Lighting a room seems simple: Plug in a lamp or flip a switch.
Not so fast.
"Nothing enhances a space more than a thoughtful lighting plan," says interior designer Michael Wood of New York City.
Many buildings in the city don’t allow channeling into the ceiling to add lighting, so as a workaround, he often uses sconces.
"The right sconce at the right location, inside or out, can act as much as a statement or art object as a light fixture," he says. "There’s an opportunity to personalize and add richness to a space."
There are practical considerations, as well.
"Sconces free up space on night tables, or reduce clutter in a room with too many floor lamps," says Wood. "For smaller spaces in particular, the less on the floor the better."
Donna Garlough, style director for Joss & Main, has noticed growing interest in sconces in the past few years.
"It’s not that they’re new, but spaces featuring sconces have become extra-popular on Pinterest and Instagram lately, where a lot of DIY decorators get their ideas," she says. "Lighting manufacturers have responded with stylish options for every budget."
The right sconce can create a welcoming glow, and accentuate furniture and architecture, Garlough says.
"Used to frame furnishings like beds and sofas, sconces can give your room a high-end, custom feel, and they make furniture look like it really belongs in the space," she says.
Popular locations for sconces include the master bedroom, where they create a hotel-chic vibe, next to bathroom mirrors, around kitchen cabinetry or in hallways. Outdoors, a sconce provides great mood lighting on a wall or fence.
Wood likes sconces with an articulating arm. "It frees the light from a single illumination point, in a similar fashion to a task lamp," he says.
There are also versions that reach some distance from the wall, illuminating corners that other lighting can’t.
"Brass and oiled bronze sconces are especially popular, as are midcentury-style globe sconces," says Garlough.
At Joss & Main, the Gulvason articulating sconce comes in several metallic finishes, including brass and polished nickel; it can be installed or plugged in, which is handy if you aren’t able to hard-wire anything. The Sabinal perches a little black shade on a resin post shaped liked a tree branch, clad in gold metallic for a mix of rusticity and elegance. And, available in both a swing-arm and fixed arm version, the Bautista’s round opal glass shade casts a warm glow.
Wood praises Los Angeles designer Brendan Ravenhill’s new ADA sconce, which debuted during design week this spring at the ICFF in New York.
"I was impressed with the flexibility — it can mount vertically or horizontally — and the finish and size options," he says. "It would work with contemporary, industrial or classic decor."
At Pottery Barn , the Adeline sconce brings sparkle to a space with a faceted crystalline glass shade. Translucent milk glass and a riveted bronze, nickel or brass frame give the PB Classic sconce retro charm. And for a sophisticated bathroom, consider the Sussex tube sconce, with a frosted glass shade mounted on a polished nickel base with Art Deco-era elan.
Finally, from West Elm, there’s a lovely adjustable sconce that plugs in. It comes in both long- and short-armed versions, with one or two shades. Brass and a curvilinear black shade give it a cool mid-mod vibe.