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Creative Techniques to Light Up Stairwells

Stairs are an integral part of any multi-level home or commercial building, providing a functional and aesthetic connection between different floors. However, stairs can also be dangerous, especially if they are not properly illuminated. While there are many tried and true solutions for lighting stairs, there are a few key things to keep in mind when thinking about lighting stairs to create the best result. 



In the commercial world, staircases have their own standards for minimum light levels for safety, but in our homes, there are no rules. Therefore, it is important to arm yourself with the right information and make sure you end up with a stunning and safe staircase in your home. 

The key to making stairs easy to see is creating contrast. Our brains need light and shade, meaning parts of an area that are brighter, and then the shadowed areas give us a sense of depth and space which allow us to navigate the complex task of walking up or down stairs. It's essential to consider glare from the light when adding light to a staircase. Finding yourself blinded by a light as you walk upstairs is almost as disconcerting as finding yourself in a space with no contrast. 

I have seen examples of a pure white space with white walls, ceiling, and pure white stairs that had a coloured lighting display filling the area with light. Unintentionally, the designers of the space had created an environment where no one could get their bearings. As an art installation, it would be dramatic, controversial, and thought-provoking. However, as a pathway from one level of a building to the next, it was a disaster! Everyone got stuck on the stairs because they couldn't perceive the space, couldn't see where to put their feet, and had no confidence to move. Although it's unlikely that any of our homes would end up so stark, it is a great example of how dramatically light can affect our confidence to walk forward through a space. 

There are several ways to add contrast to stairs with light, and it's important to choose the right lighting solutions to avoid glare and ensure safety. The first option is to direct light downwards to the treads. Step lights are an excellent choice for this purpose. These are little lights on the wall that throw light down onto the steps. They can be installed on every tread or every three treads, depending on the specific light fitting selected. When choosing step lights, it's essential to look for lights that have glare control to prevent them from being glary and distracting. 



Another option is to hide light in handrails. With the prevalence of linear LED lighting, this can be accomplished in any number of ways. It's essential to aim for uniform light coming from a strip, as you will see it from some angles, and the dots just detract from the overall effect. There are handrails on the market with little "puk" lights in them, usually designed for outdoor use, which is a great idea for safety lighting that doesn't draw too much attention. 

Running linear light through every tread can also look amazing but be careful not to end up with stairs that look like they belong in a casino. This comes down to making sure you use a good quality linear light with an excellent diffuser, consistent light across the length, and something that isn't too bright. You want to see the steps and not be blinded by them. 

If you're going to run light up a stringer, the same principle applies, and it's great if you can use an angled light so that you're getting more light towards the wall and less directly into your eyes. If you want to get dramatic with your stair lighting, there are lots of different control technologies available that can enable you to set brightness levels for different times of the day.  

Another key factor to consider when lighting your stairs is the colour temperature of the lights. The colour temperature refers to the perceived warmth or coolness of the light, and it is measured in units called Kelvins (K). Lights with a lower Kelvin rating, such as warm white or soft white, emit a warm, yellowish light that creates a cosy and inviting atmosphere. On the other hand, lights with a higher Kelvin rating, such as cool white or daylight, emit a cool, bluish light that creates a more clinical and modern feel. 

When it comes to stairs, it is generally recommended to use lights with a cooler colour temperature, as they provide better visibility and help reduce eye strain. However, it is also important to strike a balance between functionality and aesthetics. If you have a warm and cosy home, you may want to opt for lights with a lower Kelvin rating that complement your décor and create a welcoming ambiance. 


Finally, it is crucial to pay attention to the overall design and layout of your staircase. Lighting can enhance the look and feel of your stairs, but it can also detract from it if not done correctly. Consider the materials, colours, and style of your stairs, and choose lighting that complements and enhances them. For instance, if you have a sleek and modern staircase, you may want to opt for minimalist and streamlined lighting fixtures that accentuate the clean lines and sharp angles. Alternatively, if you have a classic and ornate staircase, you may want to choose more elaborate and decorative lighting fixtures that match the grandeur and elegance of the space. 


In conclusion, lighting your stairs is not only a matter of safety, but also of style and design. By creating contrast, avoiding glare, using energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing lighting fixtures, and paying attention to the overall design and layout of your staircase, you can create a stunning and safe staircase that enhances the look and feel of your home. Whether you prefer warm and cosy or cool and modern, there is a lighting solution that can help you achieve the perfect balance between form and function. So, go ahead and light up your stairs with confidence and creativity, and enjoy the many benefits that a well-lit staircase can bring to your home! 




Please note that certain images used to showcase designs and explanations have been obtained from third-party sources. 

SeerLED does not assert ownership of these images and has utilised them solely as an illustration please contact us if want these removed or credited.

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