a sconce light shining from the top and bottom on a stone wall

Sconce lights

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 12/28/2020

Quite often, when people think of wall sconces, images of tacky old theater lights or archaic torches on castle walls pop into their heads. Nowadays, though, wall sconce fixtures come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and styles to fit just about any interior or exterior design.


In the late 14th century, a wall sconce was quite literally defined as a “candlestick with a screen.” Today, the idea behind wall sconce lighting remains relatively the same, except changes in technology, designs, and styles have allowed for many more features and functions. That being said, most modern sconces are still designed so the light source is hidden behind a shade or a screen, directing the light outwards. Wall sconce fixtures are typically attached at about head level and can be used both indoors and outdoors, commonly in bathrooms around mirrors and as exterior lighting around entryways.

How To Mount Your Sconces To Get The Greatest Effect

With modern sconces, the light source is often directed outwards by a screen or a shade so it’s important to mount them properly to get the best effect:

  • To start with, most sconces can be mounted so that the backplate of the fixture is set at roughly eye level. This will allow for the light to shine out and away from the eye instead of directly into it.
  • Essentially, the shade or screen should sit slightly above or below eye level depending if the shade directs the light upwards or downwards.