Where To Place Bathroom Vanity Light Sconces?

Light sconces can add a touch of elegance and modern sophistication to your bathroom. However, working with such a limited space can make it challenging to figure out the best positions for the sconces. How high on the wall should they go? How far apart should they be from the vanity? We've researched best practices for affixing sconces near your bathroom vanity to answer these questions for you.

Bathroom sconces that flank both sides of the vanity should be a minimum of four to six inches away from the mirror's edges (or above it). If sconces are side-by-side, it's best to hang at least 36 to 40 inches apart to allow for even lighting. They should also be leveled about five and a half feet from the bottom of the floor (around eye level) to prevent glare issues.

Typically, the best time to install the sconces in the bathroom is once everything else is installed (i.e., plumbing fixtures, counters, mirrors, etc.). This helps you to ensure that you have enough room for the electrical boxes (or j-boxes) in addition to the sconces.

Most people use their bathrooms for everyday grooming, so having optimal illumination during any time is essential. Sconces are an ideal lighting source for bathrooms (big or small), as they create even lighting and help to avoid shadows--especially when they're placed on both sides of your vanity. They are typically no more than nine inches in height, which means that you should have no problem finding various styles to accommodate the size of your vanity. Please read on as we look at a few common sconce types and styles.

yellow sconce against a mirror wall, where to place bathroom vanity light sconces

Sconce Types 

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blue colored modern bathroom


Candle sconces are a classic yet popular sconce style. Made to look just like real candles, they can help you create an intimate space for your bathroom. And depending on the size you buy, they can also offer you a fairly good amount of illumination (some models may offer less). Typically an outdoor sconce, today you'll find plenty of them available for indoor use and in a variety of designs. Common finishes for this type of sconce include wood, wrought-iron, and brushed brass.


The half-moon sconce is probably one of the most renowned bathroom sconce options. This flush-mounted sconce can come in a variety of finishes, designs, and styles. More often than not, it's used as an accent light, offering additional lighting to the main vanity lighting.

It works well for most bathrooms because it's compact, usually very narrow, and sits flush against the wall, giving the appearance that the wall is completely lit. The half-moon sconce isn't ideal for providing a primary light source; however, if you're looking for supplemental lighting for your bathroom, it can help you create a distinctive design element.

Check out this half-moon sconce on Amazon.

Swing-Arm Lights

These sconces are popular due to their ability to move vertically and horizontally, which can be great if you are applying makeup or performing other grooming tasks that require a bit of close lighting. Swing-arm lights can be installed fairly easily and can also work great in other rooms, such as an office or above a nightstand in the bedroom. You'll find them mostly available in brass, brushed metal, or painted metal finishes.

Check out this swing-arm sconce on Amazon.

Sign Light

Sign light fixtures, sometimes referred to as gooseneck lights, are another great option for bathroom lighting. The greatest thing about them is their ability to flood a large area with tons of light, which can work well for larger bathrooms. They can also highlight certain areas within the bathroom, as they tend to push light in one direction. So if you're looking to illuminate areas of the ceiling or a nice piece of artwork in the bathroom, these are a great pick.

Check out this sin light sconce on Amazon.


Lantern sconces can offer a classic look to any bathroom decor. Their design is reminiscent of 15th-century oil lamps, making them the perfect fit if you have an antique look in your bathroom. These types of skeletons are fairly easy to install, and they give off enough light to allow for full Illumination in your bathroom. More often than not, you'll find these lights used either outdoors or down hallways, though they can definitely make for wonderful bathroom light options as well.

Check out this lantern sconce on Amazon.


These sconces are often referred to as torchiere floor lamps or simply wall lamps. They can be used for a variety of bathroom looks. Their slim and tall design makes them a perfect option for lighting that can go on either side of your vanity mirror. The great thing about these types of sconces is that they can provide full lighting without taking up any floor space. You'll find that they come in different models that include very detailed patterns and decorative characteristics.

Check out this wallchiere sconce on Amazon.

Sconce Styles

When you purchase sconces either online or at home decor stores, you'll find that they all come in four main style categories, rustic, traditional, modern, and transitional. Let's discuss each of these styles.


Rustic sconces can help add more detail paired with distressed furniture, old-age motifs, and darker accents. More often than not, you'll find these types of sconces in specialty stores, either online or locally. They can definitely help to add a bit of character to your bathroom.


You'll find traditional sconces to be the most common sconce style available today. They can come with brushed metal finishes, wood fixtures, as well as sleek designs that can give your bathroom a sophisticated edge. They can usually go with just about any decor or color scheme.


Modern sconces tend to focus on minimalist designs and simple color patterns. You'll find them available mostly in either painted metal or shiny steel, though they can come in a wide variety of other materials and colors as well. They work best as additional pieces of ornamentation in bathrooms that already have a contemporary feel.


The sconces work well for those looking for a combination of modern and traditional elements. Transitional sconces are often used to help rooms blend, and they work especially well in bathrooms that contain a lot of other decorative elements.

Lighting Options

Sconces can come in three types of lighting options. They include:


Down-light sconces are built to cast light toward the floor of a room. They're an ideal choice if you're looking to create an intimate or warm feeling in your bathroom. It's important to know that these sconces won't offer superior illumination but more of a supplemental form of lighting to your primary light source.

