In every house, there’s wasted space somewhere – a spot that’s underutilized, overlooked or even walled in. These can be spaces you look at every day and never think about, but that have the potential to do wonders for your home. The blank space under a staircase is one that can be especially useful; it’s large enough to fill a wide variety of purposes, but totally wasted if you leave it walled in. This area is square footage you aren’t using, and we’ve got a few ways to put it to work.
One of the simplest ways to transform that blank wall on the side of your staircase is to add recessed bookshelves. Custom shelves can be angled to fit the sloping dimensions of the staircase, and only need to be recessed a few inches back into the wall. That means this is a viable option even if you have another set of stairs underneath your main staircase. As simple as this change is, it adds a hefty amount of storage. More than that, it transforms what would otherwise be an awkward, blank wall into a beautiful, homey display. Depending on the location of the staircase and your personal storage needs, these can be used for books or other media, or simply for decoration. And because they don’t take up any floor space, these recessed shelves can actually save you space elsewhere in your home.
The space under your staircase might also be the answer to many of your remodeling woes. A closed off, ground level staircase hides about as much space as a large closet; simply cutting out a door and finishing the space underneath the stairs creates the equivalent of a hall closet. The sloped ceiling can make storing coats difficult, but the space is perfect for odds and ends, like holiday decorations. Need more storage, but not of the closet variety? You can also build compartmentalized storage right into the side of the staircase: cabinets, drawers, shoe racks, and so on, all organized, concealed, and out of the way, but easily accessible. Depending on the location of your stairs, you can also use this angled wall to create a full sized entertainment center, pantry, or even a full service bar.
Staircases can also be used for larger scale projects that might otherwise require a renovation, like adding a home office. Now, this will depend on the size and location of your staircase as well as the requirements for the office. But a hollowed out staircase offers plenty of room for a sizeable desk, chair, and wall mounted shelves. This setup requires vastly less square footage than a dedicated home office room, but sacrifices none of the functionality. The main drawback is privacy; these offices typically have to be left open to the room while in use. That said, the right design (and a cleverly placed pocket door, folding door, barn door, or curtain) can allow you to close it off when you aren’t using it.
One of the biggest headaches of a growing household is not having enough bathrooms for everyone in the family. But instead of adding onto your house, sacrificing space from another room, or even moving, you can install a perfectly respectable half bath in the space underneath your stairs. This is a fairly unconventional option, but one that’s brilliant in its simplicity. This closed off, unused space is just large enough for a toilet, sink, and mirror, giving you the added functionality you need in space you already have. The fixtures you choose will need to be on the small side, and the accommodations won’t be terribly luxurious. But if you absolutely need another bathroom, this is probably the simplest way to get it.
If you have a low staircase or one with a half-floor landing, many of these options are a bit impractical. But that low-ceilinged space makes a perfect hideaway for small children. Though the space might be a little snug for grownups, it’s just right for an imaginative kid. Just finish the inside of the space, decorate it to their tastes, and give them some way to close themselves in. A curtain is better than a door for keeping kids in earshot, but you can also go full “secret room”. It’s every bit as good as a pillow fort, and once your kids outgrow it, you can always use the space for storage or an incognito pet kennel.
Maybe my favorite use for the space under your staircase, though, is to create a simple reading nook, with a long cushioned seat (like a window seat or daybed) and walls lined with recessed bookshelves. How long and wide the cushion can be will depend on the size, shape, and slope of your staircase. But this simple carved out space makes the perfect spot to curl up with a book. If your staircase is long enough, you can even install a full sized daybed for extra comfort. Add a simple curtain to enclose the space, and you can even use this simple setup as a makeshift guest “bedroom” – a semiprivate spot for guests to sleep even if you don’t have a dedicated guest bedroom.
If your home is feeling short on space, a big renovation might not be the answer. Reinventing and re-imagining the wasted spaces in your home, like the area beneath your staircase, can give you the extra breathing room you need in space you already have.