No matter how much storage a project has, customers can always use more. But remodelers need creativity to utilize the space under stairs.
It can be awkward to reach items in the narrower end of a closet in this location, so under-stair storage is almost always custom-built.
Designer Vita Anne Burdi, vice president of DJ’s Home Improvements, in Franklin, Square, N.Y., says designing these spaces really requires her to apply her design training and skills.
Stewart Davis, design director at CG&S Design-Build, in Austin, is diligent about efficient use of space in “storage-starved” older homes, so he also uses these spaces.
Out of Sight
For this basement renovation project, Burdi could not find a way to salvage the existing stairs to fit the homeowner’s needs and style, so when she designed new stairs to the lower level, she included under-stair storage.
Burdi says that basements are a great spot for extra storage, especially for items that are not used every day. Since the homeowners prefer clean, contemporary lines, Burdi designed the doors to the closet to resemble a painted wall. They don’t have any molding or casings, though those embellishments could be added to fit a more traditional décor.
After first considering open shelving, Burdi says she opted for hidden storage because the open shelves “would have required more maintenance and distracted from the focal point in the room — the media center.” Even with the doors open and the drawers pulled out, there’s room to move through the space.
In the Open
The homeowners of this small cottage wanted to raise the roof and add a bedroom suite on the second floor. CG&S Design-Build’s Davis added a staircase in place of the existing hallway to access the new upper story.
These little houses lack storage, Davis says, and the area under the stairs was an opportunity to add much-needed usable space. The storage area is practical and also creates an interesting architectural feature in the living room.
The shelves are adjustable, and the triangular spaces provide a display area. The shelves don’t take up the full depth of the under-stair space; the other side has a closet accessible from the kitchen. Davis says that even though that closet becomes lower and narrower toward the back, the homeowners were happy to have the additional storage.
Cut to Fit
Mike Nagel, partner at Men At Work, in Chicago, opened up the wall between the kitchen and family room to connect the two spaces and create a better flow for entertaining. The new layout provides space for a bar under the landing and takes advantage of the area under the existing stairs to create a place for a large TV as well as a smaller adjacent niche for audio/video equipment.
Nagel includes closets under stairs in about 80% of his projects, he says, but finds these spaces difficult to design because “the farther you go back, the less headroom you have.”
A current project involves adding an elevator to a five-story house, and Nagel is using the space under the basement stairs to house the hydraulic system.
Though a powder room under stairs is an option, Nagel says he generally doesn’t recommend this to clients because, even with a tiny corner sink, the space is not comfortable for most users.
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.