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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

  • Claire Douglas

Maximising under-stairs space: 10 ingenious solutions for tricky areas

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

Under-stairs home office

A quick note before we look at ways to maximise under-stairs space... there's a Pinterest board to accompany this blog post with extra resources, and I'll keep adding to it when I come across a cool or inspiring project that I think you might like. Secondly, for each of the projects I've included in the actual post, click on the image you are interested in and you'll be taken to the Pinterest pin or website of the creator, where you can get all the details.

10 creative ideas for maximising under-stairs space

While none of these projects are 1-hour DIYs, but they are super cool home improvement projects that could improve the look and feel of your room as well as potentially improve your storage and organisation game too.

1. Install built-in shelves or cabinets for storage.

First up, it's super stylish built-in drawer space, as seen in the first pin. In the Pinterest board I've created there are lots of other examples including tall pull-out units (like the kind you see in a kitchen pull-out larder), deep drawers akin to kitchen pan drawers for maximising under-stairs space with extra deep storage and built-in cupboards too.

2. Create a cosy reading nook

This idea is an interesting one and it wouldn't work for every home. Part of me thinks that it's a bit twee and a project that would be hugely popular on social media but of questionable benefit in a real-life home. However, in a busy house where older children are sharing bedrooms and there's little privacy or peace and quiet, then maybe a little nook like this would be a dream come true! If near the front door, it could also double up as somewhere to sit and put your shoes on and the under-bench storage could be used to house the shoes - apparently, I've convinced myself on this one!

3. Build a compact home office or study area with a small desk and storage solutions.

Looking at this pin specifically, this is one of those projects requiring little to no DIY ability once the under-stairs area has been opened up. The desk is stylish and there is storage too, all in all, a great little home office solution for a reasonable price.

You could of course, take this home office under the stairs idea to much grander proportions and I've seen some of those well-known retailers specialising in fitted furniture offering hugely detailed, bespoke solutions which account for every inch of space (& cost thousands to boot).

4. Design a stylish wine rack or drinks bar for entertaining guests.

Unless you have a penchant for wine and a sizeable collection to store, this idea is probably more suited to mansions and episodes of MTV cribs! I've included it anyway because it demonstrates how you can literally use every inch of under-stairs space for storage and because the pin in question proves that even practical storage can be pretty. With the addition of some clever lighting and fancy-pants (a technical term) glazing, this relatively modest space has been transformed into a seriously luxurious layout. A home bar could be easily fashioned into the under-stairs nook with some storage cabinets and open shelving for glassware and alcohol!

5. House all the toy storage

As any parent will tell you, kids come with serious storage requirements (why doesn't anyone mention this before you have kids??!) because they have fifty million toys, games and books that are often all out simultaneously (arghh!). Toy storage rarely looks pretty and is often large and bulky, so a dedicated under-stairs area for handy home storage would be a dream for many (myself included).

6. Build a pantry

As we discussed in my blog post about how to upcycle glass jars into stylish pantry storage, pantries are cool. I wrote that post almost two years ago and they are still seriously desirable home additions. Depending on which room it's located in, an under-stairs pantry could provide the perfect opportunity to have all your pantry goods stored in one aesthetically pleasing place, who can resist a good bit of home organisation? Don't miss my 16 pantry ideas post either.

7. Install a compact powder room to maximise under-stair space.

This pin is brilliant because it shows how effectively you can use a tiny under-stairs space for a powder room with the right planning. Having a WC under the stairs is not a new idea, but it's possible to squeeze one into the tiniest of spaces by shopping around and finding products that have been cleverly designed.

In the past, size restrictions might have meant a limited selection and lack of style, but not any more. In fact, people are asking more from their homes than ever these days and happily, product designers got the memo.

8. Create a useful utility room

I'm more than a little jealous about this set-up, as a utility room of any description is on my wish list. Our washing machine is under the kitchen counter and we don't have space for a dryer (hence the mountains of wet washing drying throughout the downstairs in the winter). So, a dedicated space, even if it is under the stairs, would be epic.

9. Create an under-stairs boot room

Before you say it, no, it isn't just a coat cupboard! What we are looking at here is a beautifully planned mini boot room with built-in storage, a storage bench and hanging pegs. The beauty of this design is that you can close the door to hide all the perfectly organised shoes and coats, all vertical space is utilised and it makes full use of the reduced-height space.

10. Fashion an under-stairs wardrobe

This idea is dependent on the under-stairs space being in at least close proximity to, but ideally in a bedroom. Creating a wardrobe with a specially adapted hanging rail is a great way to use all the awkward space by filling it with clothes of varying sizes.

Under-stairs FAQs

I've answered the most common under-stairs FAQs here, but add a comment if I've missed a burning question that you might have.

Why is under-stairs space tricky?

Maximising under-stairs space can be tricky due to its often irregular shape, limited height, and restricted accessibility. The presence of structural components, such as electrical wiring or plumbing, can further complicate the process. However, with some creative thinking and a bit of hard graft, this space can be transformed into a functional and visually appealing area that can really elevate your interior.

How to utilise under-stairs space

There are loads of ways you can utilize the tricky space under the stairs. Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking…creating a cosy reading nook, installing built-in shelves or cabinets for storage, designing a small home office, or building a compact utility. Although there are a tonne of ways to use this often dead and usually under-utilised space, as with all home renovation projects, my advice is to step back and have a good think about how you use the room beforehand. For example, as much as you might love looking at built-in shelves and hanker after a beautiful set in the space under your stairs, if what you desperately need is a shed-load of concealed storage to store the Xmas decorations, the Hoover and all the cleaning paraphernalia, then perhaps built-ins are actually the way to go!

Can you DIY a project for under-stairs space?

There are lots of projects suitable for DIYing but you obviously need to be mindful of your DIY skills and all the constraints we looked at above. In a very tricky or compact space, it might be best to employ the help of a professional to get the most out of the space. However, if the budget simply won’t stretch to a tradesperson there are things you can do with even modest DIY abilities - there are lots of IKEA hacks (you know I love an IKEA hack!) that would work in an under-stairs space and don’t require much in the way of technical or construction skills.

What are the restrictions of under-stairs space?

There’s no denying that under-stairs space often comes with restrictions that, for some, will feel insurmountable, leading to the space being under-utilised. Some examples are limited headroom, irregular dimensions, and potential obstructions like support beams or pipes and wiring. Ours contains the gas and electricity meter making it a far from ideal space to transform! These constraints can make it challenging to install certain furniture or appliances and require a bit of creative thinking as possibly a bit of trial and error. As with most home renovation projects, if you are determined enough and do your research (hopefully that’s why you’re here!), there’s a way to realise your under-stair dreams!

Should you open up the under-stairs space?

This is an important question to ask yourself before starting any kind of under-stairs. Opening up the under-stairs space can be a great idea to create a more spacious and inviting environment. It can make a room feel larger and allow for more natural light to flow through. However, it's crucial to consider the scale of the job, the costs involved and the amount of work and weigh that up against the benefits to be gained. As I mentioned, our gas and electric meters are located under the stairs and the costs to move them would be prohibitively expensive, so as much as I'd love some beautiful bespoke drawers or a funky home office - in this house, it's not to be.

Are there any downsides to opening up the under-stairs space?

While opening up the under-stairs area can create a sense of openness and extra space, it may also result in losing storage or functional space. It’s also worth bearing in mind the costs associated with the renovation project, as no matter how creative your plan is, the amount of space you are likely to benefit from is going to be limited as the under-stairs area is a restricted one. My advice is to write a list of pros and cons and be really clear on your goals and objectives to determine the best plan.

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