The Purposeful Staircase

It is so much fun answering your design questions in Just Ask and it is especially fun when several people ask a question about the same topic. This week I received five questions all about staircases and how to utilize the space underneath. Is it safe to do, tacky to do, ugly to do, pretty to do and a good idea to do? I picked the question that basically covers all of the design options regarding this topic (they also complimented me, hehehe) and I hope this provides the inspiration needed to make dead space into functional space.

Q. We are building a new home and are pretty much set with the plans except for the entrance foyer. The home is not huge so I want every bit of space to be functional and fabulous. That is where you come in; I am crazy for your blog and I know you will give me some good ideas of what I can do under the staircase. My husband thinks I’m crazy and that no matter what I do it is going to look tacky but I totally disagree. I think something could look really cool there but I just don’t know what and the builder wants pictures. Please help! Maureen B.

A. Maureen we are going to prove to your husband that the space underneath the staircase can be utilized in many different ways depending on the square footage, your needs and personal style. Above, a fabulous home office is neatly tucked away with built in details and shelving. So often my clients will inform me that they are already building a home office in the house but guess what, no one likes to share. The reality is that we all need our personal space so carving out some space here is not only a design statement but a necessity. In a modern space with less square footage, another version of a hip home office. Love the tack board wall and red chair (and the dog).



Lets stay out of the box for a little while; we are under the stairs you know, the location of  Harry Potter’s room. That thought brought me to the next idea, a daybed perfect for napping. This one is adorable and I love how the underside of the stairs is treated in wood.





If you don’t have space on the first floor for a powder room here is an excellent solution. Just slightly unconventional and out of the box but fabulously functional nevertheless.

Below, I really like this idea of a reading nook with drawers below and locker-like space for functional storage on the end cap.



This brings us to the most obvious and typical use of this space, storage. Here are two different ways to gain valuable storage space underneath your stairs. I am crazy for the roll out storage and the flexibility it offers, you can literally store just about anything.

Now lets stay with that thought of storing things but look at some ways to house books or create shelving space for our stuff, you all know how we love our stuff. I happen to adore books so I’m going to show you a few options. In this modern take below I love the wood finish and how it complements the black iron.



Most towns  this would need a railing to pass code but you get the idea, books and more books! I love how the colors work together creating an art collage.




If your space curves slightly like this one, that is not a problem just go with it. These are custom built in bookcases so they are designed for the space. I love continuing the wall color on the back of the shelf and that some doors were added.






One of the questions sent in asked about opening up the space under the stairs and putting a small seating area there. All of the other suggestions I talk about today I have designed versions of for my clients but I had not put a seating area under the stairs before. I found this image from House Beautiful and really like the intimate feel. You can learn something new everyday, love that! Below one final image, a dog house! Can husband’s go in here to? LOL. If you have any other ideas I would love to see them and share with everyone.


Images via {1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11}

  • Sharon L

    Love this post. Love all the ideas!!

    • Cathy from Adore Your Place

      I’m so glad you liked the post Sharon!

  • Abby

    We put in drawers, but I love the roll out storage idea; with different heights you can store a variety of things.

    • Cathy from Adore Your Place

      I was so excited when I found this roll-out storage option. It offers a lot of flexibility.

  • Carol

    One is more clever than the next, but all unique.

  • Jillian

    I like seeing so many different ways to utilize this space. We have multiple staircases and two of these examples will be incorporated. Thanks

    • Cathy from Adore Your Place

      What a great idea to use two different designs.

  • Claire

    A bathroom under the stairs now I have seen it all. Some really good ideas here.

    • Cathy from Adore Your Place

      It is amazing what you can do under the stairs when you think outside of the box.