Apartment of Banister
May 18, 2017 1:53 AM   Subscribe

What do I do with these banisters to nowhere in the middle of my living area? How can I make best use of this structure and space?

I know, I know, it's weird and why did I rent such a place and yadda yadda but the rest of the place, plus the price, make up for it. It was a stairway into the downstairs apartment when they were co-joined. The staircase is gone but, for some reason, the owners have kept the upstairs banisters and filled in floor.

The space to the right of the image is more than big enough for my lounge, bookshelves, low buffet and more. The space to the left is smaller and will be my dining area and/or office.

The banisters are waist height and the distance between the two of them is about 1m. I can spend up to $200 on materials if it can be turned into something aesthetically marvellous and practical.

My personal style is eclectic so I can accommodate something unusual but aesthetically pleasing and functional in some way. I lack storage but don't want to just fill the space with crap and cover with a sheet. Please (oh please), give me better ideas!
posted by Thella to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd get plywood and a sheet and do plants on top as an extended room divider and storage underneath.
posted by mercredi at 2:42 AM on May 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

The obvious answer would be to cover it with a tabletop and use it for e.g. a nice arrangement of indoor plants (taller ones might serve for natural room dividing), or as a bar table. Upon preview, I see mercredi already beat me to it.

A more unusual idea that comes to mind - if the bannisters are sturdy enough - would be to span a cargo net, climbing net or catamaran net horizontally between them and create a little reading net, like this one (more pictures here). A few cute pillows and it could actually look really nice, and like it was built for the purpose.
posted by sively at 2:55 AM on May 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

Oh interesting! (I too am a fan of weird spaces.)

I'm with everyone else. I'd cover the top with plywood painted gloss white to match the banisters. Then I'd do one of the following:

* Treat it like a sideboard or console and cover it with decorative items. This will be vastly more convincing if you back the couch against it.
* Put a row of see-thru bookcases like the PS on top of the plywood and treat it like a room divider.
* Do the above but also put your TV there (if you have one) facing the living room.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:33 AM on May 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Have you asked them about removing them? Particularly if you're willing to put in the work?
posted by kuanes at 3:37 AM on May 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

Make a ball pit.
posted by evilmomlady at 4:19 AM on May 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

Best answer: You will need very large plants for something like this or this

Er, also... a hammock perhaps?
posted by Kwadeng at 4:34 AM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could put a comfy chair at the end and suspend a curtain from the ceiling to make a sort of tented reading nook for one....
posted by Westringia F. at 4:42 AM on May 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

For the left side office/dining, I'd work off the column being there: Put a ceiling to top rail "post on each end to help frame the space and mimic the column in the middle. Then you can hang rods between the columns and put gauzy curtains to help separate the spaces without really blocking it off.

For the right side, I see the sofa backed up to the rail and then a set of low, narrow bookcases behind the rail. It will be a wee bit tight (maybe 24"?) after the bookcases are installed, but you will have enough room to access them.
posted by mightshould at 5:29 AM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

You don't mention owning a pet, but my instantaneous thought was it looks to be the perfect area for a small-to-medium sized dog to be kept when one isn't home, or something. All it needs is a gate of some sort.

Barring that, how about an optical illusion rug? The space is already a guest conversation piece, why not add a trippy rug there to really add unique interest? Always mess with their minds. Heh.

Seconding the ball pit idea, but mainly because I have never lost my sense of childish wonderment and enthusiasm. Okay, yeah, I'm still immature as hell - but at least I can phrase the concept like an actual adult! :D

Whatever you end up going with, hope it all works out for you!
posted by Amor Bellator at 6:13 AM on May 18, 2017 [16 favorites]

How much does a Skee-Ball machine cost?
posted by 256 at 6:29 AM on May 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

Wow, that's pretty unique. Yes, make it a console/sofa table by adding a top. Put the back of your living room sofa against the railings on that side. Add a lamp and other sofa table type objects--coffee table books, ets. If you're really handy, build a bench seat on the other side to the dimensions of outdoor cushions to create a banquette bench for one side of your dining table. Buy inexpensive outdoor cushions from a big box store for the seating. If you make the seat with a lid, you can use it for storage. (Some DIY'ers hack Ikea bookcases turned sideways to make seating, but you have to making sure sideways bookcase is high enough and strong enough to sit on. Loads of only images on "Ikea bench window seats.")
posted by Elsie at 6:53 AM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think if you cover it on top, it's going to optically look much larger. I would cover the floor part with bricks or slatted wood tiles (something that wouldn't damage the floor) and set a shitload of plants inside. Small ones that peek out along the banisters and tall ones, like potted palms and ficus, that are almost ceiling height. The important thing is to have a variety of heights and you can put some pots on risers.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:06 AM on May 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh, that's so cool!

