You might think stairways are just about getting from one floor to another. But they can be so much more. Apart from being architectural features, staircases can provide space for storage, display, reading niches, secret hideouts and more. The following examples from around the world will have you stepping up your staircase game. (Note: Some of the stairways would need adjustments to meet U.S. building codes.)
1. To help make a compact Cape Cod getaway more airy and clutter-free, and to add something that would make up for the lack of a mudroom, architect Chris Brown opened a walled-in staircase to create some breathing room and bring in natural light from the floor above.
Plywood boxes with MDF-fronted drawers beneath the stairs take full advantage of the space and create storage for shoes and other mudroom essentials. The column facing the kitchen has carved cubbies for a coffee machine, microwave and compact wine cooler and a display shelf.
Brown says taking advantage of under-stair space for storage like this works especially well when the staircase is against an exterior wall of a home. “In this case, an open stair would not have been visually interesting because there is nothing to see past the stair,” he says.
He’s designed similar stair storage to hold vacuums, folding chairs and home gym weights.
2. In this children’s bedroom, a staircase of rift-cut white oak with resin panels leads from a play area to a sleeping loft. A bookcase door beneath the stairs opens to reveal a hidden path to a lower-level play area. The remaining space stores toys, and there’s also a pullout laundry hamper.
“There is always some usable floor area below enclosed staircases which can be used for storage, whether it is through built-in cabinetry, as in this stair, or via a partial walk-in closet tucked beneath,” says architect Tom Carrubba.
3. “In New York, our small apartments often require us to get creative with space,” says architect Sarah Zames.
To connect a kitchen to a loft above, she designed a unit inspired by ship ladder stairs to minimize the amount of floor space used. A series of walnut-veneered stacked boxes displays books and mementos.
4. Homeowner and designer Nicola O’Mara built a wall-to-wall bookcase for storage and to add a colourful feature to the staircase in her English cottage.
For further visual impact, she painted the treads in Farrow & Ball’s Railings paint.
5. A reading nook in a playroom of this Los Angeles home takes full advantage of under-stair space. The bookshelves beneath the seat pull out like a drawer to reveal more storage. The small door to the left opens to a hideout for the kids. The door to the right leads to a powder room.
6. In France, this staircase begins as a cushioned bench beneath a platform that features display space for sculptures and artwork.
7. What can’t this staircase do? Also in France, this design features a work area, plenty of storage and display space, and what appears to be a sleeping nook with a blanket. Perhaps for a dog? We say, “Oui, s’il vous plait!”
8. A cabinet door opens to reveal deep storage drawers in this New York home.
9. In Burlington, Vermont, a small bench at the bottom of this staircase makes for a good spot to put on shoes. Shelves on the other side store books and display objects.
10. This nautical-inspired staircase with storage cubbies and drawers connects a bedroom to a loft above. (The loft has a code-compliant staircase, so this secondary version didn’t need to meet building regulations.)
11. An elegant staircase in Melbourne, Australia, features a corner seat and a bottom tread that extends to form a spot in front of a roaring fireplace.
12. Talk about double duty. A concrete ramp next to this staircase provides a sliding exit. You could also use it to push strollers and carts up and down.
13. An artistic French staircase blurs the lines between steps and book storage.
14. In this London penthouse apartment, the staircase cantilevers off a large cabinet unit that features a snug little reading spot below.
15. A steel landing in this Austin, Texas, home turns into a bench with book storage below.
16. One of the stair steps in this New York saltbox home turns into a bench and bookcase.
17. Multiple wooden landing pads extend to create display and seating space in this French home, showing that a simple staircase can be about so much more than ups and downs.