Claw back space with a clever cupboard under the stairs

Rethink your hall and under-stairs space and boost storage potential – stop using it as a dumping ground and make it work harder

Often overlooked or crammed fit to bursting, the humble under-stairs cupboard can be full of space-saving surprises. With nooks and niches, just perfect for orderly arranging, it has the potential for superior storage – and domestic bliss.

What’s the story?

This tucked-away area really came into its own during the 18th and 19th centuries as joinery crafts improved. Left open, the low-ceilinged space was topped with dust-gathering stair treads, but once enclosed with doors, it made a clean and useful stow space, pantry, larder or cleaning cupboard – a real asset to the home.

Create your own

Taller spaces or backs of doors are the ideal places to hang long-handles mops and brooms. If there’s adequate floor space, a trolley on wheels is a neat way of grouping items together and getting them in, out or around with ease. Use tight corners or lower areas for heavier electricals and add open shelving for jars and bottles. Try staircase and joinery specialists Jackson Woodturners, bespoke storage experts Neville Johnson, or local carpenters sourced from Checkatrade.com. Neptune offers in-house design to create cupboard and storage areas, as well as freestanding furniture. Or for a budget solution, Ikea has a range of fitted furniture and storage ideas.

Forget all thoughts about Harry Potter, and marvel at these cool and contemporary cupboards under the stairs:

Choose utility-chic scullery ware

Image credit: Carolyn Barber

Don’t let that space go to waste! The space under the stairs is often home to bulky furniture that doesn’t quite fit. It’s a crime to squander such a versatile chunk of space when everyone’s dream is to own a home with more storage. Instead, go for a selection of perfectly-proportioned or fitted storage units, ideally with shelves, drawers and room for storage boxes or baskets. Hang items that require easy access on the front of a cupboard with a selection of pegs, hooks or a pegboard panel.  Add unexpected colour to brighten up this potentially gloomy space. A crisp green paint will bring a fresh finish inside, in line with spick-and-span thinking.

Smarten up stairs

Image credit: Specht

Walls of shallow cupboards create storage without intruding on the room, trading minimal space for maximum hidden volume. The under-stair area is historically a place to stash away any unsightly stuff. So, instead of cramming everything haphazardly into a cupboard, consider breaking the area up into shelves or drawers. that way, the space will work harder for you – it’ll make locating things much easier too. Think about including different shapes and sizes of cupboards to hide away everything from brooms and brollies to ironing boards. This custom-fitted staircase was designed by Specht Architects.

Create a lasting impression

Image credit: Colin Poole

When space is at a premium, it is essential that no nook or cranny goes to waste. But that doesn’t mean you should cram anything and everything possible into your hallway. First impressions count, so make sure your hallway reflects your personality, as well as being practical. A selection of wicker baskets and wooden storage is a smart alternative to a cupboard or a chest of drawers and makes a great place to store smaller items that you’d otherwise be rushing around to find in the morning. The wall running alongside the stairs is an ideal place to hang photographs. It makes an otherwise dead space feel warm and inviting and encourages you to pause and admire the images on your way up. A miniature cupboard is a great way to keep the unsightly gas and electrical connections hidden away.

Give it a wardrobe vibe

Image credits: Mel Yates

There’s no spot more suitable for bespoke fittings than that dust-collecting, dead space under the stairs. Plus, it’s a convenient home for shoes, coats and all the other paraphernalia that might otherwise end up dumped in the entrance hall. Interior fittings don’t need to be fancy – a simple rail, plus dedicated space for bags and shoes is practical enough. The stairway is usually much deeper than a wardrobe needs to be, so we often build shelves behind a rail for coats. Another idea is to create two levels for hanging items – for instance, one for children and one for adults.

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