Looks like a great space for narrow bookshelves or for a cozy little reading space (beanbag chair maybe? Tiny electric fireplace?).

You could wrap strings of lights on the bannisters, or fill it with viney plants in pots.

If you have a collection of anything, that seems like a great place to display it, all on low, narrow tables and shelves, maybe ladder shelving. If you're handy, you could even rig it up so that items (books? Paperwork? Albums? Craft supplies? Spare blankets and pillows?) were filed in between the gaps of the vertical rods.

Or if you're ever visited by babies or pets you have a handy playpen.

You could make that space completely different from the rest of your home. Put down a rug, paint only the inside of the rails, rig up a way to hang up a painting totally different from your usual style, and put in a chair or side table totally different from what you normally choose; make it into a "ghost room" from a parallel universe mysteriously floating in your home.

You could make the best blanket fort in the world.

You could put a big toy monster, or skeleton in there at Halloween (or always) as a gag. That space would be great at Halloween, really- you could rig up something really creepy.

That looks like a good spot for an easel if you have any artists in the house.

You could surround it with tall bookcases and have a secret entrance to a hidden nook. A hidden bar perhaps? Actually, if you're drinkers, that'd be a neat place for a bar regardless.

If you have exercise equipment or work out at home, that would be a great place to keep your workout stuff.
posted by windykites at 9:15 AM on May 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, those "stair steps into the cellar" rugs are a gas! Please get one. I'd like to be a fly on the wall when the first guest takes a tentative step.
posted by BostonTerrier at 10:15 AM on May 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

It's hard to tell from the picture, but the banister spacing might make the nook a no-go as a playpen for visiting kids or pets.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:41 AM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Obviously, the world's most awesome blanket fort!
How about a piece of artwork (vase, sculpture, etc) on a pedestal, you could put a velvet rope across the open end.
posted by 445supermag at 12:50 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're a sewer (or engage in some other craft that requires large flat space), this would be a great place to build a workstation. Put the plyboard on top, then use the space for measuring, cutting and pinning fabric.
posted by imalaowai at 1:35 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I mean, do they mind if you remove them? I like them--like others, I like weird spaces, but taking one out and building a single long bookcase against it would result in a nice normal room divider with some storage space and bookshelves and places to put fluffy foliage plants.

I love Container Store for that stuff--they have modularized shelving, but you could do a lot with some wood from Home Depot, primer, paint, and a hundred dollars worth of paint for what you're thinking of. You could even have it delivered.

I doubt they're keeping it for the posterity, they were probably just like 'meh, let's leave it'. But you could take a section out and store it under the bed and it would be fine.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:14 PM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

You could make that space completely different from the rest of your home. Put down a rug, paint only the inside of the rails, rig up a way to hang up a painting totally different from your usual style, and put in a chair or side table totally different from what you normally choose; make it into a "ghost room" from a parallel universe mysteriously floating in your home.
I second this idea. It's what I would do.
posted by redlines at 6:52 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would put a lot of tall trees and plants in there
posted by gt2 at 10:04 AM on May 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you. All these ideas have helped me visualise its potential.

I agree with TWinbrooks that a tabletop will take up a lot of visual space. Plus I'd have to somehow hide the view underneath the tabletop. Their following idea of filling the space with plants on different height tables etc is my fave, not the least because I like to collect nests of tables, and I live in a sub-tropical area where all sorts of plants can be grown indoors, but because the visual interest will fill the whole space, not just the space above the tabletop.

If I hadn't of asked here, I would not have worked all that out. I love this place.
posted by Thella at 5:15 PM on May 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Forgot to say: place a couple of canister uplighters amoungst the greenery for dramatic mood lighting.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:10 PM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

So this is where there used to be a stairwell, in a house converted to two apartments

Maybe a trompe l'oeil painting of steps there?
posted by hank at 6:21 PM on July 9, 2017

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