Where Does That Sconce Go Anyway?

Outdoor Wall SconceA wall sconce (sconce, for short) is an ornamental bracket fixed to a wall for holding a candle or an electric light of one kind or another. The electric light source could be incandescent, xenon, halogen, fluorescent, or even LEDs.

Long ago, wall sconces were primarily mobile lighting devices which were carried to light the way throughout a home or passageway. These wall sconces were frequently hung on a wall or over a fireplace where they were readily available for the homeowner’s use. Today, wall sconces are attached to a wall to provide permanent illumination. But where do they go exactly?

One thing for sure is that they should not be attached so low on the wall that anyone of average height can look into the top of them. Usually, I recommend that they be hung at a height of about 6 feet above floor level (rooms with vaulted ceilings can take a higher placement). The shape and size of the wall sconce does affect this aesthetic decision to some degree. For example, larger or longer wall sconces should be placed a bit higher on the wall. However, sconces should not be hung so high on the beauty salon wall, for example, that they are out of the natural line of sight and, thus, their visual impact is “lost” in the black ceiling above.

Wall SconceIf wall sconces are used in a hallway, they should generally be spaced about 8-10 feet apart and should be placed so that a given wall sconce on one wall is facing the area between two wall sconces on the opposing wall. If the wall sconces are placed in a location that can be viewed from above (for example, at the bottom of a stairway or under a balcony), you may want to consider covering the top of the sconce with a louver or a diffuser to avoid glare.

In the end, wall sconces can be quite functional by providing some general lighting, safety and security lighting, and possibly task lighting while also offering a marvelous opportunity to be creative and make an aesthetic statement. In fact, certain wall sconces might be works of art in themselves. In some instances, the design elements of the wall sconce might be used to complement the design elements of other items in the space or even underline the decorative theme of the entire space. All of these factors play a role in the use and placement of wall sconces.

Tom Farin

Tom Farin is the founder of Pegasus Lighting. Dr. Farin has been in the field of lighting since 1987. He has extensive training and experience in lighting, physics, mathematics and education, acquired at the undergraduate level, in graduate school, and in the field. It is Dr. Farin's interest and expertise in education that has driven the overall design of the www.PegasusLighting.com site - with its heavy emphasis on lighting terminology, lighting techniques, and thorough information on each lighting product.

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