Suburban Problems, Volume IXVII

These women definitely have great park strips.

When you grow up living in a New York City apartment, you do not think about things like the care and cultivation of of the “park strip” outside your front door (the part that isn’t the sidewalk and isn’t the street), as it is a spot most likely decorated with things like Diet Coke cans, and a stack of empty Chinese food cartons, and somebody’s broken TV. You probably haven’t even noticed it’s there. You almost certainly have no idea who’s taking care of it. And you definitely don’t know the term “park strip.”

As of two months ago, I know what a park strip is, because it turns out that in the suburbs, you own yours, and when it must be dealt with, it is you who must do the dealing. My park strip, for example, no longer really exists, as it was torn up by the city while they fixed the sewer line running down our street, and then they never came back. And charged me $3,500 for the pleasure. (Mmmmhmm you read that right. Apparently when the sewage from your entire street overflows into your driveway and you call the city to have them come fix it, they won’t work on it unless the sewer access point for your property is within five feet of the street. So unless you want to continue accessorizing your front yard with your neighbors’ poop, you will have to pay to relocate it. Home ownership, WHEE.)

So rather than have massive, jagged holes decorating the street in front of our house (curb appeal!) I decided to go ahead and tear out the rest of the park strip and put in black mulch and plants. (And yes I did take the cement out myself using a sledgehammer, and yes I did end up with a prescription for anti-inflammatories so that I would one day be able to move my neck again.) But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is that when you are a city apartment-dweller who becomes a suburban homeowner, all of a sudden you are confronted with myriad decor conundrums that lay far beyond the bounds of things you’ve ever even begun to think about.

Like the other day, my friend Alisa said, “Hey, you really need to replace your hanging sconces.”

…Replace my…what? ….Where?

I hadn’t even consciously realized there were hanging sconces outside our house, because I had paid as much attention to them as I’d paid to the ones hanging outside the apartment building that I lived in growing up, which was zero. Aren’t exterior lights just…what they are? Like, whatever they were when the person who built the place built it and said, “hm I should probably put a light out here so nobody trips in the dark and dies?”

It would literally never have occurred to me that someone would want to – or be able to – change their sconces into something more fashionable, because they’re sconces, and not, like, dining room tables.

But then I started noticing my sconces. And damn it, now I hate them and notice them every time I drive up to our house and need new ones. Except, having never before said (or thought) the words “outdoor wall sconces,” I also have no idea what makes an outdoor wall sconce attractive. What are the cool sconce-owning kids into these days? Beats the hell out of me. I took a trip to Lamps Plus and came away with the knowledge that there are sixty thousand options on the market, and all of them look exactly the same, and yet when I texted a photo of one of them to my friend Mollie what she wrote back was “NO.” All caps.

Sconce selection is apparently not my forte.

So I need your help, because while I can apparently do things like purchase and renovate homes via FaceTime without ever seeing them in person, this I cannot do. Do I want to go clean and classic? Design-y and statement making?

These are the big decisions in life, kids.

Anyway, here are a few picks I like. Or that I think I might like. Will you please tell me if I like them? And if I don’t like them, will you tell me what I do like? (This is all far too much sconce-contemplation for a Monday morning. Sorry.)


Fresno Aged Iron Sconce

At $252, this is more than I was hoping to pay (especially since I need two). I like this style a lot, though, and would probably choose it in a vacuum; it seems like a nice balance between industrial and classic.


Sanyi Vintage 2-Light Edison

This sconce is both super cool-looking and one of the most affordable options I found. But as much as I like making unusual decor choices, I’m thinking maybe I need to rein in the crazy a bit when it comes to my entryway. (They’re so pretty though.)

P.S. The more expensive Anthropologie version of this light is here. I do like it better – especially in brass – but I don’t like it three hundred dollars better.


Hubbardton Forge Mason Sconce

I did not know “love” was a feeling that one could have towards a wall sconce, but um I love this. It’s way, way too expensive, but this $90 one is soooooorta similar. Sorta.


West Elm Globe Sconce

I like it. The price is right. I’m just not sure it’s exactly my vibe – my house is so dated I feel like I have to go super-classic or super-out-of-the-box.


Filament Design Moravia Sconce

Simple and classic…or heavy and boring? I dunno. This is why I need your help.


Hinckley Manhattan Sconce

This sconce is, for all intents and purposes, pretty much identical to the one right above it. And yet I think I like it better. Why? It’s a question for the ages.


Bradley Hanging Lantern Sconce

Cooooool. Except for some reason this fixture makes me think about toilet paper holders.

…Just me?


