Living in the same house long enough leads to an inevitable mountain of possessions. Even in the largest of houses, space becomes a rare commodity. And unless you’re regularly decluttering and letting go of nonessentials, like that third or fourth slow cooker you got for your birthday, you’ll need to maximize the space you have. (Just kidding, all slow cookers are essential and precious.)
One often-overlooked source of extra space can be found where you least expect it — under a staircase. It doesn’t matter whether it leads down to your basement or up to your second level. You can utilize all of that precious space. Let’s explore making use of the space under your stairs to hopefully give yourself some extra breathing room.
How to Decide What to Do With the Space Under Your Stairs
Before you run out and buy a dozen plastic totes, take a moment to consider how you want to add storage under the stairs. The solution you choose largely depends on what you’re trying to store and the amount of space under your stairs.
Identify which items you want to store. This is a great time to get rid of items you don’t need or want anymore. Purging what you don’t need will give you a better idea of how to use the space under the stairs.
Before you start brainstorming staircase storage ideas, you should also consider how often you need to access your stuff. For items you use regularly or daily, choose a storage solution on the main floor for easy access. Overflow items from the kitchen, like tabletop appliances, serving dishes and the aforementioned three or four slow cookers, can be stored in a closet or hidden pantry. For kids’ sports equipment, or coats, boots and shoes, a finished closet or some pullout drawers would make sense.
Reserve the space under your basement stairs for things you rarely use. Seasonal items, like holiday decorations that you dust off once every 12 months, are perfect for storing in your basement. Other items to consider may include unused tile or carpet pieces and cans of paint. You may not use it often, but it’s there in case you need it. Feel free to consider simpler DIY ideas for basement under stairs storage, like wire shelving and screw hooks.
“When we’re talking about getting organized, it’s about being able to find what you need when you need it, and access. No matter what kind of system you set up, there’s always going to be a necessity to kind of reassess it and tweak it.”Lynne Poulton | Founder, Wholly Organized
7 Under Stairs Storage Ideas
Having space under the stairs gives you an opportunity to get creative and make a more aesthetically pleasing solution that’s still very useful. Anything from a bookcase under the stairs to a fully finished closet or set of drawers can keep items out of sight until you need them.
1. Pullout Drawers
A popular idea is building pullout drawers into the side of a staircase for extra, hideaway storage. Depending on how much room you have to work with, you can install as many as you like, increasing in depth the farther up the stairs you go.
Smaller drawers can be a great idea for storing shoes or boots under the stairs, particularly seasonal footwear like flip-flops, sandals or snow boots. They’re also a perfect spot for the CDs and DVDs you dig into every so often.
Use the deeper drawers for sports equipment and outdoor toys. Or just a cozy spot to store your extra blankets until you’re ready to grab one for movie night in the winter.
According to cost estimates from HouseLogic, you can get this done for about $200 to $500 if installing them yourself. Otherwise, custom-made drawers and installation by a professional carpenter can run from $2,000 to $5,000.
2. Finished Closet With Shelves
If a portion of the space under the stairs is too high to make sense for drawers, consider putting in a finished closet. Add in some shelves, and you have plenty of room for storing larger items. Include a coat rack or some hooks, and you have a great solution for hanging guests’ coats if you don’t have a hall closet (or if your hall closet is full). Be sure to include a simple light fixture.
Poulton, a certified professional organizer and creator of the Declutter Go! organizing dice game, says a client who didn’t have a basement used their under-stairs closet for overflow items. It’s where they stored their vacuum, winter coats, some kitchen appliances and seasonal items. Wire shelves and hooks are great to use in this type of space, she says. “You always want to use your vertical space.”
A DIY under stairs storage closet can run $200 to $500. A carpenter-installed project can start at $2,700 — for build and installation — and run up to $30,000 depending on the size of the closet and the quality of the materials.
3. Built-In Cabinets
If storage isn’t as important to you as decoration, built-in cabinets are a fun way to use space under the stairs. Install cabinets with attractive, solid wood doors for handsome storage of small items. Or display your favorite books or knick-knacks with clear glass doors.
