A sconce is a kind of light fixture which attaches directly to a wall instead of hanging from the ceiling or supporting itself with its own base. In fact, the only support for a sconce is the wall to which it is attached. Sconce light fixtures usually have closed bottoms and direct light upwards toward the ceiling. However, there are also some sconces that direct light in the opposite direction, down to the floor. Furthermore, there are some sconces that are open on both ends and allow light to flow up to the ceiling as well as down to the floor.
The design of sconces is an ancient one. In fact, sconces hark back to some of the very first forms of interior lighting: fire torches that were affixed to interior walls of stately homes, castles, and public buildings. Sconces have been updated over the centuries according to the developments of technology and the changes in modern interior spaces. Torch sconces were replaced by oil and gas lamps which were affixed to walls in a similar manner. Finally, we now have electric sconces. In many buildings that are over one hundred years old, it is possible to find defunct gas sconce fixtures that are still in place.
In modern interior design, electric sconces are often placed in hallways and corridors or in large event rooms such as ball rooms and conference rooms. Sconces are often used to highlight a point of interest on a wall, such as a piece of artwork or a plaque. In this manners, sconces are often used in museums, historical locations, and other places of interest to direct the attention of visitors to specific items.
Sconces are usually placed three-quarters of the way up on the wall between the floor and the ceiling. In general, they should be placed either at eye level or above. In the instance of rooms with unusually tall ceilings, sconces may be placed many feet above the head of an adult of average height. The placement of a sconce, of course, also depends on the orientation of its light.
The instructions above for the placement of a sconce is intended for the most traditional kind of sconces: those that direct light up to the ceiling. However, the rule is not the same for sconces that direct light downward. In some theaters, sconces that direct light downward are used to light the path between seats while the rest of the theater has been darkened for a performance. Such sconces are often as low as ankle level.