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Articulating Library Lights

Use hardworking sconces to illuminate a reading nook, sink wall, fireplace mantel, or any other place you want to brighten in style

Library Sconces

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Wall-hung adjustable-arm lights date to the 1800s, when ornate kerosene lamps needed to swing clear of flammable furnishings. Once electricity became widespread in the early 20th century, there was a push for more efficient lighting at work and at home, to reduce eyestrain. Minimally embellished fixtures with long arms, multiple locking joints, and directional metal shades became popular to spotlight all manner of task areas. These included kitchens, as well as sitting rooms, which one scholar noted had essentially become libraries by 1930, due to “the reading habit of to-day.”

Contemporary library lamps do their period precursors one better, with showier finishes, distinctive details, and playful proportions. Here, 11 spot-on options.

High Polish

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

BARBARA COSGROVE

Made of: Steel

Shade: 8¼"W x 4¾"H

Highlights: A shiny nickel finish gives this open-shade sconce a luxe look.

$380; Scout & Nimble

Pretty Penny

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

MERCURY ROW

Made of: Aluminum

Shade: 7½"W x 6"H

Highlights: The clean lines and rich copper hue of the Inna 1 light have a surprisingly affordable price.

$98.99; Wayfair

Free Range

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

REJUVENATION

Made of: Brass and glass

Shade: 7½”W x 6"H

Highlights: The Imbrie adjusts side to side as well as up and down; its glass shade increases the glow.

$345; Rejuvenation

Night Light

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

TRENT AUSTIN DESIGN

Made of: Brass

Shade: 5¾"W x 5½"H

Highlights: Its small size and backplate switch make the plug-in Bluntleaf a bedside best bet.

$329; AllModern

High Style

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

VISUAL COMFORT

Made of: Brass

Shade: 7¼"W x 5"H

Highlights: The elegant Boston library sconce in antiqued brass comes with a generous cord cover.

$349; Circa Lighting

Silvery Beauty

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

RESTORATION HARDWARE

Made of: Brass

Shade: 7½”W x 5½”H

Highlights: The pared-down 20th C. library light in polished nickel has classic style.

$249; Restoration Hardware

Small Wonder

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

IKEA

Made of: Steel and zinc

Shade: 5.9"W x 4.25"H

Highlights: Mount the powder-coated Ranarp using its bracket, or take it off and clamp the lamp in place.

$20; IKEA

Bright White

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

HUDSON VALLEY LIGHTING

Made of: Steel

Shade: 10"W x 7"H

Highlights: The Hillsdale brass swing-arm lamp has an unusually long reach and a large linen shade.

$450; Bellacor

Industrial Chic

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

ARTCRAFT LIGHTING

Made of: Steel

Shade: 8½"W x 5½"H

Highlights: Brass accents and the addition of an Edison bulb brighten the black Jersey sconce.

$129; ATG Stores

Shining Star

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

SAVOY LIGHTING

Made of: Steel

Shade: 5 3/8”W x 5 7/16”H

Highlights: A shiny polished-nickel finish makes the Camilla sconce a nice fit for a kitchen or bath.

$90; Joss & Main

Light Reading

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

TRENT AUSTIN DESIGN

Made of: Brass

Shade: 8"W x 6½"H

Highlights: With its wide cone of light, the antiqued Ridgemont sconce would excel as a reading lamp.

$377; All Modern