Down Lit Steps

Make steps more appealing and safer with downlighting.

An outdoor garden can be a magical place after the sun goes down, when its soft illumination hints at fantasy and mystery. It can also be a hazard if its steps or uneven surfaces are not appropriately lit. Nothing kills a festive mood faster than an accidental tumble down the stairs or a fall into the water feature. Luckily, it is easy to light these areas safely, without detracting from the overall look and feel of the space.

The careful placement of lighting fixtures is an essential part of each design. It is especially important to consider the arrangement when highlighting stairs or uneven walkways in the garden. When fixtures are placed parallel to each other on each side of the path, it creates an airport runway look which can be harsh and unappealing. Instead, consider a staggered layout. This enhances stairs and pathways enough to be safe for guests, but softens the look and frees up fixtures that can be used elsewhere in the yard.

Be sure to use fixtures that offer an indirect or downward light. The light should never shine up and into anyone’s eyes, nor should the bulb be visible through the fixture. That would create a blinding glare, making it hard for eyes to adjust to the dark night. Not every stair needs to be lit, either, as long as there is adequate light to illuminate the walkway. Alternating the fixtures will provide a natural focus that draws the eye—and the feet—along the path.

Installing cap lights or down lights can create an inviting deck or patio space. Fixtures can be wired directly into the deck posts, railings or banisters, making it easy to design a cohesive and sophisticated look. Since the beams are focused downward, warm pools of light are created that provide enough illumination to safely navigate stairs. This also marks the perimeter of the space and allows guests to linger long into the night.

The very best advice for lighting stairs is to keep things simple and safe. Choose fixtures that blend successfully into the landscape, and alternate their placement to avoid the look of a parking lot or airport runway. Be sure they are installed far enough away from the pathway to prevent tripping over them, but not so far that they fail to cast enough light on the desired walkway. Select hardware that allows light to spill softly through frosted glass or decorative cutouts, which will eliminate harsh brightness and glare. Contact Touchstone Lighting for more suggestions that will guarantee a beautiful, safe outdoor space to enjoy both day and night.