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Staircase Nooks: Creative Ways To Use The Space Beneath A Staircase

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 that’s totally wasted if you just leave it walled in. This area is square footage you aren’t using, but we’ve got a few ways for you to put it to work.

Bookshelves

A staircase with built in shelving offers the perfect out of the way spot for storing books or other media (by Lynn Donaldson and Associates, photo by Lori Andrews)
A staircase with built in shelving offers the perfect out of the way spot for storing books or other media (by Lynn Donaldson and Associates, photo by Lori Andrews)

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, so this is a viable option even if you have another set of stairs underneath your main staircase. As simple as this change is, it not only adds a hefty amount of storage, it also 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 display. And because they don’t take up any floor space, these recessed shelves can actually save you space elsewhere in your home.

Storage

Installing shelves into a staircase offers convenient, concealed storage that's out of the way but easilly accessible (by Tom Stringer Design Partners, photo by Werner Straube )
Installing shelves into a staircase offers convenient, concealed storage that’s out of the way but easily accessible (by Tom Stringer Design Partners, photo by Werner Straube )

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, albeit one with a sloped ceiling, and simply cutting out a door and finishing the space underneath the stairs can add quite a bit of basic storage space, whether you want to use it as a hall closet or for something less glamorous, like holiday decorations. If you 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.

Office

The bigger the staircase, the more space you'll have to build a small office underneath it, but even a relatively modest stairwell will have all the space you need for a basic home office setup (by Maria Killam)
The bigger the staircase, the more space you’ll have to build a small office underneath it, but even a relatively modest stairwell will have all the space you need for a basic home office setup (by Maria Killam)

Staircases can also be used for larger scale projects that might otherwise require a renovation, like adding a home office. Now, this will depend a bit 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 traditional home office in a spare bedroom, but sacrifices none of the functionality. The main drawback is privacy, as these offices typically have to be left open to the room while in use, though 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.

Bathroom

An additional half bath can be a lifesaver in a busy household, and there's just enough space under a staircase to accommodate one (by Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects)
An additional half bath can be a lifesaver in a busy household, and there’s just enough space under a staircase to accommodate one (by Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects)

One of the biggest headaches of having a growing household is not having enough bathrooms for everyone in the family to use them comfortably. 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.

Play Room

A small playroom underneath the stairs can be a fun getaway for small kids, and a child-sized door can conceal it nicely (by Von Fitz Design)
A small playroom underneath the stairs can be a fun getaway for small kids, and a child-sized door can conceal it nicely (by Von Fitz Design)

If you have a low staircase or one with a half-floor landing, many of these options will be a little bit impractical. But that low-ceilinged space makes a perfect hideaway for small children. Though the space might be a little snug for grownups to hang out in, it will feel 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). It’s every bit as good as a pillow fort, and once your kids outgrow it, you can always use the space for storage.

Reading Nook/Daybed

A reading nook under the stairs is the perfect place to get away with a good book, and can even host overnight guests in a pinch (by Case Design Remodeling Inc.)
A reading nook under the stairs is the perfect place to get away with a good book, and can even host overnight guests in a pinch (by Case Design/Remodeling Inc.)

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 to stretch out and get comfortable in. Add a simple curtain to enclose the space, and this simple setup can even be used as a makeshift guest “bedroom” – a semiprivate spot for guests to sleep even if you don’t have a dedicated guest bedroom.

What are some of your favorite uses for this under loved space? Is there any feature you’re particularly thinking of adding to your home? Let me know in the comments below!