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Sconces come out of the shadows

By Michael Walsh, from The Seattle Times

Compared with their ceiling mounted cousins, wall-mounted light fixtures - also know as sconces - have long been regarded as dimwitted underachievers. To a certain extent, thatís understandable. They are generally less adept than ceiling fixtures at providing task lighting.

But while the light from a ceiling fixture may be comfortable, it is far from flattering and, except in a kitchen or bath, often excessive. The fact is, too much overhead lighting can actually spoil the look of a room.

Thatís where the sconce, the wallflower among light fixtures, comes in. More than merely functional, sconces are decorative fixtures that provide decorative lighting, the kind of lighting that can make a room (and those in it) look good and that can establish an atmosphere of romance, warmth or drama.

That ability was prized by architects, designers and builders from the turn of the century until some time before World War II. Arts & Crafts-era bungalows sometimes had sconces with amber colored stained-glass shades in every room

Sconces are great for giving shape, dimension and texture to a room They can illuminate and emphasize a roomís outer limits, making small spaces feel larger. Or they can put light on a roomís focal point, a fireplace mantle say, or a painting hung above a console table.

They also work well in hallways and stairwells, making those narrow confines seem wider without filling them with garish light.

Sconces were largely omitted from mass produced homes of the Ď50s and Ď60ís or were relegated to bathrooms where a pair became standard fixtures flanking a medicine cabinet.

Recently, though, there has been a new appreciation for sconces and manufacturers have responded with an ever growing inventory of traditional and contemporary styles.

Keep in mind with sconces the fixture itself is illuminated along with surrounding surfaces. So the shape, style, color and material of the fixture is as important as it is with a table lamp. Fortunately, there are as many varieties of sconces as table lamps, so you wonít have a problem finding one that fits your decorating scheme.

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