Taking the right steps when lighting stairs

A stairwell is often the first thing people see when they walk into your home – and the way you light it can make all the difference when to comes to ‘first impressions’.

Well planned staircase lighting can give your home a welcome that has style and impact, without compromising on safety.

While the rule of thumb for staircases is that the main source of light should come from overhead on the landing to prevent any shadows, this can be layered with other types of lighting to create a range of atmospheres.

Here, we outline some of the lighting products that will give your staircase and surrounding areas the wow factor, and explain which works best for individual spaces. But first, here are some technical terms that it’s important to understand when choosing your lighting.

  • Lumens indicate the amount of light a fitting emits – the higher the number the more brightness you’ll get.
  • Kelvins will give you an idea of the ‘temperature’ or colour of the light – think ‘low equals warm for welcoming’ and ‘high equals cool blue for contemporary’.
  • A smart lighting system means you will be able to programme and control every aspect of your lighting, not just to create different moods at different times, but also to ensure your lights come on only when you need them – helping reduce energy use and save on bills.

Chandelier and pendant lights

Great for statement lighting. Hang multi-drop pendants or chandeliers around the stairwell or over the landing to create impact to an entrance hall and add visual interest as you use the stairs. Ideal for: High and open stairwells.

Flush Mount Ceiling lights

Flush mount lights fitted directly onto the ceiling will deliver high levels of illumination in a downward direction for decorative flair. Ideal for: Curved staircases and staircases with shorter ceiling heights.

Recessed Downlights

Versatile and discreet, recessed downlights are the choice where illumination is more important than making a strong visual statement, though dimmable models can be used to create different ambiences. If downlights will be the only light source, take care to install the correct number and size of fittings to avoid uneven illumination on the stairs and shadows on the wall and ceiling. Ideal for: Dark and narrow staircases

Decorative Wall Lights

Uplights, downlights and bi-directional luminaires will provide illumination at different heights, however they can make the stairwell seem narrower so are best avoided on smaller staircases. To avoid glare, choose fittings with an illuminance of less than 300cd/m². Ideal for: Wider staircases with bigger stairwells

LED Strip Lights

LED strip lights can be installed beneath each step, along the edges of the staircase or beneath the handle rail, to convey a contemporary look which emphasises the shape of the staircase and ensures safe use at night. Use them alongside decorative wall lights or hanging lights for more layered, ambient illumination. Ideal for all staircases

Recessed wall Lights

Installed at regular intervals at the base of the wall alongside the treads, recessed wall lights provide gentle low-level illumination along the path of the stairs. They are also a great choice for highlighting interesting design elements such as the sculptural shape of a staircase or the material it is made from, or traditional stair runners. Ideal for: Dark or narrow staircases and feature staircases

It is easy to overlook staircases and focus on the rooms around it when styling your home. But with the right lighting choice, even the smallest staircase can be taken to a whole new level of sophistication.