Here’s a quick snapshot of how most “trend” conversations happen here at EHD:
Someone: “I’ve been seeing a lot of [insert trend here] lately…how do we feel about this?”
Someone else (or several someone elses): “YES love it, totally a trend” OR “Ugh no, please no. Veto.”
Likely me (Arlyn) or Emily: “Wait, is this a post?”
And today is the result of this general interaction, except this time, it happened on Instagram between Julie (from our design team) and me. We tend to do this thing where we’ll DM each other at random pretty rooms or cool things to consider either for life or projects, and last week, she kept sending me photos of long arm sconces in dining rooms that took the place of a chandelier. What I didn’t know at the time is that Julie and Emily had been in talks of possibly swapping out the light fixture that’s currently in the mountain house dining room (Emily talks about why here) and they both loved this idea stylistically.
While, design-wise, it’s definitely a detail we’ve been seeing more and more (but also, maybe I’m just seeing it so much because I started looking for it and you know…algorithms and whatnot), I probably first noticed the whole design sconce thing in European or Australian home design. It’s definitely a more contemporary move but the more I thought about it, the more I also considered skipping the ceiling fixture entirely would straight up solve some people’s problems. Let’s say you live in a space with incredibly high ceilings (I’m crying for you, truly I am). Hanging a chandelier or pendant is certainly possible, but depending on the cord situation, you’re pretty limited on the light you can use, not to mention a very tricky installation. Also, if you’re in a home or rental apartment with very little overhead lighting and installing a junction box above a dining table isn’t an option, enter the oversize dining sconce. And because there are plenty of plug-in options, it’s a no-brainer that requires zero permanent decisions the way a hard install does.
The key is to get something that has a very long arm that can extend out from the wall over the table (even if it’s not dead center over the surface). This light shown above (and over and over again below because evidently, this is the preeminent “sconce over dining table” light fixture) is the 265 Wall Lamp by Paolo Rizzatto for Flos (#3 in the roundup below…a less expensive version, depending on how you feel about that, is #18). It’s an awesome option if your wall is at least 80 inches away (that’s how long the arm is) and it has a considerable swing to it to get the head of the light exactly where you want it.
The one thing I do wonder about this one, in particular, is how the light actually looks when it’s ON. It would be fairly direct and not the least bit diffused, so it likely would not be very flattering sadly. I don’t know…does anyone actually have a version of this light and can verify whether this is true or not? I’m just so, so curious.
I dig this bad boy in the chrome. A finish like this (i.e. not matte black) is less intrusive and while it’s certainly not invisible, it lets the furniture be the star. Granted, that marble pedestal table and mix-and-match wood-toned chairs deserve the spotlight. If the furnishings were far more subtle and subdued, the black could really sing and bring tons of visual interest to the vignette.
This is, of course, not the only overscale pendant on the market (even though Pinterest would make me think otherwise). There are a few different varieties and categories, but I’m going to break down the three most popular/common: the hardwired swing-arm oversized sconce, the plug-in sconce. and the multi-arm sconce.
The Swing-Arm Sconce
I’m not privy to information about who makes this wonderfully cool lamp, sadly but man is it cool. It kind of has that laid-back vibe of a plug-in with the long cord (wait…maybe it IS a plug-in…it’s honestly very hard to tell in this photo), but the post-modern-esque aesthetic keeps it firmly in high-end edgy territory.
The brass here in a dining nook from Arent & Pyke (probably one of my favorite design firms right now, FYI) feels somewhat playful and less serious that the last photo. I also like the functionality of this sconce because it’s adjustable both outward and side to side. A pivoting swing arm will give you the most flexibility in placement.
Man do I love the slightly ridiculous scale (but in the best way possible) of the Lampe de Marseille by Le Corbusier. Something like this would really cut through the severity of dark, moody oil portraits, which, in this room, really balances the more modern glass and steel dining table.
Here’s something I noticed: a lot of designers were using the long-arm sconce in a smaller dining area or breakfast nook. I think it’s a nice, less risky way to do this. Plus, the table in this type of situation is typically much closer to the wall, so you have more light fixture options to play with than you would a table that’s in the center of a room. Also, in a corner like this, you don’t normally have a junction box, but you might have a wall electric hookup already for a traditional sconce and this is a playful unexpected way to bring some style gravitas to a “less important” area of the home.
One glance up and it’s clear why this was the only solution for lighting in this space. After all, you can’t hang a chandelier from a glass ceiling.
I’ve had a crush on this particular sconce (by Muller van Severen) for the better half of a year and the best part about it is that it’s a plug-in! The little wall brackets make it feel very…thought out. It comes in a few different shapes, too (like the arch from #8 in the roundup below) and honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite.
I know a lot of people take issue with exposed bulbs, and you only ever see them in a sun-lit room where obviously, they aren’t in use, but I think something like this would be great with a frosted bulb so the light is better diffused.
I wanted to show you this photo because even if you think you don’t have the wall space for the sconce placement, you’d be wrong! Just make sure the plate that you have to attach is slim and slender like this one by Andrew Neyer which would fit in the tiniest of spaces between window moldings. Also, note the silver-tipped bulb. That’s another solution to improve the light quality of an exposed bulb, FYI. Even if the fixture itself doesn’t come with something like this, you can buy them online (Schoolhouse actually has a great selection of nice, elevated looking bulbs).
This is another more “statement-making” option of oversized sconces and it works particularly well for around a dining area because you can slide the light up and down depending on whether you have a traditional table or more of a high-top counter-height thing going on.
The Multi-Arm Sconce
I consider the multi-arm oversized dining sconce the senior-thesis level fixture. Like, you’ve been around the dining room sconce block and you’re ready to get bolder, braver. This thing makes a statement (particularly the gargantuan 4-arm version made popular by Serge Mouille, above). Something like this does two things: it just looks cool (to me), but it also distributes light more evenly around the room.
Now, I know all of those long-arm sconces you saw in those rooms looked EXPENSIVE, and honestly, they probably were. But because I wouldn’t want you to leave this post with only inspiration that you couldn’t act on without some serious design funds to spend, I dug around and found some options at much lower price points (as well as some splurge-y ones) that could work in everything from a petite breakfast nook to a full-blown formal dining room.
1. Mojave Lamp | 2. Mid-Century Overarching Wall Sconce | 3. 265 Wall Lamp by Paolo Rizzatto | 4. Mantis Swivel Wall Sconce Brass | 5. Curvilinear Mid-Century Sconce Double West Elm | 6. Lampe Gras Model 214 Wall Lamp by Bernard-Albin Gras | 7. Crane Wall Light Lumens | 8. Muller Van Severan Floor Lamp | 9. Mussla Two Arm Wall Lamp | 10. Jones Single Sconce | 11. Potence Style Otis Light | 12. Cylinder Task Double Arm Wall Light | 13. Pelle Sconce, Long Gooseneck | 14. Leighton Adjustable Wall Sconce, Bronze | 15. Orbiter II Wall Lamp in Polished Nickel | 16. Retro Rotating Wall Sconce Two Arms | 17. Waldorf Wall – Large | 18. Stilnovo Gåsgränd Wall Lamp
Alright, now it’s time to hear from you. While you might have had an internal commentary running in your mind the whole time you were reading (scrolling?) through, let’s have it. Is this something you’d try at home? Or are you more comfortable in the traditional overhead dining chandelier or pendant? Here’s the best news: there’s no wrong answer! I’m particularly drawn to this look because it strips away the formality of a dining room, but I also get that some people actually want a dining room to be formal and “grown up.” Anyhow, enough from me, let’s have it from you.