A Guide To Wall Sconces For Lighting

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For a simple lighting fixture that will save you space on counters or floors and avoid the hassle of ceiling installation, wall sconces are just the thing. They come in a variety of materials and designs, allowing you to choose based on your personal design aesthetic.

Types of Wall Sconces

Torch sconces are practically extinct, due to fire safety regulations, but they were the first kind of wall sconce. Traditionally, torch wall sconces were things of medieval times, where a torch was placed into a wall fixture to add light to dark hallways. Today, designers are using candle replicas in place of the medieval torches, powered by electricity, that add an eclectic rustic look its surrounding space.

Gas sconces are nearly as retired as torch sconces. Before electricity became popular, gas lighting was all the rage, and people were using gaseous fuels such as hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, propane, butane, acetylene or ethylene to produce light. Gas lighting today is typically only used for camping and other outdoor activities.

Electric sconces are the most common indoor wall sconces used today. Powered like a typical light fixture, electric sconces come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, materials and designs.

Wall Sconce Function

Modern electric light wall sconce fixtures are often used in hallways or corridors to provide both lighting and a point of interest in a long passage. Sconce height in a passageway is generally three-quarters of the distance up the wall, as measured from the floor to the ceiling, and the distance between sconces on the wall is generally equal to the distance of the sconces from the floor, often alternating sides of the passageway. Sconce size should also be scaled to ceiling height for best effect.

Wall sconces are commonly used to make a room appear larger, as well. Luxury hotels commonly use tall wall sconces in the lobbies and hallways of their buildings, making rooms appear taller than they actually are by focusing light on the ceiling. Wall sconces are also popular alternatives to desk lamps, as they free up tabletop and floor space and provide better lighting. This is also popular in hotels, because it makes rooms appear wider.

Important Features

  • Materials: Often, the price of a sconce will vary by the material used to make it, and for good reason. Cheaper materials, such as heavy plastic, will actually dim your light, making your room dimmer. Also, cleaner materials such as stainless steel and cyrstal look better, adding a touch of class to your room. However, be wary of glass material when installing wall sconces in children's rooms. Unless the sconce is too high for them to reach, it can pose a safety risk if they try to touch it. In addition to breaking hazards, glass gets extra hot when in close proximity to light, so touching it can easily burn your hand.
  • Cost: Wall sconces vary in price. Low-end models cost under $50, with higher-end fixtures priced between $200 and $400. The most common sconces, however, are between $50 and $200. Be sure to look at the materials used to make the lamp, as well as energy efficiency standards and customer reviews, before paying more for a wall sconce than you're comfortable with.
  • Energy efficiency: Like with any electrical device in your home, you want to ensure that you're getting the most bang for your buck. Wall sconces with Energy Star approval stamps will use power most efficiently, saving you money in the long run on utilities bills. Another easy way to save power with wall sconces is with fluorescent bulbs. You don't have to sacrifice light quality, either. By purchasing a wall sconce with a lighter material as its cover, such as crystal, the light from the bulb will reflect more, making it appear brighter. For extra savings, buy an Energy Star sconce and use the fluorescent bulbs. It's good for the planet, and it's good for your wallet.

Wall Sconce Design

Traditional wall sconces use a basic shield-like fixture to cover the light that it holds. The simple design is an elegant shape, and most common in bathrooms. Classic wall sconces use a variety of ancient-inspired styles. For example, some wall sconces act as a wall-installed chandelier, with protruding branches that hold the lights, typically electric candles for effect, and are made of a rustic material, such as iron or nickel plate. There typically add a design feature to a room, in addition to the lighting, so they are most commonly used by homeowners aiming for a rustic aesthetic.

Modern wall sconces have a sleek, clean look to them. Modern models are commonly made of glass and use either stainless or brushed steel for a more tidy appearance. The glass or light-colored sconce cover illuminates the light further, typically brightening up a room more vibrantly than a dark design, as is common with traditional and custom wall sconce models. Modern wall sconces are also available in varied shapes, often exaggeratedly high sconce covers or thin, horizontal strips, called "arms". Other examples include box-shaped designs, made to fit a futuristic modern aesthetic.

Custom wall sconces can be made from a variety of materials, such as iron, steel and various types of plastic. Some custom wall sconces are made to be replicas or certain shapes or designs that specifically appeal to the homeowner, such as seashells. Consult a professional to learn more about your options.

Last Updated: August 10, 2011
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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