How to use the space under your stairs

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Harry Potter famously lived in the cupboard under the stairs at his aunt and uncle's home in Privet Drive. The Dursleys clearly made the most of this facility - but apart from housing boy wizards, what else can you use it for? If you're considering revamping your staircase you'll probably be thinking about new banisters, newels, spindles, handrails and a host of other stair parts - but don't neglect the space underneath. We explore a few of the options for getting more out of this often-overlooked resource. 

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Study area

  Desk under stairs  

The current trend for open plan living has encouraged many home owners to rip out their understairs cupboard and replace it with a study area.

The neatest solution is to fit out the whole space with tailor-made shelves and a desk unit. However, if cost is an issue, or you would prefer to keep your options open over the way the space is used in the future, you could put up a few shelves and place a free-standing desk there instead.

To counter any feeling of claustrophobia, we recommend installing extra overhead lighting along with a high-wattage desk lamp. You will probably need some additional power sockets under the staircase too.


If you're not keen on an open plan look, you may be able to fit a curtain or some sliding doors to separate the work area from the rest of the house, as long as the stairs are wide enough. Slatted louvre doors are also a popular option as they look good, give privacy so you can concentrate on your work, and let in some extra light.  




If your hallway is cluttered up with coats and bags, or you're running out of space in your wardrobe, consider turning the area under the stairs into a cloakroom.

Even a shallow recess is usually enough to install some cubbyholes with hooks for coats, hats and umbrellas. Each member of the family can have their own storage area, helping to keep everyone organised. 

You might even be able to add some storage baskets for odds and ends such as gloves and scarves - perhaps underneath a console table or bench seat.

  Hallway storage space  
  Clothes on rails  

A good-sized space could be turned into a clothes cupboard. Installing some hanging rails and shelves round the edge will give you somewhere to store items that you can't fit into your bedroom wardrobe, but want to keep somewhere easily accessible. 

This is also a convenient storage solution for sports kits, golf clubs, ski equipment, gym wear and any out-of-season clothes that need to be temporarily tidied out of the way. 

If you don't have a utility room, this would also be a great place to keep wellies and boots.

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Shelving area


The main advantage of shelves is that you can adapt them to fit into almost any size of understairs space, no matter how shallow. 

A custom-built shelving unit under the stairs will give you the opportunity to make really good use of the whole area while enhancing the room at the same time.

You can use the shelves to display all sorts of things including ornaments, pictures, books, CDs and photos. And installing backlights will allow you to highlight your favourite objects.   

Wicker storage baskets on the lower shelves make a practical yet decorative way to keep smaller items conveniently to hand. 

  Shelving under the stairs  
  If you've built up a large collection of books but don't have anywhere left to put them, you could create a cosy mini-library by fitting some shelves under the stairs and adding a comfy chair or two, a small coffee table and reading lamp.  


  Bathroom under the stairs  

Installing an understairs shower, or a second WC and washbasin, is a popular home improvement project. It is not usually a cheap option, but will ease pressure on the family bathroom while simultaneously increasing the value of your home. 

Headroom can be an issue, so measure carefully to make sure there will be enough space for people to stand upright without banging their heads.

The distance to the main soil pipe can also be a problem. One way to get round this is by installing a macerator. This is a special waste pump placed behind the toilet which allows the waste to be pumped through a small bore pipe to join the main waste system.


Play den


Children and pets both love small hidden spaces, so letting them make use of the cupboard under the stairs could be a good indoor alternative to a garden play house.

A couple of beanbags or large cushions will provide a comfortable seating area, and your little ones can add toys, books and perhaps a small desk or table to create their own cosy hideaway.

Cutting a doorway and window into the side panels of the stairway will let light in and prevent the den from becoming too claustrophobic. Staple a strip of curtain material on each side of the window to add a homely touch, then paint the playhouse outline on to the wall.

  Understairs playhouse  

Drawer storage unit

  Understairs drawers  

Turning the understairs cupboard into a set of drawers is becoming increasingly popular. This storage system keeps your belongings out of sight yet readily accessible, especially if the drawers are mounted on sliding runners.

You can keep large items such as boots and sports equipment in the taller drawers, and smaller bits and pieces in the more compact compartments.

The main advantage of built-in drawers is that, unlike a cupboard, very little room is wasted, with even the height-restricted area near the bottom of the staircase being put to good use.

  Other ways to convert the space include installing a wine rack, a sewing or craft table, dog kennel, sofa or even a drinks bar. So to make the most of your home, why not take a fresh look at your staircase to see if any of these wizard ideas appeal to you.  
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