A Guide to Indoor Wall Lights

A Guide to Indoor Wall Lights

Wall Lights. An often overlooked form of lighting that can easily bring character and depth to a living space. Indoor wall lights are available in a wide range of materials, shapes and designs. The lighting effect offered by wall lights varies greatly and ranges from wall washers to picture lights to simple task lighting. There is a wide choice available for those wishing to purchase indoor wall lights.

Wall lights can offer an unobtrusive and space-saving way of providing light in a way that saves valuable floor and table-top space which is especially relevant in smaller modern homes. Many older properties with low ceilings will be illuminated using wall lights rather than ceiling pendants due to headroom restrictions.

Many quality modern indoor wall lights are offered in designs that mirror available matching ceiling lights; this allows uniformity when planning a new lighting scheme for your space.

Wall lights for general lighting.

The positioning of wall lights for general illumination of a space is an important factor to consider. With a longer wall having a number of lights fitted in a row the spacing has to be thought out, the lights do not want to appear “crowded” on your wall and also the illumination from each light should not cross over causing indistinct patterns which will not allow each light to stand alone and create shadows and edges to the illumination effect provided by each individual unit.

Wall lights used in this application can offer soft and pleasant secondary lighting effects by indirect reflective illumination from the mounting wall and the ceiling above the light fitting.

A Quality Christopher Wray wall light which is shown both unlit and lit in use – Notice the wide general illumination.


A Quality Reproduction Holophane Style Wall Light for general wall lighting.


Wall lights for picture, detail or task lighting.

Picture lights as the name suggests are used to gently illuminate a picture or other feature e.g. in the case of a restaurant a detail such as a menu board. Detail wall lighting refers to a specific use maybe in an alcove or enclosed porch where the light is used as highlighting illumination.


A 1950s factory signage wall light up cycled to a restaurant menu board light.

Task wall lights would be placed to provide lighting to a specific area to illuminate a work space such as above a desk or a console telephone table, wall lights in these situations can be used to provide soft and washed lighting that will avoid stark contrasts in light and shadow.


Wall Washers and shadow effect wall lights.

Wall washers are lights that are usually solid and offer “washed” light from behind the light fitting, the illumination can come from the sides, top and bottom. These lights are designed to create areas of illumination and shadow which work in unison to provide an interesting focal and mood lighting effect.

A Contemporary wall washer using shadows and outlines as part of the illumination effect.

Bare bulb wall lights.

Bare bulb wall lights hark back to the days of wall mounted candelabras, many wall lights with bare bulb designs are supplied with faux candle covers and are shown in sales guides as lit with candle effect bulbs, and this can provide a space with an excellent aged antique effect.

A Reproduction Bronze effect bare bulb wall light from the late 1990’s


Diffused wall lights with glass and fabric shades.

Wall lights with fitted lampshades provide an excellent mix of lighting, a light with an opaque glass shade will provide a diffused illumination which is a mixture of general lighting and wall washed lighting. Fabric shades on wall lights offer a similar effect with the emphasis on vertical illumination.

A Pair of Modern Glass diffuser wall lights compared to a mid-20th century period Antique styled ornate diffuser.


Architectural & Decorative wall lights.

Many Vintage and Antique wall lights were made as statement pieces and have a wonderful aged feel. Some have ornate Architectural details found in period buildings and on grand Antique furniture. There are a few top end makers that still produce these lights which feel like works of art and are based on Antique lighting. These makers also produce ranges of stunning contemporary wall lights that provide the same wow factor of these older lights but in a modern design.



A Decorative Toleware Chandelier wall light by Laura Ashley from the 1990s



Gilt Double Wall Light

A quality Italian gilt finished wooden wall light from the late 1980s.


A magnificent Architectural wall light from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

PHOTO By Tim Evanson from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA.

An early 20th century ornate Architectural Sconce with cut glass shade.


There is a wide range of wall lights available both new and used.

Choose the style and design that fits with your space. Consider your wall finish, will it be plain and in need of detailing? Will you have wallpaper with an ornate pattern that needs soft and unobtrusive lighting?

TIP – New wall lights vary greatly in quality – Read reviews and spend some time researching all aspects. Once a wall light is installed it is more tricky to change than other types of lighting, for example If you pick the wrong table lamp you can change it easily and quickly, this is not the case with wall lights so always ask questions and take time before you buy.

There are some excellent second hand wall lights on the market, often vintage wall lights have a really good build quality and can be found quite cheaply, as always if you are unsure on a second hand light have it checked over by a qualified person.

If you have any questions or need advice on any item of Vintage lighting please contact me and I will do my best to help.

Michael Adkins. michael@hertfordshire-lighting.com

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