Check out this downlight sconce set on Amazon.


These types of sconces are built to direct light upwards towards the ceiling. They work great in smaller bathrooms, as they can help open up the room and make it appear larger by illuminating the ceiling.

Check out this uplight on Amazon.

Adjustable Vertical Lights

Adjustable sconces can direct light toward the ceiling or the floor and work best if you are someone who likes to switch up the decor in any of your rooms occasionally. They can add a good sense of balance to a room's lighting and are also great at lighting up long hallways.

Check out this up-and-down light on Amazon.

Should bathroom vanity lights face up or down?

Your vanity lights' directional orientation really depends on the look that you're going for in your bathroom. Lights facing upward can offer more diffused light, which is generally more flattering. If you're looking for more directional and focused lighting, down-facing vanity lights are more ideal.

Can sconces be installed upside down?

Believe it or not, some sconces are designed to be hung upside down. However, if they're not, they could pose a serious safety hazard in your bathroom if they overheat. It's best to follow the installation instructions that come with your sconce to determine if an upside-down installation is safe to do.

Should bathroom lighting hang over the mirror?

It can. If you have at least four to six inches of space available for your lighting above the vanity mirror, you can definitely add light there. Keep in mind that an electrical box will need to be added behind the wall if you aren't planning to install a plug-in light.

How bright should vanity lights be?

Vanity lights should offer the brightest illumination possible-- to get the most accurate colors. Both LEDs and halogen bulbs are most effective for vanity mirrors when they are at least 2,700-3,100K.

Is warm white or cool white better for bathrooms?

It depends on the look that you're going for in your bathroom. If you prefer traditional yellow light hues, a warm light will be more ideal (2,600-3,000K). But if you want a brighter or more modern feel, a cooler light may work better (3,900K +).

How big should a vanity light be compared to mirror?

modern classic bathroom with 2 sconces and a vanity mirror

There really aren't any general rules regarding the size of vanity lights for mirrors; it's more about balance. However, you'll find that having the lights the same size or a bit smaller will work best, as bigger lights could overpower the mirror.

How to mount a wall sconce?

If you are a bit of a DIYer, you can install your own sconce and save yourself a few bucks in contractor fees. Here's a quick overview of how to install a basic sconce fixture.

Tools you'll need:

  • Sconce and included hardware
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Screwdriver
  • Electrical tape
  • Light bulb (wattage amount depending on fixture)

1. Turn off the power

It's important always to make sure that the power is turned off before performing any electrical project. Double-check your home's circuit breaker box to make sure that you've turned off the electrical supply. It's also recommended that you turn off all of your light switches just to be on the safe side. Use a flashlight or work light as your light source (opening windows also helps).

2. Remove the mounting plate

Take your sconce out of its package and unscrew the mounting plate.

3. Find the electrical wires

After you've taken off the mounting plate, locate the electrical wires on the outlet box (they should be sticking out of the wall). Once you've located them, gently guide the wires through the holes on the mounting plate.

4. Attach the mounting plate

Next, you're going to attach the mounting plate to the wall and use your screwdriver to secure it.

5. Attach the ground wire

Now it's time to attach the ground wire. This wire is usually green, as is its corresponding ground screw. Take the wire and wrap it around the ground screw in the mounting plate. Please be careful when doing this and ensure that the wire is properly grounded on the plate.

6. Attach the neutral wire

After you've secured the ground wire, it's time to attach the neutral wire. This wire is typically white with a corresponding white connector. Take the neutral outlet wire and connect it to the fixture's wire, making sure to securely twist them together before securing them with electrical tape (note: make sure the tape completely covers the wires).

7. Attach the hot wires

You'll follow the same process in this step, but you'll be connecting the hot wires this time. Take the black hot wire coming out of the outlet box and wrap it around the fixture's black wire. Secure them and then cover them with electrical tape. Note: do not reverse the neutral and hot wire connections!

Step 8. Attach the sconce to its mounting plate

Now it's time to attach the base of your sconce to the mounting plate. You'll need your flat-head screwdriver to screw it into place.

9. Place the shade cup on the mount

Once you've attached the sconce to the plate, you can place the shade cup on top of the sconce's base plate. Be sure not to screw in the thumbscrews too tightly, or they may break.

10. Place the bulb in the mount

Do a quick double-check to ensure that you have a light bulb of the correct wattage for your sconce. If so, simply insert the bulb into its position and screw it in (and not too tightly). Once you're finished, turn the power back on to the light to ensure that the sconce is installed properly.

Should the bathroom have vanity lights and ceiling lights?

If you have a vanity in your bathroom, it typically won't provide enough lighting for the entire bathroom, so yes, you'd still need ceiling lights. However, if you have ceiling lights in your bathroom, a vanity generally isn't needed unless you require more accurate lighting for personal reasons.

Do bathroom lights need to be damp rated (and what makes a light damp rated)?

Damp rated is a classification used for lights (typically outdoor) that will have direct (and prolonged) exposure to moisture. Generally, bathroom lights do not need to be damp rated.

Wrapping Things Up

Sconces can be a great addition to any room or type of home decor. We hope that this guide has helped you find the best sconce for your home.

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

How Big Should Bathroom Vanity Mirror Be?

How Much Space Do You Need Between Double Vanity Mirrors?

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