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The Right Sconces to Decorate Your Fireplace Mantel

Decorating Tips and Sizing Guidelines

February 14, 2020

The Right Sconces to Decorate Your Fireplace Mantel

Decorating Tips and Sizing Guidelines

February 14, 2020

One of the most rewarding design moments in a house is the mantel around a fireplace. Whether you're fronting family pride or changing it up with the seasons, the mantel adds architectural flair to any space.

Adding sconces to the area, which can cast accent light on displayed objects  and call attention to the beauty of the millwork, elevates a hearth's grandeur. They also make it even more relaxing. But how best to flank the fireplace, how far apart to space the sconces, and how high from the hearth to mount them? The wrong decision can turn a relaxing scene into an eyesore. 

These five different fireplaces offer some examples of what kinds of sconces to use and how to mount them.  


Sarah Gibson | Abington sconce by Hudson Valley Lighting

Sconces complement the spaces they adorn, never dominate them. Many sconces are made in what you might think of as a classical style: Imagine the time period when candles, ensconced on walls, lit hallways. Contemporary versions of these sconces still have a "candle," a candlecup, and a bobèche (which would've caught the dripping wax in the old days). In spaces like the one above, classical-style sconces with cleaned-up lines complement the décor of the room beautifully.  

Generally, you want to space sconces 6-8 feet apart. The size of the mantel, the size of what you mount above it (art, mirror, etc.), and the layout of the wall (is it interrupted by windows, doors, millwork?) will affect this. Here, the wainscoting set limits; toward the edges worked best. They flank the mirror beautifully, play into the room's décor elegantly, and are mounted so the shades are at the optimal eye level. 



Design: Design Storms | Logan sconce by Hudson Valley Lighting 

Here again, a sconce with classical elements but modern detailing plays a perfect assist. Ideally situated, it appears to be around 60" from the hearth, above the fireplace and slightly to the side. As with the previous image, paneling defines the optimum spot; the sconce will cast light on the beautiful arrangements on adjacent shelf and mantel.

This accent light will work in tandem with the ambient light source over the coffeetable and the firelight to create a vibe at once cozy and cultured. Light given off by sconces should be about three times the intensity of that in the surrounding area. Setting all layers of light in the room to dimmer switches puts the power in your hands to ensure that's the case. 

Design: House of Jade Interiors | Sconce: Jericho in Old Bronze by Hudson Valley Lighting

A long mantel looks best with sconces above it. When figuring out spacing, think about what you're placing above the mantel. If mounting something centrally above the fireplace, use the center of this piece as the middle point between sconces, measuring to the centers of each backplate.

When a mirror is the central object, consider also the practicality of it. Sconces provide flattering light for reflections. But they must be spaced so that their accent pools of light are able to do their job. Think of it like a Venn diagram: you want your face to fall in the overlapping place between two circles of light. 

Design: Dan Mazzarini | Sconces: Prism by Troy Lighting

Not all sconces follow the classical model. Here, faceted planes, strong lines, and geometric features complement the room's fireplace and furniture perfectly. As the fireplace extends into the room without a formal mantel, it makes sense to space the sconces out so they flank the fireplace itself more than anything above it. Given the chair's placement by the fire, it's easy to imagine the sconce providing light for reading in addition to its role as decorative accent. 

Design: Corey Damen Jenkins | Zariah sconce by Corey Damen Jenkins for Hudson Valley Lighting

Have a fireplace or mantel project you're looking to light up? You can explore our vast range of sconces here, and use the filter on the left to narrow the search to just the styles that will best complement your living room.