Long before Thomas Edison gave us bulbs for floor lamps and overhead fixtures, sconces presented an appealing source of light. The graceful form -- candles held forth on nimble arms, suspended from a sturdy backplate -- met a basic need with finesse. Mounted just above eye level, candle-fired sconces bounced light off walls and ceilings, casting a diffuse, alluring glow.
Today, though incandescent and halogen bulbs have largely replaced wax and wicks, sconces continue to captivate. Their ambiance remains a flattering commodity, as cherished in decorating as a tasteful color palette or thoughtful floor plan.
Besides providing different layers of light, sconces can also set the right tone with both form and function.
In kitchens and home offices, they offer an alternative to overhead or task lights.For work spaces, the diffuse light is preferable.
Sconces also have a knack for creating focal points and sophisticated lighting patterns. Placed on either side of a powder room mirror, they provide balanced light for checking or applying makeup.
They work well above mantels or flanking artwork, ceramics collections, or tapestries. In dining rooms, they accentuate a buffet or serving table and heighten the romance of chandeliers.
Indispensable in bedrooms, sconces serve as bedside reading lights, particularly when equipped with articulated arms. In hallways and in corridors, they resolve monotony of long spaces.
Before choosing a fixture, determine the lighting pattern and the intensity you desire. Up-, down-, and dual-firing sconces create different patterns, as do single- and multi-armed configurations. Incandescent bulbs create a warm ambience, while halogens cast a whiter, brighter glow. Dimmers and shades can moderate brightness of either type of bulb. Candle sconces add drama, and mirrored backplates double the radiance.
Determine the height. In a hallway or heavily trafficked area, place sconces just above the shoulder height of the tallest inhabitant or frequent guest.
A sconce in the middle of the wall can throw off the proportion of a room. Install a small sconce closer to terra firma, and it will seem larger. Raise a larger sconce to accommodate its size.
If your ceiling is low, sconces can replace a chandelier, providing light and tone.
Pairs should stay together. When various sconces are used in a room, keep the heights of matching sets equal.
If a cord can't be completely concealed, pull it straight down from the sconce and nail it to the top of the baseboard. Painting it will greatly minimize its impact. If an additional backplate is needed to hide wiring, cover it with paint or wallpaper to match the wall.