How to deal with an awkward under-stairs space?
March 17, 2010 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Another installment of GiddyAdventuresInHouseRevonationFilter! How to make the most of an awkward (narrow and enclosed) under stairs space?

We have a decently sized under-stairs area but the usual ideas for making the most of it (study nook, book shelves, home office etc) are out, because (a) it is walled in and accessible only by a door, (b) it has a very steep slope from the back to the front and (c) it is very narrow. Ideas like this, nice as they are, simply won't work for this space.

Have you worked out something with a space like this? I am thinking it could function well as a pantry, but am at a loss as to how to do it beyond putting a few shelves up and in a fairly small home like ours, it's a waste. I'm also afraid that it might turn into a junk pile if we don't do something concrete with it.

Please hope me!
posted by psychostorm to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We had a space like this and turned it into a closet. We hung a rod for clothes at the tall end of the space and another a couple of feet deeper into the wedge of the space. This lets us hang lots more coats and out of season clothes in the closet. Across the pointed end of the wedge-shaped space, we installed shelves, where we keep sleeping bags and board games and other stuff we don't need often. It works. You could also install a desk in the tall part of the wedge and use it as a home office.
posted by Jenna Brown at 8:22 AM on March 17, 2010

Best answer: My initial thinking is that it would be a great wine cellar.

But let me ask a question. Does the door open so that the slope/space runs away from the door like this \ === (imagine the equal signs are the space and the slash is the door) or so that the door opens perpendicular to the space like this ==\ === (which is more like a sliding door closet in my imagination). If the first one, you could install multi-level slide-out storage. Which would make for a really spacious pantry. The bottom rack/drawer could be really long and the drawers would become shorter to accommodate the slope. (Imagine a kitchen cabinet with slide out doors, but extra large.)
posted by oddman at 8:26 AM on March 17, 2010

Why not remove the wall and door?
posted by SansPoint at 8:33 AM on March 17, 2010

Do you have kids? Clubhouse!

Do you have an undesirable magical nephew? Bedroom!

Do you have cats? Clubhouse!

If I owned the house, I'd be seriously tempted to put additional doors in or remove the covering wall entirely. The space under the lowest stairs will be very difficult to access otherwise.
posted by amtho at 8:51 AM on March 17, 2010

I have a similar space that I use to store holiday crap. It wouldn't work if it was stuff I needed random access to, but because I need to grab all of it at once, it doesn't matter if boxes are piles on top of each other.
posted by bondcliff at 8:56 AM on March 17, 2010

Response by poster: It is a supporting wall, so to remove it is not an option (unless our lemonade budget improves by means fair or foul).

oddman, it opens in the \ === way i.e. the first way. That's a really intriguing idea..
posted by psychostorm at 9:05 AM on March 17, 2010

Seconding the kid's clubhouse/hideout idea. Little kids love spaces like these.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:36 AM on March 17, 2010

I have a closet like this under my stairs. It opens into the kitchen and is a pantry closet. But I don't really need a pantry and I do need a hall closet. So my mother, who stays up all night coming up with ideas for me to use in decorating and renovating my place, suggested I close up the kitchen side door and install a door in the hallway wall. This will transform a deep, narrow closet into a more useable wide, shallow closet. I'll be able to put in hanger rail and a hat shelf. They won't run the whole length of the closet due to the slanting wall, but they'll still be long enough to be useable.
posted by orange swan at 9:40 AM on March 17, 2010

Maybe you can remove the drywall (or plaster) but leave the supporting timbers in place, then reach through the timbers to shelves within the under-stair space.

If you wanted to keep the area looking extra neat, a full-on "door" might not be tenable in this kind of situation, but a cabinet door that goes over the supporting timbers might well work.

This would make the space much more accessible.
posted by amtho at 11:07 AM on March 17, 2010

Even a supporting wall can be opened up by putting a bridge beam across the top. This Old House does it with steel or laminated wood all the time. However, you'll need a professional to calculate the load distribution and reinforce the supporting members on either side.
posted by KRS at 11:24 AM on March 17, 2010

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