How to position wall lights - an expert guide

Looking for expert advice about wall lights? Here’s Pooky’s guide to where and how to place these versatile beauties...

Wall lights are a stylish and flexible addition to your lighting scheme. As well as providing beautiful ambient and accent lighting, they can also provide great practical task lighting. And of course they can make a striking design statement in their own right. In this expert guide we look at the most common types of wall light and how to position them, together with some tips for choosing the right wall lights for your space. But first, a common question...


What is the best height for wall lights?

When positioning your wall lights, the ideal height and spacing will depend on a number of things, including the size and style of the wall light fitting, the proportions of the room and the kind of look you’re wanting to create.

As a general rule of thumb, wall lights should be positioned around 152-170cm (around 5-5.5ft) above floor level, while multiple wall lights should be placed around 250-300cm (or 8-10ft) apart. You should aim for the top of the wall light to sit at eye level, to avoid glare from the exposed bulb.

However, this is only a general guide - if the room has particularly high ceilings (say more than 10ft), or if you’re hanging wall lights in a bathroom or bedroom, you may want to adjust these heights accordingly.

For example, wall lights are perfect for illuminating a bathroom mirror. For a flattering, even and glare-free light, try placing two wall sconces either side of the mirror, with the centres sitting slightly lower, at around eye level. (We have a range of beautiful IP44 rated wall lights which are perfect for using around the wash basin.)

Meanwhile, if you’re using wall lights above the bed, place the lights around shoulder height, so that you can turn them on and off easily from the bed.

octavia dickinson

Dining room at The Pheasant Inn by Octavia Dickinson, complete with Pooky's Double Chukka wall lights. Photo: Helen Cathcart

What are the most common types of wall light?

Wall lights come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and can serve a range of different purposes, including supplementing the main light in a living room, adding additional ambience to darker corners, or as an attractive alternative where a main ceiling light is not feasible.

Wall lights also play an important role in layering lighting in a room. They’re a great source of ambient lighting, and are ideal for providing softer accent lighting for relaxing or entertaining in the evening, and creating depth and atmosphere. They can also be used to highlight a favourite feature, such as a fireplace or a work of art, adding focus and drama.

Pointing up or pointing down?

Uplights - as the name suggests - are designed to cast light upwards along the wall and towards the ceiling, which can help to give a more open feel to a living room or hallway. Meanwhile, downlights send the majority of the light downwards, making for a more cozy and relaxing atmosphere in a larger living space.


Wall sconces

long roddy

A wall sconce is a very old type of decorative light fitting, mounted to a wall and traditionally associated with candles and oil lamps. Sconces are a fabulous way of bringing a sense of warmth and intimacy to a bathroom, a bedroom or for lighting a hallway or corridor, 

Wall sconces come in a variety of styles, from traditional candle sconces, to lantern sconces, which add a more rustic ambience, modern flush-mounted sconces which sit flush against the wall and diffuse light across it, and vertical torchiere style lights which can add an extra decorative.

Browse all the different types of wall sconce here.


Articulated lights


Articulated and swing arm wall lights have a concertina arm which can be pulled outwards, away from the wall. The beauty of an articulated light is you can direct the light exactly where you want it, making it perfect for an office or reading area - while also freeing up space on your desk or table. And they look fabulous, too.

Browse Pooky's articulated wall lights here. 

Bedside reading lightscooper

Wall lights can make excellent reading lights, whether over the bed or in a cosy corner of the living room. Some wall lights are specifically designed as bedside reading lights, but conventional wall lights can also be a great alternative to a bedside lamp, and some are adjustable for added flexibility. In the living room, try placing a stylish swing arm light above a favourite sofa or chair.

See Pooky's range of specialist bedside reading lights here.


Picture lightspicture lights

If you want to showcase a picture or a piece of art - or even create a stylish gallery - these long, narrow wall lights are specially designed for the purpose. A picture light - or a series of picture lights - suspended artistically above your chosen pieces will provide the perfect backdrop. (You can find out more about using picture lights to illuminate your paintings and artworks here.) Meanwhile, for targeted task lighting, such as over a table or a kitchen island, try choosing a set of wall lights with more of a spotlighting effect.

See all Pooky's picture lights here. 

Choosing the right wall lights for your space

Wall lights come in a wide range of different styles, from traditional decorative designs to slick contemporary and uber modern industrial style affairs, and in a variety of materials and finishes, from glass and brass to metal, fabric and ceramic.

When choosing your wall lights, as well as their function it’s also important to think about the kind of effect you're trying to acheive.

Here are some tips...

  • For calm ambient lighting in a hallway or living space, a series of matching translucent glass wall lights set around the room will diffuse the light for a gentle, relaxing feel.
  • Highlight a feature such as a fireplace or an alcove with a pair of matching wall lights, one on either side
  • Stagger multiple wall lights along a hallway or corridor to create a warm and welcoming feel.
  • Mix and match different coloured shades on wall lights to give a room layers of visual interest.

susie atkinsonImage: Susie Atkinson

Using wall lights in the bedroom

In the bedroom, wall lights provide a softer, more gentle alternative to the main ceiling light and they can also be a lovely design feature. A general wall light will give a warm ambient glow, while an extendable or swing arm wall light is an excellent substitute for a bedside lamp. For extra ambience, add in a dimmer to create just the right level of illumination. You can view a range of beautiful bedroom wall lights here. See more tips for choosing the perfect designer wall lights here.

single chukka wall light photo our house to home

Browse through Pooky's vast range of sensational wall lights here.

See also:
Outdoor wall lights: 6 tips for bringing style and atmosphere to your garden space
Picture lights - how to illuminate your paintings and artworks
Stylish reading lights - a guide for bookworms and interior design lovers