Effective lighting for stairs

Effective lighting for stairs can take any staircase from a dull and potentially dangerous place to a safe and stunning architectural feature.  Stair lights are both attractive and functional, as they can illuminate stairs, paths and hallways in both indoor and outdoor settings.  

Whether it’s a few steps or a fancy spiral staircase, great lighting can make all the difference. Installing staircase lighting takes a fair bit of planning, especially if you are looking at integrating the lights into the steps themselves. 

Space restrictions, as well as the fixed nature of stairs, means careful thought needs to go into the type of lighting you want before you buy anything.  An important factor is to consider what you want to achieve from your stair lighting. Is it to accentuate the shape and style of your stairs or is it purely for practical reasons, such as highlighting the edges of the steps for safety reasons?  Once you know exactly what you’re going for and what it is that’s missing from your current lighting set up, you’ll then find it a lot easier to scale up and shop around for suitable lighting.

Check out these great staircase lighting ideas and ways to achieve them!


Lighting the staircase environment


In theory – if it fits, then any kind of lighting can work for a staircase. But there are ways to do it in style, using lighting that is not only functional but also complements the interior design.


Pendant chandelier or hanging lamp


By placing a large lantern or chandelier in the well of a staircase, you can create a major focal point and distribute light over the whole staircase.  This type of lighting works best in larger stairwells that open up to foyers or landings.  Styles vary tremendously, so you are sure to find something appropriate for your space.  Don’t forget the biggest drawback – access is tricky if you ever need to maintain the chandelier or change the lamps


Wall sconces


Wall lights are a neat way to add lighting and interest to a hallway.  They are versatile and also work effectively in most stairwells. Wall sconces come in single, double and even triple lights. An important factor is to consider the size and shape of the lighting fixture to make sure that it complements your space without being intrusive.  


Integral stair lighting


Low-level lighting, installed within the stairs themselves, can be subtle and elegant.  It is often barely noticeable when switched off but can transform staircases when lit.



Lit handrails


Lit handrails can be stylish, provide a great nighttime support and are easy to achieve without remodelling your staircase. Depending on the arrangement of banisters or handrails in your staircase, this option can offer illumination without having to individually retrofit lighting along the staircase.


Recessed wall fixtures


Recessed wall fixtures should be installed low on the wall to ensure illumination onto the floor or steps.  Keep in mind that to optimise safety, fixtures should be installed on the same side of the staircase as the handrail: the eye is drawn to light and therefore can focus immediately on the handrail. This approach works well for areas where you would like to maintain low lighting overall but want to ensure people can easily navigate the steps.  


Stair lighting on individual steps

Lighting for stairs using individual steps

Stair lighting on individual steps gives an exciting and unusual lighting effect.  Lighting can be installed either on treads or risers, depending on your particular needs.  Stair lighting on risers is especially helpful when going down stairs as it highlights the step down between one dark tread and another.  

For a dramatic focal point, place lights under the nose of treads. Sometimes less is more and by concealing your lights underneath the lip of a step, you can create minimalistic elegance as you cannot even see the fitting.  Lighting technology is advancing all the time and miniature lights that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago are now possible and affordable.  Invisible light fittings for stair treads are a great example of new technology in use.  


Check out our stair lighting solutions here!

In our next blog post we’ll focus on the benefits of using LED strip lights for stair lighting.

Sarah WatsonComment