Depending on materials and design, expect to spend about $1,000 up to $20,000 for a professional build and installation. Doing it yourself will cost less, but this project is best handled by an experienced DIYer.
4. Open Shelves
Adding storage under the stairs doesn’t have to be a big project reserved for only the handiest among us. Sometimes, simple open shelves will do the trick. Strategic storage solutions like floating shelves or a bookcase under the stairs can also go a long way toward maximizing your space, especially if you live in a smaller house.
Take some measurements, plan your attack, and this can make for a simple DIY upgrade. Going it alone can run you $200 to $500, or you can let a carpenter handle this custom job for about $1,000 to $3,000.
5. Hidden Pantry
If your staircase is just a few steps away from your kitchen, a pantry is a great under stairs storage idea. Take the finished closet concept and customize the space to hold all your spices, dry and canned goods, bulk ingredients and even the tabletop appliances you don’t use every day. Just imagine how nice those three or four slow cookers will look lined up neatly on a shelf.
6. Shelves Under Basement Stairs
If your existing basement under stairs storage is little more than plastic bins and cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other, it can get out of control fast. Things aren’t easy to put away with that method. Items end up stacked on the floor in front of the bins where they’re supposed to go — especially if the bin is on the bottom.
Rather than stack bins on the floor — which isn’t the safest idea — Poulton recommends using wire shelving purchased from retail or hardware stores. This is a simple DIY storage solution.
“My favorite thing to use under the stairs in an unfinished basement is wire shelving,” Poulton says.
Measure the space under your stairs so you know what you’re working with, then buy the shelves based on those measurements. Poulton advises using shelves that can hold up to 250 pounds and are 18 inches deep. And while handmade wooden shelves can be great, you can adjust wire shelving as needed. On average, freestanding wire shelves range from $40 to $175.
Poulton also recommends using clear bins with large labels on both sides, so you can easily identify the contents. Start with bins that are six inches deep and go from there. Make sure the bins have good-fitting lids to keep unwanted pests from snuggling up in any soft and cozy stored items.
“The Container Store bins are great because they are square. They don’t taper. You’re going to spend a little more money, but it works a lot better [than other store-bought bins].”Lynne Poulton | Founder, Wholly Organized
7. Use the Back of the Basement Stairs
Odd angles make it tough to figure out what to do with space under stairs. But a simple organizing solution like nails or screw hooks in the back of your basement stairs is a great way to maximize use of vertical space. These are ideal for storing hanging items, like seasonal wreaths. The hardware is inexpensive and you can install them easily by hand.
Other Ideas on How to Use Space Under the Stairs
Don’t need any extra storage but still want to use the space under the stairs? Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Add a bookcase under the stairs with a comfy chair or two and a lamp for a cozy reading area. This would work for the ground floor or a finished basement with minimal DIY effort.
Workspace and/or Study Area
If a mini library isn’t your thing, but you like the idea of having a quiet space to work, build in a desk and a few bookshelves for a study area. You might need to hire an electrician to install an outlet in the space so you can power a computer and any other equipment. A study area on the main floor is a perfect addition for anyone who works remotely or has kids who need a place to sit down and do homework.
For unfinished basements, consider a workspace under the stairs for your hobbies. Mount pegboard to the wall or to the back of the stairs themselves for a place to hang your tools, and set up a workbench.
Kids Play Area
Have space under the stairs and then some? Installing a kids play area is a popular trend. This gives them a space all their own where they can keep their toys and games, rather than cluttering up the rest of the house.
This is ideal for a main floor project or a finished basement. Depending on how handy you are, you could go it alone, though it might be best to hire a professional carpenter.
Sometimes a little extra space is just enough to create a cozy spot for your four-legged friend to relax. This can be as simple as putting a pet bed, toys, food and a gate under your stairs. Unless you’re super handy, you might need a professional to do anything really snazzy.
Find Other Cool Ways to Make New Space
You’re probably already looking around your house thinking, “What else can I do to make some extra room?” Being the space-saving enthusiasts that we are, we’ve compiled a handy assortment of ideas to help you get organized.
Use these guides to maximize space throughout your home: