Which wall sconces can be used?

If your residential building is planning a lobby or hallway renovation, there are a lot of decisions to make. One of the most challenging decision is selecting the right light fixtures because the wrong lighting can derail even the most well-thought-out design scheme.

No one wants to come home to a dim lobby and dark shadowy hallways. As lobby and hallway interior designers in New York City, my firm is hired to create beautiful public spaces for our clients. That’s the fun part.

The not so fun part are keeping up with the hundreds of ever-changing rules and regulations that dictate what we can and cannot use. Sometimes, our clients’ requests are not possible due to those rules and regulations.

Light fixtures figure prominently in the “want but can’t have” category.

Here’s a typical scenario. Our clients say, “We’ve decided we want wall sconces for our lobby and hallways. Is that possible?” Don’t get me wrong. We love wall sconces for their design beauty and the soft light they cast.

But our answer is usually, “Sure, we can put wall sconces in your hallways, but…”

Wall Sconces Are A Great Choice For Hallway Lighting… But…

Wall sconces are an excellent choice for hallway lighting because the ambient light they emit creates a feeling of space. The right wall sconces can make narrow hallways feel larger and cramped elevator landing feel less claustrophobic.

But, the selection of wall sconces for public spaces such as hallways and elevator landings is limited. Why? Because all wall sconces used in public spaces have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA).

To comply with the ADA, all interior designers must follow the principals of Universal Design, which states that products should be accessible and usable by as many people as possible regardless of their age, abilities, or experience. When it comes to wall sconces, to comply, they must be four inches or less in-depth.

Wall Sconces Sit At Eye-Level – And Herein Lies The Problem

If you Google: ADA Compliant Wall Sconces, you do find tons of options. Choices are not our problem. Our problem is our high-end clients rarely like them. Thankfully, we discovered a few lighting manufacturers that sell very high-quality (and gorgeous) wall sconces which do comply with ADA requirements.

Because wall sconces sit on a wall at eye-level, all the details are seen close-up. So, it’s super critical that the materials we use are of very fine quality. People intuitively perceive quality regardless of whether they have an educated eye or not. The appreciation of beautiful materials comes from an intuitive place within us. As designers, we are hyper-aware of that fact.

Once we have narrowed our selection to ADA compliant wall sconces, we now have to think about longevity. Sconces with fabric shades seem like they would be a great option in hallways, but they attract dust like magnets can be easily damaged. So, fabric is out. So is acrylic and plastic shades – even high-quality ones look tacky. So they’re out, too.

For Wall Sconces, We Love Glass, Metal, and Alabaster Shades

Today, sconce shades are available in an incredibly wide variety of colors, textures, and patterns. We love how an exciting glass shade can transform a simple sconce into a magnificent work of art. Metal shades are a great option, too.

We designed these lovely sconce shades for our clients. We wanted to create a soft, ethereal effect to illuminate the hallways of this Manhattan coop building. These are ADA compliant.
We custom-designed these metal wall sconces, and they blend beautifully with our mid-century modern design scheme for this Manhattan coop building. Up-light bounces off of the ceiling while down-light shows-off the gorgeous wood paneling. Little sparkly stars create even more interest. ADA compliant.

And…we love, love, love alabaster! A naturally translucent stone, alabaster, when lit from behind, emits a soft, luxurious glow. The veins and swirls of color embedded in the material are a great way to add drama to a hallway or small space such as an elevator landing.

Alabaster-shaded wall sconces we love!

At the end, whatever sconce shade has been chosen, whether glass, alabaster, metal, or fabric – we always recommend that our clients purchase extras. Extra fixtures are part of what is called attic stock – saved for future use. The fixtures we have custom-designed, and even those we buy “off the shelf,” can be time-consuming, or impossible, to re-order.


If you’re making plans for a renovation of your residential building’s public spaces, don’t be disappointed if your designer says no to the light fixtures on your wish list. Compliance with ADA rules is not negotiable. https://sygrove.com/blog/5-awesome-before-and-after-condo-and-apartment-hallway-transformations/But, if your interior designers are skilled and experienced, they’ll be able to find fixtures you will adore.

Related Reading:
A Guide to ADA Compliant Lighting
5 Awesome Before-And-After Condo and Apartment Hallway Transformations

Sygrove Interior Design Services

Sygrove Associates Design Group is an NYC interior design company. Our company’s founder Marilyn Sygrove is the lead interior designer on all projects. And she’s as tough as you are when it comes to quality, aesthetics, and coming in on time and on budget.

It all starts with a design consultation with Marilyn. She takes the time to thoroughly understand your design needs then personally directs all interior design, planning, and installation activities. Her work has been delighting clients, co-op and condo boards, and homeowners for over 30 years.

You can reach Marilyn by email at hello@sygrove.com or call her directly at 212.757.0631.

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