18 Smart and Surprising Under-Stair Storage Solutions

Architects, designers, and DIY enthusiasts craft inventive storage solutions beneath staircases where negative space usually exists.

The space beneath a staircase can be tricky to maximize, thanks to hard angles, low slopes, bulky support structures, and even dim lighting. However, smart under-stair design decisions can add lots of value to a home and help to make living in the space more manageable. From shoe cubbies to kitchen pantries and a nifty nook for firewood, these spaces beneath staircases showcase high-level and extremely functional designs. 

A Child’s Bright Workspace

This home by O’Neill Rose Architects in Queens, New York, hosts three generations from one family under the same roof. The architects designed this bright desk area under a staircase to provide a distinct space for the youngest family member to complete her schoolwork.

In the 1,100-square-foot home and studio that Seattle designer David Sarti shares with his wife, Jodi, almost every piece of furniture is mobile. One of Sarti’s favorite inventions is a bar cart and kitchen-supply station with black knobs and casters that hides beneath the plywood-clad stairs. 

Architect Kevin Alter of Alterstudio renovated a 1920s bungalow in Austin, Texas, to include an office nook under the stairs that lead to the second floor. By outfitting the walls of the office in knotty pine paneling, the workspace contrasts with the surrounding white walls and serves as a distinct design feature in addition to a functional space. 

For Brooklyn-based firm Office of Architecture, the key to this local row home renovation was thoughtful planning and inventive storage systems. Bright-white cabinets under the stairs feature simple hardware and hidden hinges for a minimalistic visual appeal.

Architect Charlie Lazor designed this 2,600-square-foot prefab home for his family in Minneapolis. The post-and-beam construction includes an open-riser metal staircase, which allows for extra storage and seating near the living room. 

Architect Tim Seggerman didn’t waste a square inch during the renovation of this 240-square-foot apartment in New York City. Inspired by mid-century furniture designer George Nakashima, the architect crafted custom cabinets and open shelving on the underside of the ash-and-beech staircase that leads to the lofted sleeping space above the kitchen. 

SABO project renovated this former industrial loft in Brooklyn with a new staircase in the family room that leads to a mezzanine level. The alternating treads double as knob-free cabinets that create a graphic statement piece—and a functional workspace with minimal clutter.

In homes with any amount of square footage to spare, the space under a staircase can be a perfect spot to create a beautiful ensemble of items. In this 2,150-square-foot residence near Bristol, England, architect Paul Archer incorporated an open area beneath an entryway staircase. Here, a glass table and vase of flowers create a subtle and welcoming vignette.

In the renovation of this New Jersey industrial building into an artist couple’s studio and living space, built-in drawers under a plywood staircase create visual drama—as well as practical storage. The team at Jeff Jordan Architects also designed the geometric drawers to mimic the above stair treads.

In a family home in Mill Valley, California, Lauren Goldman of l’oro Designs transformed the empty space under a steel-and-glass staircase landing into a cozy library and reading nook for the residents’ young children.

When Melanie Ryan and Todd Sussman, founders of design studio OPEN For Humans, built their home in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood, the irregularly shaped and compact lot meant that the floor plan had to be ultra-creative. Underneath a perforated-metal banister near the kitchen, a large pantry and storage drawer offer extra space for miscellaneous items. 

"Life is too short for beige," was the guiding motto for homeowners Tamsen Chislett and Max Lines, who tasked Office S&M cofounder Catrina Stewart with renovating their Victorian terrace in London. "The name of the project, MO-TEL, is linked to this sense of escapism," says the architect, who added blue-painted doors and bright-red knobs to a bold pantry setup beneath the pink-and-yellow banister. Bonus: The clients’ son also loves to play hide-and-seek in the vibrant cupboard.  

StarkJames’ Containers on Grand rental housing project in Phoenix, Arizona, forges eight 740-square-foot apartments out of 16 standard shipping containers. The stacked shipping container units, which are fused side-by-side, are connected by industrial-style exterior staircases that store communal bicycle racks underneath.

This family home in Tampa, Florida, includes an open-plan kitchen and living area with polished concrete floors, wooden accents, and crisp white walls. To eliminate clutter in the new-build, the team at Studio MM designed custom cubbies underneath the staircase, which feature light wooden baskets to match the extra-deep stair treads.

Architect Andrew Simpson had 1,000 square feet to work with when he renovated this 20th-century former chicory kiln (a concrete structure used to dry the eponymous vegetable) on Phillip Island, Australia. The clients wanted to create living spaces that could be adjusted according to various needs. The cedar-clad kitchen, for example, features interchangeable furniture that is placed on casters, as well as a rolling set of small stairs.

In Japan, step-chest cabinets are so common that they have a designated name: kaidan dansu. The original staircase cabinets date back to 1702 and were used to store valuables. Architect Kotaro Anzai built this contemporary iteration at a home in Koriyama, Japan, using linden plywood, iron handles, and treads made of ash. 

For interior designer Kathryn Tyler, founder of Linea Studio, it was important that her home in southwest England showcased her ever-expanding collection of vintage treasures sourced through her travels and eBay hunts. On one side of the kitchen, open shelving beneath a stunning oak-wood staircase shows off an artfully arranged array of kitchenware, including antique soda canisters, enamel pitchers, and colorful Dutch ovens.   

When Tom Givone bought a partially finished, abandoned house in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood in 1998, the building "was like a shell that looked like an active job site—paint had hardened over and mud was on the walls," the owner recalls. The self-taught designer restored a number of floorboards and stair treads in the home using salvaged wood from a farmhouse upstate. Fittingly, he incorporated a small nook for firewood underneath the stairs.

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