As the days get shorter, outdoor sconces become increasingly important for illuminating a home’s comings and goings. But choosing the right ones is about more than just having enough light.
Because sconces are typically installed at eye level, their design can have an outsize effect on a home’s appearance.
“They can change the vibe of the house,” said Kerry Joyce, an interior designer in Los Angeles who recently refreshed the exterior of a neoclassical house he designed years ago by replacing traditional lantern-style sconces with modern, geometric ones. (The house can be seen with its original sconces in his new book, “The Intangible,” due out next month from Pointed Leaf Press.)
That one small change, he said, “made a remarkable difference.”
Regardless of style, finding appropriately scaled sconces is crucial, Mr. Joyce said. “Sometimes I make paper cutouts the size of the intended sconces and hold them up,” he said, to make sure the actual fixtures won’t look too heavy or dainty.
Get it right, he added, and “they’ll just sit there and look beautiful.”
How many sconces do you need? “A front door in a formal period home usually has two sconces” for symmetry, Mr. Joyce said, but the entrance to a more casual or contemporary home may require only one. On verandas, he often installs numerous sconces.
How will you control them? “Sconces should always be on dimmers,” he said. “Sometimes you want it to be magical and romantic, with just enough light to see, but other times” — when you’re working outside, for example — “you need it to be much brighter.”
What do you want to illuminate? Some sconces have opaque shades that direct light down onto house numbers and steps, while others have clear or translucent shades for a porch-wide glow.
Round Bulkhead Sconce
Cast-brass fixture with glass shade by Davey Lighting
$383 at Rejuvenation: 888-401-1900 or rejuvenation.com
Atomic Industrial Guard Sconce
Metal sconce with customizable color and glass diffuser
From $242 at Barn Light Electric Company: 800-407-8784 or barnlight.com
Aluminum sconce with integrated LEDs by Arik Levy
$520 at Artemide: 212-925-1588 or artemide.net
Somerset Small Modern Lantern
Copper lantern-style sconce by E.F. Chapman
$629 at Circa Lighting: 877-762-2323 or circalighting.com