What are Sconces? The Purpose of These Wall Lighting Fixtures

The wall sconce is a classic wall lighting fixture that almost every home needs. Let’s dive into the basics of wall sconces so you can learn how to decorate with wall scones and why these lighting fixtures are so amazing for homes.

What is a sconce? Sconces are decorative wall-mounted light fixtures. Sconces are used to provide accent, task, or general lighting on walls. They help illuminate hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and more. Sconces are typically placed flanking a mirror, next to a bed, by an entryway, or along a hallway. They’re positioned above eye level to cast light in a desired direction.

What sets this type of lighting apart is the key fact that it can direct light at eye level. This is important for places where you are often standing – like next to the front door, or next to the bathroom mirror. Illuminating the face is a common need in many homes, so don’t overlook this practical lighting fixture!

What are Sconces Used for?

Sconces are used for middle-of-the-wall lighting. They are great for illuminating faces, artworks, and mirrors. You can also use these handy lighting fixtures to brighten other objects on the walls of your home.

If you want to highlight specific architectural features, artworks, or any other focal points within a room, sconces can be strategically positioned to draw attention to those areas.

Sconces provide a soft, diffused glow that helps in creating a warm and welcoming ambiance.

Beyond practicality, with their often intricate and stylish designs, sconces serve as decorative elements that enhance the aesthetics of a room.

Installing Sconces in a Home

Where should wall sconces be used at home? Here are the major locations of residential homes where you can use sconce lighting!

Note that sconces are often installed in pairs to create a symmetrical look, contributing to a well-balanced design. This can be particularly effective in framing architectural elements like fireplaces, mirrors, or large pieces of artwork.

Hallways and Staircases

Sconces are popular lighting choices for long hallways as they can create bursts of light at even intervals through this long space of the interior. In hallways and staircases, sconces can offer gentle illumination that guides the way without being overpowering. Their placement along the walls at regular intervals can create a pleasing visual rhythm, enhancing look of these transitional spaces.

Reading Nooks

If the purpose of using a wall sconce is to help you read, then you should consider a swing arm wall sconce, which will give you the flexibility to adjust the lighting projection. These types of adjustable sconces are commonly found in the bedroom and in a reading nook.


Twin sconces are often found on either side of the bathroom mirror. These help to gently illuminate the face without blinding the person looking in the mirror. Sconces provide balanced lighting for grooming tasks, such as applying makeup or shaving, without causing harsh shadows.


While not as common, sconces can be found in outdoor settings as well. They can be used to illuminate pathways, entrances, or patios, adding both functionality and aesthetic appeal to the exterior of a building.

Sconce vs. Wall Light

A sconce and a wall light are both lighting fixtures that are mounted on the wall, but they differ in their design, purpose, and sometimes in the way they illuminate a space.

  1. Design: A sconce is typically more decorative and is often used to enhance the aesthetic appeal of a space. It might include intricate design elements, various shapes, and artistic features. Wall lights, on the other hand, tend to be more functional in design. They are often simpler and focus on providing the necessary illumination rather than contributing to the overall decor.
  2. Purpose: Sconces are frequently used for ambient or accent lighting. They might be positioned to highlight specific architectural features, artworks, or other focal points within a room. Wall lights are typically used for general illumination and may include a broader range of styles, such as task lighting in a reading nook or over a work surface.
  3. Lighting Direction: Sconces often direct light in specific directions, either upward, downward, or in a diffused manner, depending on the design and the effect desired. Wall lights may offer more direct and widespread illumination, suitable for lighting up an entire room or specific working areas.
  4. Placement and Style: Sconces are usually found in more formal settings such as dining rooms, hallways, or living rooms and often come in pairs to create symmetrical design statements. Wall lights might be found in a wider variety of locations, including outdoor areas, garages, bathrooms, and are more likely to be selected for their function rather than their form.

In conclusion, while both sconces and wall lights are mounted on walls and serve the purpose of providing light, sconces are generally more decorative and used for accent or ambient lighting, while wall lights focus more on functionality and general illumination. Their design, purpose, lighting direction, placement, and style highlight the differences between these two types of fixtures.

Sconces by Style

You can find sconces in a wide variety of styles and designs. Here are a few of our guides based on style:

  • Scandinavian Sconces – Nordic design is trending in a wide variety of homes. Celebrated for its practicality and minimalist design, this is a winning design choice!
  • Brass Sconces – Brass is the most trendy finish on a large range of home fixtures from drawer pulls to table legs and of course, lighting fixtures. You can’t go wrong with brass!

Wall Sconce Power Sources

There are three main ways to power these lighting fixtures:

  • Hard-wired – These types of lighting fixtures are wired directly to your home’s electrical system. It offers the most seamless, clean look because wires are not visible from the outside! To turn them on, you must have an external light switch on your wall, or an external switch on the fixture itself.
  • Plug-in – For a simple installation, go for plug-in wall sconces which gain their power from any old electrical outlet. They can quickly be replaced when needed even though it makes the wall more cluttered to see wires hanging down.
  • Battery Powered – Battery operated sconces are also easy to install, and solve the problem of visible wires. These run on batteries, meaning they will need to be replaced after a while. They tend to be a bit dimmer than the first two options, but nonetheless, they are a viable choice.

Sconce Placement

Here are some tips for where to place your wall sconces at home.


How high should wall sconces sit? The recommended height for wall sconces is around 5.5 feet or 60-66 inches, minimum. You can place them even higher if you have a tall household or especially high ceilings. This height prevents glare and ensures that the light is spread evenly across the space.

At this height, the sconces illuminate the upper body, without blinding people. The bulbs should not be directly visible. They should be within reach, but not so much so that the inside is visible.

Placement Guides

Here are some quick placement guides:

  • 2 sconces on either side of a piece of artwork
  • 2 sconces on both sides of a vanity mirror or entrance mirror
  • 1 central sconce above an artwork or mirror
  • 2 sconces on either side of a large bed, above the nightstand and around 1 foot from the end of the bed
  • Several hallway sconces spaced around 3 feet apart along the wall.

Avoid Obstructions

Ensure that the placement of sconces doesn’t interfere with doors, windows, or furniture. Adequate clearance will prevent accidents and ensure that the light is not obstructed.

Attention to height, spacing, symmetry, and functionality will help achieve an effective and visually appealing installation.

There you have it! I hope this guide helped you understand more about these tiny but powerful lighting fixtures for the home. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Happy curating!


1 comment

  1. Your post about sconces are so impressing and informative. I was looking for information about hallway sconces and how high should they be placed. This post helped me a lot.

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