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Clever Ideas for Understairs Storage

You can stash all sorts of things in that handy triangular area under your staircase. Let these ideas inspire you

Houzz UK editorial staff. I’m an interiors journalist and editor, previously for… More

The area under the stairs is often badly used or even boarded up, leaving dead space behind the panels. If you’re in need of extra storage, unlocking this zone could solve that problem perfectly. But there are many ways to make use of this surprisingly capacious space and, of course, not all staircases are the same – so browse through these ideas and see if you can find a solution or two that would work in your home.

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Fit in a shelving unit
Under-stair areas are often used to house utility cupboards or downstairs loos – but that doesn’t mean the rest of the cavity shouldn’t be put to use for a little bit of open storage, too. Here, although there are already two doors, the narrow leftover space has been made into a tall and surprisingly roomy bookshelf.

The wood panelling adds interest to the rest of the area, without visually competing with the contents of the open shelving.

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Add a seat
This sloping space works really hard at packing in storage – there are the cleanly styled open shelves, but also drawers at the base of the space and a cupboard (on the right). And yet it also makes room for a comfy spot to read a book or to lounge while chatting on the phone. Old-school landlines were traditionally fitted in hallways so that the speaker didn’t disrupt whatever activities were going on in other rooms. It could be a nice idea to revive.

A dedicated wall lamp helps to zone the space and provides light for the sitting area. You could equally buy a stylish clip-on lamp rather than wire one in.

10 wall lights that don’t need wiring in

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Style it up
A generous amount of open storage is one option for this space, and as the stairs are low it’s a sensible one. The pitfall with open shelving is that it can easily look messy – especially in a hallway where we tend to dump things as we come in. Pull-out baskets are one solution, but if it’s books you want to store consider this stylist’s trick of turning most of the spines away from view, showing instead a lovely range of neutral hues. Finding the book you’re looking for may be a challenge, but sometimes style has to come first.

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Paper it pretty
A bare expanse of ‘wall’ that you can’t hang pictures on because it needs to be regularly accessible may frustrate those who love to embellish their interiors. A good wallpaper might be a great solution. It would be sensible, especially on a light-coloured print, to coat it with decorator’s varnish to protect the surface from fingerprints.

The pull-out storage here makes the most of the available space – the shelves are just big enough, and no bigger, to contain the shoes, and the small shelf ledges ensure the shoes don’t tumble out each time the door is opened. If you’d prefer handleless pull-out shelves, consider push fittings.

Get to know the key dimensions needed when designing storage

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Go small
Perhaps you don’t need to use the whole of your under-stairs area for storage – but could just do with a floor-level cupboard, maybe for the vacuum and some cleaning stuff. This low, under-stairs cupboard just makes use of the shallowest part of the area and opens endways, not lengthways. If you have enough storage elsewhere, there’s a lot to be said for allowing a little more space for a room/hall to breathe – and that dusty dead zone under your staircase could provide just enough floor space for the job.

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Make a mini utility zone
Many of us dream of having our own utility room, but many of us also won’t ever have the luxury of that kind of space in our homes… unless we think creatively.

This small under-stairs area works perfectly as a micro utility zone. It has also cleverly been built out to accommodate the depth of the washing machine with cabinetry that mimics the line of the stairs, while also providing some aesthetically appealing adjacent open storage.

If you can squeeze it in, a shelf above your washing machine will give you a few more centimetres of storage for detergent and so on. It’s definitely more practical than simply balancing things on top of the washer.

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Mix open and closed storage
As anywhere else, there’s no need to commit exclusively to either closed or open storage under your stairs. Have small closed cupboards for baskets of keys or post, or even an in tray of domestic paperwork. And incorporate one big cupboard for cleaning gear. Then you can artfully display your favourite objects and books in open cubbyholes.

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Pull it out
Like larder units in your kitchen, these user-friendly shelves slide out for easy access. If you’re storing an assortment of things, or – as here – shoes, rather than hanging coats, this sort of design works really well as there’s no such thing as ‘back of the cupboard’, meaning you’re less likely to lose things.

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Here’s another way to organise pull-out shelving under your stairs. This one has fixings to allow it to be handleless – good for a modern, streamlined interior.

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Make a home bar
If you like to keep a drinks collection on the go, consider the under-stairs area as somewhere to stash and display it. Here, the owners are pretty serious about their wine, but if your home bar looks more like just the top shelf, and you’re partial to a cocktail, you could turn the lower portion into a mixing area, and store glasses and other bits and pieces in there, too. Install a wall light – or get creative with LED and illuminate a mirror to give the bar a spritz of glamour.

See more ideas for creating a weeny home bar

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Try a zigzag
Staircases come in many varieties, especially if you’re starting from scratch. This one has what’s known as an open string – in other words, the shape of each step is visible from the side, rather than being covered with a panel of wood or other material, as they have been in the next photo.

This gives the opportunity to opt for interesting zigzag topped doors that follow the line of the steps. As seen in an earlier photo, you can choose to set the balustrade a little way into the steps to provide a shelving ledge as a bonus. Here, the storage happens inside the balustrade, but as it’s transparent you get a similar visual effect.

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Here’s the same idea, but executed quite differently. Lots of possibilities for your architect to play with…

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Keep it simple
You can’t argue with a straight-up row of shelves for books. In fact, it’s not a bad place for oversize tomes – especially if your under-stairs area is somewhere with space for an armchair nearby for comfy browsing. Here, the owners’ staircase runs into their kitchen and so cookbooks are an obvious choice.

Be aware if you’re going open plan that there are strict fire-safety building regulations that may scupper your dream design. Speak to an architect early on to see if what you’re hoping to achieve is possible.

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Go 100% design!
If you’re building a new staircase, perhaps for a basement or loft conversion, you may have the opportunity to get creative. Here, the stairs and the storage beneath have been designed to work seamlessly together, with slim cubbyholes set back from the edges of the steps.

With a colour scheme that matches your walls, it’ll become all about what’s being stored – so consider this sort of plan carefully if a disciplined interior is not your thing.

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Do it yourself
A built-in solution isn’t the only way to go. This creative DIY version, made from crates, would look good in an eclectic interior (do fix them together, and also to the wall, or you could be creating a toppling accident waiting to happen). If your look is less colourful than this, how about whitewashing the crates, or painting them to blend into your wall colour, and simply filling them with fewer items, arranged with precision.

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Combine toy storage with a play area for children
If under-stairs access is limited and your staircase is low, typical to townhouses with several half landings, your options are more limited. This homeowner has come up with a great use of the space, and one that also packs in some toy storage. This little nook is the perfect size for a child’s kitchen set, and adding a rug and cushions means it can also be used for little ones to lounge around on, colouring or reading or playing with other toys. Beanbags or bigger cushions, if you have space, would be a good touch, and do make use of the remaining under-stairs cavity for the storage of additional toys. The oversize lamp is a sweet Alice-in-Wonderland-like finishing detail.

How do you use your under-stairs area? Let us know and share photos in the Comments section.

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