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Stairwell Lighting Guide

Stairwells, staircases, flights of stairs; whatever it is you want to call them, stairwells provide an opportunity to play with style and function and offer some of the most versatile design potential in the home. Stairs are an integral part of any building with multiple floors, both indoors and out, and allow for a wide range of potential styles of lighting.

One of the first considerations for any staircase must be safety. As a link between different sections of a home or commercial space, stairs should be ready to accommodate people of all ages at all times. This includes making sure that every step of the way is visible in any light level. This is where step lights come in. Typically small and unobtrusive, but sometimes pronounced enough to be a highlight in their own right, step lights handily direct light downwards and away from the eyes.

Directing light away from the eyes is a common feature of stairwell lighting, as glare from bright, exposed globes can make it difficult to see individual steps in the dark (although this can be amended by using softer, lower lumen globes). These functional light sources are a familiar sight in commercial spaces such as movie cinemas, where they are often positioned one-per-step. While this classic look is one we can all appreciate, it is far from the only option available. Step lights can be just as effective when placed every other step, or one for every three steps. The most important thing is to be sure there are no dark spots.

Another thing to consider when placing step lights is the height. Higher step lights will reach more steps and therefore can be positioned further apart, while lower lights provide more direct lighting with less reach and must therefore be placed closer together.

Step lights are not the only option for safely lighting your stairs. Many wall-hugging wall lights would make a striking statement piece while still providing safe lighting. Options such as downward facing shades or classic plaster wall lights are great, functional choices that protect from glare and represent two different approaches to interior design: a purposeful design statement that is meant to be noticed, or in the case of plaster wall lights, a blending of light into the background, where the fixture itself can be painted the same colour as the wall and increase the feeling of space in the stairwell.

Now that we’ve discussed the more functional aspects of stairwell lighting, it’s time to discuss void lighting options. Chandeliers, large multi-light pendants, these are the grand, decorative lights that define ‘stairwell lighting’. Indoor stairwells are a unique space in the home, typically having the tallest ceilings. This makes them the perfect space for large and elaborate pendant lights that might not fit anywhere else in the home. Think a multi-light pendant, the lights rising with the level of the stairs. Or maybe a single large, sculptural piece, viewable from all angles. With good safety lighting, the void lighting can take on a more decorative role, and would be well suited to softer globes that eliminate excess glare. Whatever your style, stairwells are the perfect space to do something bold.

There are still more options available. Commercial spaces often feature downlights in the stairwells, where easy, functional lighting is the goal. As long as the downlights are spaced in a way that leaves no corner of the stairs unlit, they are a perfect choice.

Stairs are often located outside, meaning IP ratings and placement must be taken into consideration. Aside from this, many of the same tips still apply. Outdoor step lights are available in a variety of styles, while outdoor wall lights might be ideal for steps up the side of a building. Just as with indoor lights, makes sure there is minimal glare and that each and every step is clearly visible.
All of the lights featured in the images are available on our website.

If you want a bit more guidance, check out our various style guides. Our customer service team is also available to help you might the best decision for your home.

Feel free to visit our stair lights collections for some ideas for your space.

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