Instant ambience: Sconces the secret to more mood and more style at home

By Rebecca Long Pyper

Washing your walls with light can be a difference maker stylewise. It’s the secret ingredient between a house that simply has light fixtures and one that’s well lit and feels good too. That’s because wall sconces provide rooms with one important thing: ambience.

“Lighting is the jewelry of the home,” said Trissa Cameron, a lighting designer with L & K Carpet One in Pocatello. “It affects the mood and the feel of a home. When you have a really good lighting layout, your home just feels good.”

Cameron and experts like her stress the idea of layered lighting; rooms ought to have ambient or overhead lighting, task lighting and accent lighting. Sconces fall into that last category, and since they’re designed to highlight the things you want to highlight, sconces help with style too. Here are a few tried-and-true Cameron rules for striking the right lighting balance with sconces in your home:

1. Plan for sconces early. “Lighting needs to be addressed (as) one of the very first things when you’re looking at building or renovating,” she said. That’s why she recommends doing a walkthrough specific to lighting when a house is just going up or when a remodel is on the horizon.

If you plan early your electrician will run wiring where it needs to be run, saving you money in the long term. And make sure you, as the homeowner, call the shots on this one; “I wouldn’t leave those decisions up to your electrician because often you have a look and a feel you want for your house,” Cameron said, adding that if you leave decisions up to your electrician (or really anyone else, for that matter), there’s a good chance you’ll be dissatisfied at the end or have to pay extra to make changes after the fact.
2. Hang sconces where they’ll work hardest. The bathroom is a great place to install sconces as they offer superior lighting to an over-the-mirror fixture that casts harsh shadows from bulbs above. The best lighting in the bathroom is cross illumination, or sconces flanking the mirror, because this placement provides light from both directions, making shaving and makeup application much more precise. Hang sconces near eye level for best results, but make sure to screw in lightbulbs when determining placement so you’ll be happy with look you get. Don’t forget to add dimmers on your switches, and you can have a “candlelit” bath without the candles.

Another good place for sconces is in a great room or large family room. Often in spacious areas with vaulted ceilings, the vastness above swallows up ceiling fixtures. Bring the focus closer by hanging sconces around the perimeter of the room — it’ll feel more intimate that way. Sconces can be placed a little higher than eye level in rooms with towering ceilings, but you still want to make sure they’re at a functional, comfortable height, Cameron said.

Sconces also work well hanging near architectural features like millwork or windows and for illuminating artwork. Add focus to your mantel by hanging a couple above the fireplace. In these ways sconces work like a soft spotlight, drawing attention to the features in the room you hope people will notice first.
3. Because Cameron is a believer that “mixing and matching is what keeps a room fresh and eclectic looking,” don’t feel pressured to buy sconces in the exact same style or “family” as the rest of the lights in your home. If you’re nervous about picking out sconces with a unique look, stick with the same metal finish as your hardware or other fixtures; that way you’ll maintain cohesion while upping the style factor.

Have an awkward stair landing without enough space for a small table and lamp? Hang a sconce there; it’ll light the space so people know where to walk, and it will add interest to an otherwise barren spot.

Sconces, like these at L & K Carpet One, flanking a bathroom mirror provide cross illumination — ideal for getting ready in the morning. Photo by Jenny Losee

Sconces, like these at L & K Carpet One, flanking a bathroom mirror provide cross illumination — ideal for getting ready in the morning. Photo by Jenny Losee

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