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.