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Q. I’m having trouble finding a good-looking sconce to light an open staircase.

It needs to be flat so we don’t bump into it, and we don’t want to be blinded by it, whether we’re going up or down.


A. Jennifer Compeau, a senior designer at Michael Richman Interiors (405 N. Wabash Ave., 312-755-1551; richmaninteriors.com), suggests a sconce enclosed with frosted glass or acrylic, and adds that it doesn’t have to be a wall fixture-it could be a ceiling fixture mounted on the wall. You can find some well-designed examples of traditional styles at circalighting.com. Check out the Mercer Square Box Light, a 12-inch-square, four-inch-deep white glass box trimmed in nickel, antique brass, or chrome. It houses two 60-watt bulbs and goes for $336 to $357, depending on the finish. Another good site for classic enclosed sconce styles is ralphlaurenhome.com.

If you prefer a fixture with a shade, Compeau recommends a diffuser at the top and bottom of the shade. This is a perforated shield that prevents a bare bulb from shining in your eyes as you go up or down the stairs. Designer Candice Mathers, of CMR Interiors (312-933-3717; cmrinteriors.com), has a caveat about fixtures with shades that sit close to the bulb. “Use a lower wattage than 60,” she says. “Even if the socket says 60, use 40, or you’ll pop the seams on the shade. And use a dimmer.”

Lightology (215 W. Chicago Ave., 312-944-1000; lightology.com) has a charming shaded fixture called ADA 1 that simply looks like a traditional lampshade affixed to the wall. The shade is white silk, extends less than four inches from the wall, takes two 13-watt compact fluorescent bulbs, and costs $180.75.

For modern and contemporary sconces, a good source is ylighting.com. One fixture you might like is the blown frosted-glass sconce called Point, a free-form version of the classic globe that emits an otherworldly glow. It’s 12 by 14 inches, protrudes five inches from the wall, takes a 100-watt bulb, and costs $280.

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