Wall sconces are generally used for accent lighting. Depending on their style, they can also be used as security lighting or task lighting. Although there are no hard or fast measurements for where to place the lights, there are tips that will help make placement easier. Start by identifying the purpose of the wall sconce.
Wall Sconce as Accent Lighting
Placement height for a wall sconce varies between 60 and 72 inches up from the floor. Overall, the purpose of a wall sconce is to highlight or accent something, such as a picture. The sconce will cause some shadowing, because the beam does not project that far or wide. Wall sconces used to highlight will also have a decorative diffuser over the bulb that may also lower the intensity of the light. Wall sconces should be placed 66 to 70 inches up from the wall, so that the sconce rests about midpoint of the item being highlighted.
Wall Sconce as Security Lighting
Wall sconces used for security lighting, such as along a hallway, should be placed on alternate walls about every 10 feet for ceilings 8 feet high and a corridor that is less than 5 1/2 feet wide. The wall sconce should be chosen with a diffuser that does not dim the brightness of the light and helps direct the light down, as well as side to side. Fixtures are placed 60 to 66 inches up from the floor.
Wall Sconce as Task Lighting
Wall sconces can be used as task lighting with a few modifications. Make sure that the fixture can take a higher wattage bulb. Select a diffuser that does not lower the amount of light the bulb puts out. Make sure the diffuser will direct the light where you need it, such as on or toward a desktop, kitchen countertop or reading chair. Use care in selecting the sconce fixture. You don't want to bump your head on iron scroll work or get tangled in beads that hang off or stick out from the fixture. It helps to choose a fixture that articulates to give you some flexibility. Height for a sconce used in task lighting will vary widely, depending on what and where the task is. A fixture that provides task lighting on kitchen counter where you likely will be standing to work would need to be at 60 inches up from the floor. A sconce that will give you task lighting while you sit in a chair and read would need to be at about 48 inches.
Wall Sconces in the Bathroom
Wall sconces for the bathroom are used as task lighting for shaving or putting on makeup. The wall sconce should be placed between 66 and 70 inches from the floor, depending on the average height of the people living in the home. Be sure to choose fixtures that do not diffuse too much of the light you need for the task. One benefit of the wall sconces in the bathroom is that they push away the shadows caused by the lighting that is over the mirror.
Cheryl Swayne is a writer and farrier based in Kansas. Her articles have appeared in publications including "Kansas Wildlife and Parks Magazine." She worked in national and state parks for 20 years. Swayne authored the nonfiction book "Wildflowers and Forbs of Sandhills State Park." She holds a Master of Science in business management from Baker University.