existed for centuries and have had many purposes throughout history.

They were initially used as a source of light before electricity was invented, then later evolved into decorative pieces that added ambiance to a space. Today, vintage wall sconces serve both functional and aesthetic purposes.

Functional Uses

  • Mood Lighting: Wall sconces are ideal for creating a warm and inviting atmosphere in any room. They can provide ambient lighting or be used as accent lights to highlight specific features of a room, such as artwork or architectural details.
  • Task Lighting: Sconces can be placed strategically to provide focused lighting for tasks like reading or applying makeup.
  • Space-saving: Unlike floor lamps or table lamps, wall sconces don’t take up any floor space, making them perfect for small rooms or tight spaces.

Aesthetic Uses

Vintage Wall Sconces Can Add a Touch
  • Decorative Accents: Vintage wall sconces can add a touch of elegance and charm to any room. They come in various styles, from ornate and intricate designs to simple and sleek ones, making them versatile for different décor styles.
  • Statement Pieces: A unique vintage wall sconce can serve as a statement piece in a room, adding character and personality.
  • Historical Significance: Many vintage wall sconces are unique pieces of historical significance. By incorporating them into your home, you are not only adding a beautiful piece of decor but also a part of history.

Now that we’ve discussed the uses of vintage wall sconces, let’s dive into the key factors to consider when choosing the perfect one for your space.

Types of Vintage Wall Sconces

There are various types of vintage wall sconces, each with its unique characteristics and style. Some popular styles include:

  • Art Deco: Known for its geometric shapes and bold colors, Art Deco sconces add a touch of glamour to any room.
  • Victorian: Victorian wall sconces are ornate and intricate, often featuring floral or scroll designs.
  • Mid-Century Modern: With clean lines and minimalist designs, mid-century modern sconces bring a touch of retro style to a space.
  • Industrial: Industrial wall sconces feature metal finishes and exposed bulbs, perfect for adding an edgy and rustic vibe to a room.
  • Tiffany: Tiffany sconces are known for their colorful stained glass shades, providing a warm and romantic glow to a room.

These are just a few examples of the many styles available. When choosing vintage wall sconces, consider the overall design and aesthetic of your space to ensure compatibility.

What Will You Need?

Before making a purchase, knowing what you’ll need for installation is important. Some essential items include:

  • Electrical Wiring: Ensure that your walls have the necessary electrical wiring and outlets to support wall sconces.
  • Mounting Hardware: Different types of wall sconces require different mounting hardware, so be sure to check what is needed for your specific sconce.
  • Bulbs: Consider the type of bulbs your sconces will need and whether they are readily available for replacement.
  • Dimmer Switch: For added functionality and ambiance, consider installing a dimmer switch to control the brightness of your wall sconces.
Control the Brightness of Your Wall Sconces

With these items in hand, you’ll be ready to install your vintage wall sconces.

10 Easy Steps on How to Choose Vintage Wall Sconces

Step 1. Period Style

Recognizing the significance of historical context is imperative when selecting vintage wall sconces. A sconce from the Art Nouveau era will emanate an entirely different aura from the Roaring Twenties. Therefore, it’s crucial to identify the era that resonates with your interior design theme.

If your home boasts a Victorian flair, opt for sconces with intricate patterns and ornamental details typical of the 19th century. On the contrary, if you’re inclined towards the sleek and functional aspects of the Mid-Century Modern movement, seek out sconces with minimalist forms and industrial materials. Aligning the wall sconces with the period style of your home enhances authenticity and sets a cohesive aesthetic tone.

Step 2. Scale and Proportion

When choosing a vintage wall sconce, the scale and proportion in relation to your room size and wall space are essential. A too-large sconce can overwhelm a small room or space, while a diminutive one might look insubstantial on a large expanse of wall or in a room with high ceilings.

Compare the dimensions of the sconces to the measurements of the space where they’ll hang. For balance, ensure that the sconces are proportionate to the furniture and fixtures in the room. A sconce should complement, not dominate, the space it occupies.

Step 3. Light Quality and Function

Assess the quality of light and its intended function in your space. Vintage wall sconces come in various lighting styles, from soft, diffused light to direct, task-oriented illumination. Consider the activities in the room – is it a space where you relax or a place where you work?