Cedar & Moss Sconce

This is technically an indoor sconce (although it can be used in covered outdoor areas), and doesn’t really suit my needs, but I’m throwing it up here anyway because it’s so beautiful that if you’re in the market for this kind of thing you should probably consider this (or maybe this slight variation on the style, eeee so gorgeous).

  • Sarah

    Can we see the front of your house, where the sconces will live?

  • Olivia

    We just replaced ours with white lanterns!

  • Val

    This is hilarious, and I totally get it. As for sconce selection, I think we need a photo of the outside of your house to help decide on style. Sans context, I like 2 and 3, and I agree that 7 looks exactly like a sideways t.p. holder.

  • jordanreid
  • Val

    I want to say maybe wait until you re-do the exterior of the house and then decide what sconces will look best? I can say with 100% certainty that if I bought sconces before remodeling the front of my house, I’d end up with a totally different look and have to ultimately buy different sconces. Again. And if you hate the way the house looks overall, who gives a shit about the sconces anyway? Do it all at once!

    • jordanreid

      yeahhhhhh i know, that’s definitely the smarter choice. i just got all excited about them and have no idea when i’ll have money to redo the exterior – it’s a fortune to paint an entire house.

  • Wait until you refresh the exterior of your house to replace the sconces. The existing ones are fine and adding any of the selections you’ve chosen without coordinating your exterior design choices will not improve the curb appeal of your home. Delayed gratification is your friend, here.

    Read Maria Killam’s design blog to learn why classic is the best bet for hard finishes. She can recommend paint colors, sconces, etc, too.

  • Sarah

    I agree with Lauren but sometimes I just have to change something even if it doesn’t make sense. These are streamlined and look nice lit. They’d go with anything. I don’t think you can do wild style until you redo the exterior.

  • OhThatLaura

    I love barn light electric. Here’s the one I think matches your house’s vintage:

    Not sure if one of their blues match your house trim — THAT would be amazing. Otherwise, I’d probably go powder coat white.

    • jordanreid

      those are gorgeous! expensive tho.

      • OhThatLaura

        Eh, outdoor lighting lasts forever, plus it’s something you’ll look at every single time you drive/walk up to your house. The lights help set the look of your house for passerby’s and guests. I guess, from a “price per look” perspective, I think ‘splurging’ a bit on home hardware — indoor and outdoor is important.

        Looking forward to what you decide on in the end!

  • Heather Hartmann

    I live in Canada where there is WEATHER so this may not be a concern in Cali but here choosing one of the ones where the bulb is protected by glass is pretty much a no-brainer.

    • jordanreid

      yeah, less of a concern here typically but given the weather lately – as I type this, i am watching workers in my backyard pull fence planks out of my pool because the storm brought the whole damn thing down over the weekend – probably best.

  • nora

    I agree with Heather with going with a covered bulb. Those seemed to be more sturdy and safe.
    I loved Fresno Aged Iron Sconce, but it does seem a little pricey.

  • Gai Grannon

    The 2nd choice—edison sconce. Kind of mid-century modern vibe–Doesn’t it echo some of the lighting styles you have in your home?

    • jordanreid

      it does – i kinda love it. the problem is that it only works in the covered entryway leading up to the front door – i need two additional sconces on either side of the garage, and those will be exposed to weather (the one you mentioned is only suitable for outdoor covered use). it’s weird to have different styles in the two areas, right?

      • Gai Grannon

        yeah–probably. It depends on how far apart the sconces are visually, and if they’re on discernibly similar or different areas of the house. For the most unified look in the front, yeah, they should be the same.

  • Kirstin Bunton

    Two things to consider. 1. Outdoor options only, they will last longer, from the type of glass to weather resistance, they are made differently. 2. How hard is it to change the bulb and clean? Nothing worse than grappling with a light, break the glass etc to change the bulb or to get rid of all the leaves and bugs that will set up shop in it. I feel like this is a case of “if you give a mouse a cookie” which is a common theme in interior design. If you start upgrading one part, then everything else starts looking a little shabby, or less chic. Good luck my dear, you’ll figure it out.
    ps. I like number one, but think that you need more light than a fancy filament bulb will provide.

  • mouser

    NO. BARE. BULBS. NO. VISIBLE. WIRES. IN. BULBS. PLEASE. Feels trendy, visually irritating,dated.
    I love the last one. Soft calming light FTW always. Think about if you want a damn Edison wire in your sightline as you dig for keys some dark night.. No. right? right. OK thanks I feel better. (I am in Brooklyn and there is a strangers’ illegally dumped trash ,cigarette butts, and unidentified liquids in front of my house. REPRESENT)