Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ask the Architect - Under Stair Storage Ideas

This is a second question from a regular reader. We had a series of Ask the Architect conversations concerning opening up her kitchen. Some of this conversation presumes familiarity with the original question so please review the articles on “Opening up my Kitchen” for more context.

Question

I am planning on building a closed storage space underneath the staircase (if it is a good idea); it is just open space right now where my shoes and coats are exposed with an Elfa storage I built underneath the staircase. 


Looking at the entry from the living room - open space below the stairs
Looking at the entry from the living room - open space below the stairs


There probably are better ideas, but I was thinking of turning my coat rack 90 degrees so that it’s facing the entry door and creating a closet door facing the entry door or having the closet door facing the kitchen (which is better, if so?).  I’m also thinking about creating a tall shelf that pulls out sideway, next to the coats. The sideway shelf would serve as a food pantry and hopefully, the rest of the space can store shoes, bags, scarves, socks, etc.  But I don’t have to have a food pantry.  



Coat rack under stairs
Coat rack under stairs


 I still want to use my shoe rack, if possible, but don’t know how to enclose the area, so that I may access the shoes.  Generally, what kind of doors would I have?  I’m open to any other ideas and how to maximize shelving for other things like bags, scarves, socks, etc.  But first of all, is enclosing the area a good idea or buying an armoire for the coats and leaving the shoes exposed while eating in the kitchen is ok?  Not sure if installing curtains would work out in an aesthetic way and functional with the slant of the stairs.
I really hope you don’t mind myself picking your brain, but thanks a lot!

Shoe storage beside coat racks, under stairs
Shoe storage beside coat racks, under stairs

Answer


Let’s start with your last question first.  Is it a great idea to enclose the under stair space.  I think it’s a much better idea to build storage under the stairs than to try to buy furniture to accomplish the same thing.  Because of the strong diagonal line created by the underside of the stair all furniture will look like it’s “wedged in”.  Sort of like a square peg in a round hole.  The trick is maximizing the utilization of the space.  This is especially important in a small house or apartment.
Here’s an example that shows what you could accomplish.  In this case all of the under stair storage stuff would be made out of cabinetry material.  You could consider making it a little different than the kitchen cabinetry so that it doesn’t feel like you’re walking through the kitchen when you come in the front door.  This cabinetry could be painted, similar to other under stair storage ideas you’ve seen on my blog.

Bird's Eye view showing coat closet facing entry
Bird's Eye view showing coat closet facing entry
It starts off with a closet facing the front door.  I’ve drawn it set back 56″ (to match the stair) but it should be at least 54″.  This closet could easily accommodate a shelf and double closet poles.  Next I have a 24″ wide bank of drawers and cupboard.  This illustrates part of the problem with under stair storage.  The stairs are deeper than most closets so shelves are pretty inefficient.  The only way to really maximize the use of the space is through drawers.  Because the drawers are going to be 34″ deep or so they need to be really heavy duty.  I’d get hardware that can handle at least 100 lbs and that allows the drawer to be fully withdrawn.

Looking at the under stair storage from the kitchen
Looking at the under stair storage from the kitchen
The cupboard above could have pull out shelves or something similar to what you were describing, a couple of pull out pantry shelves.
Beside that we have a bank of cubbies with pull out shelves.  This is where I imagine you’d put your shoes.  With 34″ deep shelves you could easily put 6 pair of shoes per shelf.  Laura thought that a curtain covering this narrow space would hide the shoes and add a little visual interest.  I don’t think I’d actually put drawer faces on the shelves.  Leaving them open will allow the shoes to dry and air out.
Next is another drawer bank with cupboard.  This might be a good place for hats, or other large bulky items.  It could also house pillows or linens.  The drawers are not going to want to be immediately adjacent to the floor so I’d put a 6″ base all around this new storage cabinet.

Under Stair Storage built in showing how the cabinetry opens
Under Stair Storage built in showing how the cabinetry opens

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