Vintage Wall Sconces Come in Various Lighting Styles

Soft, ambient light is ideal for living rooms and bedrooms where a cozy atmosphere is desired. Look for sconces that provide directional light to support concentration and visibility for a home office or reading nook. Moreover, the glass or shade type can significantly influence the light quality, with options like frosted glass creating a gentle glow and clear glass offering more transparency and brighter light.

Step 4. Compatibility with Existing Wiring

Before purchasing vintage wall sconces, verify their compatibility with your home’s wiring. Historic homes may require updated electrical systems to ensure the safe and efficient operation of antique lighting fixtures.

If you’re unfamiliar with electrical work, it’s advisable to consult with a licensed electrician who can inspect your wiring and make necessary upgrades. Additionally, ask about the voltage and amperage requirements of the sconces to match your home’s electrical capacities. Knowing these details in advance can save time and prevent potential installation challenges.

Step 5. Aesthetic Harmony

It is crucial to consider how vintage wall sconces will harmonize with the space’s overall aesthetic. When selecting sconces, consider the color scheme, textures, and materials in the room.

Art Deco Sconce Could Complement a Room

A brass Art Deco sconce could complement a room with warm wood tones and metallic accents, while a sleek chrome fixture may be more appropriate for a space with a modern, monochromatic palette. Be mindful of how the sconces will interact with other decorative elements — they should be congruent with the room’s character, contributing to a unified visual story.

Step 6. Authenticity and Condition

When choosing vintage wall sconces, the authenticity and condition of the piece are paramount. Research the sconce’s history and look for markers of authenticity, such as manufacturer’s marks or design registration numbers. The patina on metal or slight imperfections in glass can signify age, adding character and uniqueness to the fixture.

However, be wary of excessive wear or damage that could affect the sconce’s functionality or safety. Check for intact wiring, solid construction, and the presence of all necessary components. If a sconce requires restoration, consider the cost and time involved and whether you want to take on such a project. Remember, the goal is to add charm and history to your space, not to introduce a renovation burden.

Step 7. Installation Process

Understanding the installation process is vital once you have selected your vintage wall sconces. Determine whether you can complete the installation yourself or if you need to hire a professional. Vintage fixtures may not fit modern mounting brackets, and some may require special handling due to age and structure. Research the type of anchors or supports the sconces need.

Plaster Walls or Other Delicate Surfaces

Especially if you are attaching them to plaster walls or other delicate surfaces. Always turn off the power to the area where you are installing the sconces, and follow all safety guidelines to avoid electrical hazards. If the process seems daunting, remember that hiring a qualified electrician can ensure a safe and secure installation.

Step 8. Dimming and Light Control

Having the option to adjust the brightness of your lighting can significantly impact the ambiance of a room. When integrating vintage wall sconces into your space, consider whether the fixtures are compatible with dimmer switches. Dimmers provide the flexibility to create the perfect atmosphere for any occasion, from a soft and romantic dimness to a bright and clear luminosity necessary for reading or detailed work.

Existing Electrical Circuit Can Handle the Load

Check with an electrician to ensure that your chosen sconces can be wired to a dimmer and that the existing electrical circuit can handle the load. It’s a simple feature that can offer a wide range of lighting options and add to your vintage sconces’ overall functionality and enjoyment.

Step 9. Maintenance and Care

After successfully installing vintage wall sconces, it’s essential to understand the maintenance and care required to preserve them. Dust and clean your sconces regularly to maintain their luster and prevent grime buildup. For metal parts, use a soft cloth and a gentle metal cleaner or polish suitable for the sconce’s material.

Glass elements can be wiped with a damp cloth and mild soap to keep them sparkling. Be cautious with cleaning solutions to avoid damage. If your sconces have textile components like fabric shades, vacuum or dust them gently. Lastly, periodically check and tighten loose parts to ensure the sconces remain stable and secure. Proper maintenance will protect your investment and keep the sconces shining brightly for years to come.

Step 10. Light Bulb Selection

Selecting the appropriate light bulb is crucial for complementing your vintage wall sconces and enhancing the room’s overall ambiance. Opt for bulbs that fit the style of the sconce and meet your lighting needs. Consider the color temperature; warmer hues are generally more flattering and inviting, while cooler tones are better for task lighting.

Led Bulbs Can Offer Energy Efficiency

Vintage-style LED bulbs can offer energy efficiency and a longer lifespan while giving that classic filament look. Ensure the bulbs have the correct base type and wattage recommended for your sconces to avoid overheating or damage. With the right bulbs, your vintage sconces will look authentic and function efficiently and safely.

