The space under the stairs can hold clutter, nothing at all, a makeshift office or a well-designed storage closet that increases the usable square footage in your home. Any size space is prime real estate for extra clothes, carefully edited bedroom closet excess or the vintage vino that will sit happily on its own custom shelves in a cool, dark wine closet.
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Understair Wine Cellar
A wine closet under the stairs uses all of the space and is an attractive conversation starter when guests drop by. Repave the floor with slate or limestone tiles to help keep the space cool and use a small cooling unit to maintain a constant temperature. Fluorescent lighting is cooler than incandescent---keep the wattage down in any case to avoid adding more heat. Since you will need custom carpentry to fit the space as a wine cellar, have a thermal pane glass window set in the door to show off your collection. Wine racks are as attractive as bookshelves in a home and a well-ordered understair wine cellar is a design feature worth viewing.
Palatial Secret Closet
If you have a large understair space to turn into a storage closet, make it a walk-in. Place tall units of open shelves and drawers against the main wall. Next to them a bar for hanging clothes runs under more open shelves that can hold hat boxes or keepers for out-of-season accessories. More hanging shelves, for jackets on top and shirts on the bottom, sit under the angle of the stairs. Tucked in behind the clothes are more lidded storage boxes for off season clothes that can be pulled out when the seasons change. A skinny cabinet on casters can be moved around as needed and house shoes, boots and bags on open shelves. The back of the door has a full length mirror and bright lights attached to the ceiling mimic daylight. Paint walls and furniture white to maximise brightness in the space.
Scant Storage Space
A very small understair storage space can still work as a closet, with or without a door. The trick is to order everything obsessively. Get matching boxes with lids and open bins on casters---white is always a safe choice. Build in a hanging bar for clothes and fit a sturdy wood shelf above it. All the same hangers go on the bar. Use this small space for jackets, shirts and folded slacks and keep the ones you won't use immediately in zippered clothing bags--white to match the rest of the storage. Use the wheeled bins for shoes. Put accessories in the closed boxes on the shelf over the hanging clothes. Use the skinny pie of leftover space for more shelves---put as many boxes as will fit and keep oddly sized items like ice skates or handbags in the smallest space on the shelves. When it's this neat, there is no visible clutter to hide behind a door.
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