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How to light stairs

Modern interior design trends are focusing on how to light stairs and featuring staircases as a prominent architectural feature, rather than just a practical installation. Lighting is a fundamental element of enhancing staircases in terms of their aesthetics and their safety and functionality.

The topic of lighting stairs is therefore a key consideration for interior designers, specifiers and architects, with the choice of lighting solution being guided by aspects such as the style of the stairs, glare requirements, colour temperatures and smart controls.

Of course, lighting a staircase isn’t just about enhancing its features. Safety is also a key consideration. Staircases should be sufficiently lit, but this doesn’t necessarily require ambient overhead lighting or constant illumination. Well-designed orientation lighting will provide sufficient illumination, perhaps with handrail lighting and motion sensors.

Detail Lighting supply a wide range of solutions for design-led stair lighting concepts. We have a wide range of LED strips, low level lighting, as well as ceiling options around staircases for a more ambient approach.

Where to install lights on stairs?

This is a common question our team gets asked here at Detail Lighting. We advise a light at every second or third step is the traditional way of lighting a staircase. The lights should be:

  • angled onto treads asymmetrically
  • baffled (have a trim) to keep glare to a minimum
  • positioned 200mm – 300mm above the tread
  • not mounted in skirting

‘Floating’ staircases are increasingly popular which are achieved by carefully routing LED linear lighting under treads, on the string or as a handrail detail. Detail Lighting supply a comprehensive range of linear LED lighting including Volans surface profiles.

Where to install lights on stairs

Types of stair lighting

Types of stair lighting to consider include stair tread lighting, low-level orientation lighting and uplighters, ambient lighting and wall lights. Combined, these elements create stylish layered lighting schemes.

For stair treads and low level orientation lighting, Detail Lighting’s Cursa Quadro Mini is a classic stainless steel, glare free step-washing light, while the Vee orientation light provides on-trend, subtle tread lighting.

The fixed, in-ground Mini Allegro uplight is small and discreet, but if you require variable beam angles from your uplighter, the Astra Adjust uplight is the ideal choice.

For wall lighting, Sylvie is a classic frosted glass wall light, ideal for staircases, as is the contemporary Tube IP54 with its discreet up/down lighting effect.

Stair lighting trends

The trend for layered lighting has transformed staircases by providing different levels of lighting for the time of day or the required ambiance. Layered lighting is also useful for lighting staircases that receive very little natural light.

LED lighting on handrails and step washing fixtures provides subtle lighting that makes the staircase stand out as a feature from other furnishings and structures.

For statement lighting on stairs, the trend is to go big and bold with stylish pendant lights, or a cluster of pendant lights above the staircase. As well as creating an impressive focal point, the pendant lights also cascade ambient light onto the staircase.

Smart controls for stair lighting


Smart controls for stair lighting

The integration of smart controls such as dimmers, timers and motion sensors in your lighting scheme will help to reduce cost and energy consumption. They will also provide users with more control over how the lighting scheme is adapted under varying conditions.

How to light stairs – colour temperature

A lighting scheme for stairs should incorporate a suitable colour temperature. A warm white (2700K-3000K) temperature is typically recommended for traditional residential staircases, while cooler temperatures (3500K-4100K) are more suitable for commercial or contemporary buildings.

Choose Detail Lighting for your stair lighting scheme

If you are thinking ‘how to light stairs’, contact the team for more information on how we can help with your stair lighting project.