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8 fun and functional outdoor stair-lighting ideas

At night, there are areas outdoors that can appear romantic in a particular light. Some might even consider them magical. Consider, for instance, your flower garden, a well-landscaped pathway, or an elegant staircase. However, these areas can be a bit unsafe without lighting. That’s especially true of staircases in and around your home.

While lighting needs to be functional around your stairs, no rule states that it can’t also be aesthetically pleasing. Just remember that when you have visitors, outdoor staircases are often one of the first things they see and can be significant in setting first impressions.

So let’s make the first glimpse someone has of your stairs warm and attractive! Accordingly, here are eight outdoor stair lighting ideas we think you’ll love!

Lights Under Deck Steps
Photo By aodaodaodaod/Shutterstock

The different kinds of step lights

Another thing to bear in mind is that there are different kinds of step lights. You could theoretically use regular path lights or garden lights, for example. Still, they won’t provide the artistically pleasing feeling you might be shooting for. Moreover, most outdoor stair lighting fixtures are specifically designed to light stairs and the lights previously mentioned don’t do that.

Now! Having said that, let’s talk turkey!

(Er … stairway lights. You know what we mean.)

Consider using risers

Stairway lights mounted on risers are unassuming and are designed to allow your attention to focus on where the light shines and not on the lights themselves. They’re usually flush with the stairs and enable you to navigate each step with ease. These lights also give off a luxurious, modern vibe that’s great for a wide variety of staircase designs.

Recessed wall fixtures for a modern look

Lights placed in recesses either in the steps themselves or in the walls lining your staircase can provide exciting visuals. If placed in wall recesses, they create a sexy play of light and shadow that can be incredibly elegant. You can get creative and switch out regular stairway lights for LED lights, changing the mood entirely.

Whatever lights you choose to place in the recesses, be sure to put more than one fixture on each riser. While you can set the mood here, you also want to ensure safety.

Pathway lights are classic

We mentioned that typical pathway lights are brighter than those most would want to use on their outdoor staircases. However, if you have many plants that flank your staircase, we recommend using them. Here, you can cut down on their illumination by fitting them with canopies and directing the lights down.

You can get them in a lantern-like style that, combined with the greenery, creates a charming, fairy tale ambience.

Put lights in the stairway supports

If you have open outdoor stairs, you might want to think about putting lights in the stairway supports. You can direct the lights so  they throw out a warm glow between each step. You’ll want to ensure that your lights have roughly the same temperature as other outdoor lights so that they won’t clash. Plus, you’ll need to make sure they’re wet-rated and can handle getting hit by the rain.

For a sleek look, go with LEDs

We already noted that LEDs can give your staircase an entirely different aura than standard staircase lighting. Many people use them in recesses in short staircases that wrap around decks or patios. They’re perfect for providing focused lighting that will fit the mood of any private gatherings you may host.

Post lights go with many aesthetics

Posts along your staircase can be perfect places to install lights. As with pathway lights, here you can get fixtures that imitate the look of old-time lamp posts. In fact, if you choose to use lantern-style pathway lights, you can complement them at intervals with post lights. Simply point the lights downward and allow the light to illuminate your staircase’s railing. Remember that these will also put out more light than many other types of stair lights.

Lights Under Staircase Rail
Photo By paparazzza/Shutterstock

Stairway rail lights to complement post lights

Short and sweet, all that must be said here is that you can use staircase rail lights to complement post lights. You simply run them along and under the stair’s railing. These should be subtle, so pay attention to the output on the lights you purchase.

String lighting along your stairway

It might sound strange, but there’s a trend of putting strings of lights (similar to thick twines of Christmas lights) along staircases. Many people like them because you can string them up, literally end to end, almost anywhere. The only problem is that you’ll likely have to replace them often because their lifespan is pretty short.

Last thoughts

Keep in mind that no matter what kind of lighting you choose, you’ll need some sort of electric power source unless it’s powered by the sun. Many people choose to simply plug them into outdoor power sockets, but you have options here, too. You could also install a low-voltage transformer, for instance. Just be sure to speak with an outdoor lighting professional, electrician, or contractor beforehand.

Finally, from recessed wall fixtures to pathway lights and LEDs to stairway rail lights, it all depends on the look and feel you prefer. Remember that your outdoor stair lighting should be part of and complement your property’s overall decorative style.

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Will Blesch
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Blesch is a copywriter, content writer, and someone passionate about anything that lets him discover more about this…
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