Staircase lighting: 10 top tips

Expert advice to make your staircase as stylish as it is functional

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1. Make it a feature

‘Your staircase is the central spine of your home,’ says Sally Storey, design director at John Cullen Lighting. ‘It can be both functional and sculptural, and shouldn’t be forgotten.’

When it comes to the right lighting, think about design, construction and desired effect. ‘Staircase lighting can be dramatic, subtle, functional – or all of the above,’ says Melanie Shaw, senior lighting designer at Brilliant Lighting. ‘The general rule is that subtle and simple is always the more elegant solution.’

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2. Plan ahead

If you’re installing a new staircase, then plan your lighting at an early stage, particularly if you want the lights to be unobtrusive, as trimless styles need to be installed before plastering. Another key consideration is fixing points. ‘Whether you’re lighting from above, at tread level or in the wall, factoring the lighting into your plans is really important in achieving the desired effect,’ says James Bassant, design director at Astro Lighting.

spotlights on modern staircase

3. Think style and function

‘Consider whether the lighting is for decorative definition of the staircase or needed for correct illumination,’ says James. ‘If it’s the former, be particularly careful not to overdo it – you don’t want the staircase to be lit up like a runway.’

on stairs spotlights

Riena in situ, £110, from John Cullen Lighting

4. Install recesses

‘Stairlights are a popular solution and 1w fittings means they’re now energy efficient as well,’ says Sally. ‘Consider using small fittings every stair or every other stair.’ John Cullen Lighting’s new Riena step light is versatile, angled and glare-free, £110 each.

recess stairs lights

5. Avoid glare

A common mistake is to forget the potential glare that will be caused when walking up the stairs. ‘Well-designed marker lights will avoid this by being well recessed into the wall,’ explains James.

6. Guide your way

‘Staircases can suffer from a lack of natural light, so it’s a space crying out for innovative LED lighting,’ says Michael Linsky, director of Sensio Lighting. ‘Low-positioned flush-fit LEDs shine a beam on the tread and riser area.’ Sensio’s Senza design is available in both a matt black or white finish, £30.10 each.

concealed liner led under tread stairs lighting

Bespoke concealed linear LED fitting, POA, Brilliant Lighting

7. Be practical

Consider the practicalities of staircase lighting as well as the “wow” factor. ‘These narrow stairs have been given a dramatic but discrete treatment,’ says Melanie. ‘A golden linear LED fitting under each tread warms the oak, and provides excellent no-glare lighting. Fittings are invisible from any angle, yet easily removable for maintenance, if required.’

LED uplighting on a spiral staircase

Magna LED uplight, £166.67, Brilliant Lighting

8. Think outside the staircase

‘Never forget the underside of a staircase,’ says Sally. ‘In a narrow entrance hall, a sense of space can be added by simply lighting the area below the staircase and reflecting the light back into the hall.’

9. Venture outside

‘The same principles apply for lighting inside and outside staircases, although for outside spaces the lights will need to be rated for water resistance – an electrician will be able to advise on this,’ adds James.

stairs with LED accent lights and colour change uprights

10. Have fun!

Coloured lighting is a great way to inject personality into a space. ‘This striking concrete and marble clad staircase is lit by little LED ‘mushrooms’ located on each tread,’ says Melanie. They’re complemented by the back-lit chandelier and hot-pink lighting on the landing.