Following these steps, you can confidently incorporate vintage wall sconces into your home and transform any space into a charming and timeless haven.

5 Additional Tips and Tricks

Tip 1: Source With Patience and Persistence

Hunting for the perfect vintage wall sconces requires patience. Visit multiple antique shops, estate sales, and online marketplaces. Vintage items are one-of-a-kind, so persistence is key to uncovering that unique piece that speaks to you and fits your space impeccably.

Tip 2: Prioritize Provenance

Whenever possible, obtain the provenance of the sconces. Knowing the history or origin of your vintage sconces can add a layer of intrigue and personalization to your decor. It can also help with authentication and determining the value of the item.

Tip 3: Consider Condition

When choosing vintage wall sconces, carefully inspect the condition of the piece. Minor imperfections may add character, but significant damage or missing parts may affect both the aesthetic and functionality of the sconce—factor in any necessary repairs or restorations when making your decision.

Tip 4: Think Outside the Box

Yourself to Traditional Wall Sconces

Don’t limit yourself to traditional wall sconces. Consider alternative designs, such as industrial or mid-century modern styles, which can add a unique and unexpected touch to your space. If you have a specific theme or aesthetic, don’t be afraid to mix and match different eras and styles for a more eclectic look.

Tip 5: Trust Your Gut

When it comes down to it, trust your instincts and choose the vintage wall sconces that speak to you. It may not be the most valuable or perfect piece, but if it speaks to your personal style and adds character to your space, then it’s the ideal choice for you.

Overall, choosing vintage wall sconces requires a balance of patience, knowledge, and personal preference.

5 Things You Should Avoid When Choosing Vintage Wall Sconces

Avoid 1: Overlooking Wiring Safety

Always pay close attention to the electrical wiring when shopping for vintage wall sconces. Aged or frayed wiring poses safety risks and can be costly to replace. Ensure that any sconce you consider is up to current safety standards or is feasible to rewire.

Avoid 2: Ignoring Scale and Proportion

Avoid selecting sconces that are out of scale with the room or the furniture they will complement. Too large, and they can overwhelm the space; too small, and they’ll seem insignificant. Ensure that the size of the sconces is in harmony with the surrounding area.

Avoid 3: Disregarding the Light Quality

The primary function of a sconce is to provide light. Avoid sconces with tinted or extremely worn shades that could dull the brightness or alter the hue of the light in an unflattering way. Consider how the light will contribute to the ambiance of your space.

Avoid 4: Skipping the Research

Avoid buying the first sconce you find attractive. Do your research on styles and periods so that you have foundational knowledge to inform your decisions. Understanding what makes a piece authentically vintage will help you make smarter choices.

Avoid 5: Neglecting the Install Location

Avoid choosing a sconce without considering the install location’s suitability. Some sconces require specific wiring configurations or wall types. Before purchase, confirm that your chosen sconce will be compatible with your intended location.

By steering clear of these common pitfalls, you can select a vintage wall sconce that enhances your decor and functions safely and efficiently in your space.

What is the Difference Between a Wall Light and a Sconce?

While both wall lights and sconces provide light for a room, there are subtle differences between the two. Wall lights refer to any type of light fixture mounted on the wall, while sconces specifically refer to a type of wall light with a decorative bracket or arm extending from the wall to hold the light source.

Used for Accent or Ambient Lighting

Additionally, sconces are typically used for accent or ambient lighting, while wall lights can serve various purposes, such as task lighting or general room illumination. Sconces also tend to have a more decorative and ornate design than wall lights, which can be more simple and functional.

Overall, the main difference between sconces and wall lights is their purpose and design, with sconces typically being more decorative and specialized in function. 


In conclusion, how to choose vintage wall sconces can be a fun and rewarding experience if done with patience and knowledge. Remember to prioritize provenance, consider the condition, think outside the box, trust your instincts, and avoid common pitfalls such as overlooking wiring safety, disregarding light quality, and neglecting suitable installation locations.

Additionally, understanding the difference between sconces and wall lights can help you make the best decision for your space.

With these tips and tricks, you can find the perfect vintage wall sconces that add character and charm to your home decor. Happy hunting! 

Photo of author

Jennifer Branett

Leave a Comment