First-time visitors to Evangeline, the design-forward rooftop bar at Toronto’s Ace Hotel, are often struck by the sense of intimacy that radiates through the room. While flickering fireplaces, a jungle of plants and plush vintage furnishings all contribute to that coziness, it’s well-placed wall sconces designed by Shim-Sutcliffe, the local architectural firm that oversaw the hotel’s build, that illuminate the value of good lighting to creating a convivial mood.
While hotels, restaurants and bars have long created an intimate atmosphere via wall-affixed light sources, sconces are now finding themselves in the spotlight closer to home. In smaller condos and rental spaces especially, sconces create a welcoming vibe without giving up valuable square footage to tabletop lamps or floor fixtures.
Clarice To, an interior designer with the Winnipeg-based firm Fenwick & Company, notes that sconces circumvent a potential issue with multiresidence buildings that don’t have abundant options for overhead lighting. “You can’t just retrofit ceiling lights in a condo,” she says, adding that the frequent use of concrete in such buildings negates the opportunity to cut into the surface and add electrical boxes.
To also says that for residences like Victorian houses, overhead lighting may be more feasible to achieve but can easily the kill the mood of a space. “Putting in pot lights isn’t going to amplify that Victorian feel,” she says. Instead, adding lamps and wall light sources add character and help to create little pockets of interest.
In these wellness-focused times, the zeal for fuss-free interiors means calming lighting options are more popular than ever. And in a world where multifunctionality reigns, sconces suit our desire for objects that look great and have a practical use. Today a wall sconce can be flamboyant or utilitarian in design. It can call attention to itself and what’s around it, or alternatively, can become one with the wall in a blissfully unobtrusive fashion.
“People have very different types of homes,” Sabine Marcelis says while discussing her recent product collaboration with IKEA that includes several styles of wall fixtures that plug into an outlet. “They can be in villas or tiny apartments. And there are maximalists and minimalists. I really hope that this collection speaks to everyone, because there is an opportunity to interpret the objects in your own way and to use them in your home in different ways.”
Marcelis’s collection, called Varmblixt, features lighting shaped like an elegant, luminescent hula hoop or an electrified doughnut (a shape considered one of Marcelis’s signatures). One circular style even doubles as a mirror. Another piece, made from powder-coated aluminum, emanates an industrial-chic aesthetic. Its quirky silhouette stands out singularly, but also looks clever when used in multiples.
“You can create interesting illusions with it,” Marcelis says of the piece. “Imagine a hallway. If you have a few of them behind each other and opposite each other, you can almost create the appearance of an arch.”
Maude Rondeau, founder of the Quebec-based lighting brand Luminaire Authentik, says that her team sees the use of sconces “as if they create an art wall, but they also have the function of creating an ambiance.”
Luminaire Authentik’s offerings skew on the side of purposefully eye-catching – its most recent sconce launch focuses on a marble material – with the added benefit of colour and bulb customization. The brand releases a new palette seasonally and Rondeau says that the abundance of choice helps to define the brand.
Its bestselling sconces include the understated Danoise – a shallow dish-like shape with an outsized bulb in the centre – and the charming Coquelicot, named after a hue of red but also the French word for “poppy,” hence its floral silhouette.
Nature is a regular font of inspiration for Rondeau, who mentions that the look of one of Luminaire Authentik’s latest styles, the Nopal, was influenced by a trip to Mexico where she spent time around the Prickly Pear cactus (a.k.a. “nopal” en Español). The design’s sensual, organic shape works especially well in a more minimalist interior to add just a hint of asymmetry. It will also no doubt appeal to houseplant enthusiasts.
Fans of a stimulating sort of subtlety will be drawn to Anony’s Horizon sconce, a slick disc-shaped design that has a hint of novelty thanks to its pivoting, slightly smaller cover held on by magnets. In addition to creating an “unbroken ring of light,” as per the product’s description, this lid can be tilted to direct the light toward different corners of a room.
Touting the piece’s interactive quality, Anony’s founder Christian Lo notes that Horizon’s uniqueness is more than just its face value. “One of the things that we really wanted to do was make a sconce locally in Ontario,” she says, adding that there are fewer manufacturing options than ever for such endeavours, and that this approach is fairly innovative. “A lot of the time as product designers, we come up with a design first and then we figure out how to make it later.”
The Anony team’s other criterion for their design was to add longevity to the object. The sconce is easily assembled and disassembled so consumers can take it with them to new spaces and change the LED board with ease. “It was also really important that we’re using materials that can be recycled, which is why we went with spun aluminum,” Lo says.
You can sample the soft beams of the Horizon sconce at another Toronto hotel, the Kimpton Saint George designed by Mason Studio. Lo says she’s noticed sconces used more frequently in hospitality spaces like the Kimpton, which she notes is a change from when she first started working in the industry. Back then, lighting “in general was kind of an afterthought,” she says. Today, however, it’s the sconce’s time to shine.
Bright ideas: Add some wall power to your interior with these idiosyncratic options
Terrazzo is one of design’s most enduring materials and is deeply on trend these days. Here the merry mosaic-y motif lends a bit of playfulness to Nuevo Living’s jaunty wall lamp.
Nuevo Living Noni wall lamp, $385 through simons.ca.
TWICE AS NICE
Brooklyn-based studio In Common With’s style doubles up the light’s direction.
In Common With Up Down sconce, US$450 through incommonwith.com.
ALL WRAPPED UP
The gold-leaf accent and sculptural folded design of Elte’s option makes it an elegant focal point.
Folio wall light, $415 at Elte (elte.com).
Available in colours that range from dark to clear, Bocci’s bulbous sconce seems to reference the movement of a jellyfish.
Bocci 73s sconce, starting at $1,150 through bocci.com.
Eny Lee Parker’s piece transforms lighting design into something truly out of this world.
Small Puffy Star sconce, US$2,000 through enyleeparker.com.