Toying with ways to use storage space

Design Line

May 25, 2008|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Tribune Media Services

We enclosed the triangular alcove under a rear staircase in our home because it seemed a clever place for storing items from our children's adjoining play room. The contents became so chaotic, however, that it proved difficult to find a particular toy or game - and only occasionally did we even bother to look in that space.

Now we've decided there must be a better use for a nook that's 3 feet deep and 6 feet long, with a height ranging from 4 to 8 feet. Any suggestions on what we can do with this space?

I'm not suggesting it should revert to a storage function, but you should know that an enclosed area beneath a stairway can serve that purpose well if equipped with narrow shelving as well as with folding doors that offer easy access to the entire space.

Rather than trying to carve out still more storage space, some homeowners come to realize that much of what they're stowing away never actually gets used.

Those areas can be put to lots of creative and practical uses. In some houses, the space with perhaps the greatest potential is the one found beneath a stairway.

The dimensions of your own alcove suggest it might make a cozy getaway for one or more of your kids, or even for an adult.

One idea seen in Peter Jeswald's Basement Ideas That Work, published by Taunton Press, shows an especially colorful treatment of this sort. An upholstered platform is strewn with large, squishy cushions. A wall-hung reading light is the only other element needed to transform an architecturally awkward configuration into a wonderfully snug retreat.

Alternately, the proportions of your space could probably accommodate a desk or work table. It may not make the ideal home office, but a student could benefit from the lack of distractions in such a space.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with interior design questions can e-mail her at

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