(ARA) - In this economy, few people can afford to knock down walls or put an addition on their homes. However, for considerably less money, any room can appear larger and look better with one or two strategically placed sconces.

"As consumers move from buying new houses to remodeling their existing homes, wall sconces can be an attractive answer to consumers' lighting needs," explains Simone Raclin, creative director of Justice Design Group, a California-based lighting manufacturer.

Sconces are lighting fixtures that are mounted to a wall and provide subtle illumination and a warm ambiance. "Sconces bring human scale to a room and finish the space," notes Joe Rey-Barreau AIA, IES, CSI, architect, educational consultant for the American Lighting Association (ALA) and professor of interior design at the University of Kentucky.

When many people think of this type of lighting, the first image that may come to mind is a hotel hallway, yet sconces are gaining popularity in sophisticated residences all over the country. Brad Kleinberg, president of Crystorama Lighting Group, a New York-based lighting manufacturer, believes young admirers of the category are drawn to styles inspired by their favorite luxury resorts, hotels and restaurants. "They want what they've seen in Vegas, but scaled down to a residential size," he remarks, noting that styles run the gamut from ornate, splashy looks to cleaner lines with a contemporary feel.

"An upstairs hallway is an excellent application for wall sconces," Rey-Barreau states. "In fact, ADA-compliant models, which are required for commercial installations, are a great choice for homes because they do not extend out from the wall very much. They create a nice, repetitive pattern down a hallway." He advises putting the lighting on a dimmer control where one can use a lower light level to create ambiance, and placing fixtures every eight feet for balanced illumination.

"Customers have discovered how useful and beautiful wall sconces can be in almost any room," says Raymond Christensen, an ALA-certified Lighting Specialist, designer, and owner of Ray Lighting + Design Studios LLC in Hartford, Conn. Another unique quality is their ability to expand the look of a space. "Instead of dark corners, which occur when you only have a center light, sconces can illuminate those areas," Christensen explains.

"I also find that many of my customers do not like a lot of recessed lighting. They want softer lighting that can create a mood -- and sconces are much more effective at that than recessed, even if they are dimmed," Christensen says.

Recessed fixtures send light in only one direction, generating strong shadows. Sconces send illumination in many directions, using the wall as a reflector to project light into the room and create warm shadows.

At Vermont-based lighting manufacturer Hubbardton Forge, "We try to create something that looks as good off as when it is lit," notes George Chandler, chief executive officer and chief designer. The result is functional artwork. "You can create a point of interest with a decorative sconce; it can fill a wall." He recalls one homeowner who installed three sconces in a row, vertically, alongside a tall foyer staircase. These sconces served as sculptural accents for the blank surface.

Sconces are also ideal in media rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, living rooms and bathrooms. "Even though sconces have always been the best choice (for master baths), I am amazed by the number of customers and even professionals -- such as electricians and architects -- who want to use only one or two recessed lights over the sink," Christensen says. Instead of the harsh shadows generated from recessed fixtures, a sconce on either side of the mirror provides direct light on the face, making grooming tasks easier.

What's the best bulb type for a sconce? The answer depends on how you'll be using the fixture. Rey-Barreau points out that only incandescent can be easily and reliably dimmed. If the sconce will be in an area where changing the bulb is difficult, it's best to opt for fluorescent.

Working with an ALA-accredited lighting designer will guarantee results you will love. For more guidance in selecting the perfect sconces for your home, visit a nearby ALA-member lighting showroom. Go to www.AmericanLightingAssoc.com for a list of stores in your neighborhood. ALA lighting showrooms have trained lighting professionals and offer more variety than home centers.

Courtesy of ARAcontent