Wall lights are generally installed for ambient, or mood, lighting when they're indoors; or for visibility and security when they're used outdoors. There is no specific standard for indoor or outdoor wall light height. The proper height for any wall light depends on a number of factors, including the design and purpose of the light, the style of your decor and the height of the ceiling.
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Task Lighting for Specific Locations
Wall lights that are installed for a particular task, such as grooming in a bathroom or reading in bed, require a particular height that makes sense. Two wall sconces on each side of a bathroom or bedroom vanity mirror should be installed slightly above eye level. For example, install the lights at about 60 to 66 inches from the floor on each side of a mirror that hangs over a vanity. Install wall sconces just above the headboard or a few inches above where your head is when you sit up in bed to read.
Allow for Ceiling Height
Generally, you don't want to be able to see the bulb inside the wall light fixture, which makes 60 to 66 inches from the floor a frequently-seen hanging height. Stay closer to 60 inches if the ceilings are low ... 8 feet or less. Alternatively, consider installing the lights slightly higher than 66 inches from the floor if the ceiling is 10 feet or higher.
Consider the Light's Purpose
Install the wall sconces at a height that prevents a glare or blinding effect. Other lights, such as a string of lights, can be installed along the floor or ceiling to shine just a bit of light in a home theater or along a hallway. Hang wall lights just above or below special artwork to highlight the piece without creating a glare or shadow. Use wall sconces as accent lighting to create a soft glow in the room for a comfortable feel. Sconces that have colored glass covers or a dimmer provide a warmer, softer glow.
Outdoor lights have a similar range of functions, which affect their mounting points. Lights meant to illuminate landscaping or a walking path are often ankle- to knee-height. General-purpose illumination can be higher, approximately the same height as indoors. Bright security lights should be positioned in the highest place that's practical, for maximum effect.
Don't Overlook Style
The style of the wall light and its size also play a role in determining how high you hang it. For example, install large, ornate Victorian-style fixtures on a large wall in a large room, and high enough so the bottom of the fixture doesn't meet the heads of family and guests walking by. On the other hand, smaller sconces will look more natural in a smaller room, lower down on the wall ... even paired with a small piece of wall art.
Similarly, outdoor fixtures require you to give some thought to esthetics and practicality. Placing an ornate, artistic sconce next to a main entrance invites collisions, which might damage the light or — even worse — friends and family. The height, size and placement of your fixtures should relate well with the dimensions and balance of their surroundings.
Janece Bass is a freelance writer specializing in weddings, family, health, parenting, relationships, dating, decorating, travel, music and sports. She has been writing for more than 15 years and has numerous published pieces on various websites and blogs. Bass has also ghostwritten various fiction-based novels.