Amazing Ideas for Safe and Attractive Stairwell Lighting

In the dark about stairwell lighting? Shed some light on the situation with sconces, accent lighting, chandeliers, and more.

By Lucy E. Halse


You might not have given your stairwell lighting a second thought in the past, but in doing so, you're missing out on a great opportunity. Having adequate stairwell lighting is essential for safety and security, and adding light to a dark place in your home can give it a much friendlier and welcoming vibe. You can use many kinds of lights to create a stylish stairwell, such as rustic lanterns, glamorous chandeliers, and contemporary LED lighting that goes beneath the stairs. Keep in mind that the exterior makes the first impression, so if your stairwell light is the first thing that visitors see when they walk in the door, you'll want to put on a show.


Wall-Mounted Stair Lights

Many stairwells have lighting along the wall. Since most stairwells align with at least one wall, it is quite easy to add light fixtures in strategic locations. For maximum visibility, lights should be placed no more than three or four stairs apart. Lights should spread evenly and illuminate the entire stairway. If they don't, you'll need to install more lights. A good way to maximize stairwell lighting is by using LED lights, which can be placed individually or in strips. Individual lights are more aesthetically appealing, but strips of lights can give the stairwell a more even light distribution. Lastly, when considering what types of lights to get for the wall, consider whether or not you want recessed or surface-mounted lights. Recessed lighting gives the space a more modern look, while surface-mounted fixtures can add visual appeal.




Step-by-Step Lighting

Placing lights on every step, or every other step, of your stairwell, is beneficial in many ways. Step-by-step lighting gives your stairwell direct lighting and a glamorous upgrade, and it's also one of the best ways to make each step more visible, which is important for safety reasons. If you choose this method, cover stairs with a semi-transparent glare on each rise, which helps to eliminate glare as people walk up and down the stairs. In addition to adding visibility, step-by-step lighting gives your home or building a modern and contemporary vibe. Wherever you choose to place your recessed lights, remember to get recessed lights, as surface-mounted lights can be a tripping hazard. Round and square-shaped lights are ideal for under-stair mounting. Ideally, they are placed in the center of the stair to create maximal visibility.




Accent Lighting

As with other parts of the house, you can draw attention to your stairwell with accent lighting. Accent lighting helps brighten surrounding spaces, and it adds visual intrigue by drawing attention to certain places. You can make the most of this design by adding artwork or other decorative items to your stairwell and adding accent lighting to show it off. This method seamlessly draws attention to your prized possessions and helps guests safely navigate the stairs. Accent lighting can also be used to accentuate beautiful houseplants and treasured sculptures. Accent lighting works well for many mediums, but it is particularly beautiful when placed against brick and stone.





Sconces are popular lighting fixtures for stairwells and other dark places. Sconces are wall-mounted fixtures that come in a variety of styles. They are ideal for illuminating otherwise shady areas, and they can add quite a bit of visual appeal. For maximum visibility, wall sconces lighting should be placed every eight to ten feet. While sconces add light and beauty to your stairwell on their own, they can be paired with a chandelier for a glamorous finish, or with ambient lighting for a decorative finish. There are several types of wall sconces lighting to choose from, including downlight sconces, uplight sconces, and up/down-light sconces. Keep their differences in mind as you prepare your stairwell lighting design.





Chandeliers are another option for adding light to your stairwell. Chandeliers are ideal for general illumination, and they can do a great job of creating the right mood and ambiance that you're after. Chandeliers come in many styles, including rectangular, linear, round and cascading or multi-tiered. Traditional chandeliers are more ornate and do well in older homes, while modern chandeliers have a simpler design but still serve their basic purpose of adding light to the surrounding area. Although chandeliers have historically been used in dining rooms, they are ideal for use in foyers, entryways, and stairwells, too.




Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting, although often overlooked, can be an important part of your stairwell lighting strategy. Depending on where your stairwell is located, outdoor lights will be the first thing that people see when they approach the home. Therefore, they deserve your full attention. For an older home, consider a style like a caged wood lantern, which provides necessary light with an antiquated touch. LED lights, in contrast, will brighten up a modern home. Black is a safe bet for a sophisticated look, while red adds a romantic touch, and white lanterns match with many colors. Outdoor lights are made of many materials, including ceramic, metal, glass, and plastic.




When choosing lights for your stairwell, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Do you want hardwired or battery-operated lights? Hardwired lights are more stylish, while battery-operated lights are easier to install but less aesthetically pleasing. Do you want your lighting to be a classic, subdued white, or do you want it to make a statement and change colors? Lastly, keep your home's design and stairs dimension in consideration. LED lights, for instance, look great in a modern home, but they might clash with a Victorian-style décor. Whether you choose to add light under, over, or alongside your stairwell, there are many ways to cheer up your otherwise dark and mysterious stairwell.


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