Under stairs storage: brilliant

Reader Martin sent us a pointer to this ingenious under-the-stairs storage solution featured at Desire to Inspire.

How cool is that? Each step has its own drawer. I saw something just like this on Small Spaces, Big Style and they mentioned the idea comes from yachts and other boats where space is at a premium and under-stair storage is pretty common. I wonder how difficult it would be to retrofit an existing staircase with something like this. Any handy folks out there have any idea?

50 Comments for “Under stairs storage: brilliant”

  1. posted by Dr. Ragan, www.psychologyofclutter.com on

    This is so cool. I asked my husband what he thought. He worked as a carpenter helping put me through graduate school. He notes that the project is “definitely doable” because he worked jobs where they tore out staircases and moved them to change the floor plan of a house. My husband estimated to do our fifteen stair case, it would take about a week and cost “a whole lot of money even if you don’t use high grade hardwoods. He then said, “Don’t even think about it.”

  2. posted by Dr. Ragan, www.psychologyofclutter.com on

    …but now I can’t stop thinking about it.

  3. posted by krz on

    looks like a bit of a safety hazard….

  4. posted by Steve M on

    In my limited construction experience, most contemporary staircases are built with a center stringer (support). Those who are planning to retrofit might end up having 2 smaller drawers side by side beneath each stair.

    Unfortunately, I live in Florida and therefore have no stairs.

  5. posted by Heather on

    This is impossible in our house, where the stairs to the basement run under the stairs to the second floor. Neat idea, but in our house, you’d hit your head on the drawers if you went downstairs to do laundry!

  6. posted by MG on

    Hey Heather, then add the storage drawers in your basement stairs! It could be a great place to store tools, jars of fasteners, seasonal yard items, etc!

  7. posted by Jeremy Pavleck on

    Steve,
    Your suggestion turned a good idea into a great one in my opinion. Granted, you won’t be able to store as much as with a single drawer, but a retrofit of that type alleviates the need to rework the stringers and to change how the steps are enforced. Brilliant!

  8. posted by Chet on

    Ooops, left a drawer open when the spouse was coming down the stairs with a laundry basket. I am sure that would work out well. We have a hard enough time dodging the cats during their stairway slumbers.

  9. posted by Andamom on

    What a nifty idea – but I agree with Dr. Ragan and can only imagine what this costs. Of course, we live in an apartment and don’t have much storage — and need alternatives or at least suggestions of neat things like this. If we owned this place, I would have liked to create some built ins… However unattainable — please keep interesting ideas like this coming. They really are inspiring.

  10. posted by Bill on

    As far as safety is concerned, you could use auto-close drawer guides, so that they could not be left open.

  11. posted by John on

    If you really wanted to get creative, you could install little alarms that would light up a “stop light” or sound a beeping when the drawers are open. More complex, more costly, but safer, and like Dr. Ragan said, this is already going to be expensive.

  12. posted by GTDesign on

    Many basement stairs have side access possibilities. IF this were the case, how about fitting the drawers to open to the side of the stairs instead of onto the steps? Support might be an issue depending on the size of the drawers, but smaller narrow drawers might be good for storage of wrapping paper, floorplans (Im an Interior Architect, you might not have as many floorplans laying about), Fabrics, etc… anything that stores in tubes or long and narrow.

  13. posted by GTDesign on

    Many basement stairs have side access possibilities. IF this were the case, how about fitting the drawers to open to the side of the stairs instead of onto the steps? Support might be an issue depending on the size of the drawers, but smaller narrow drawers might be good for storage of wrapping paper, floorplans (Im an Interior Architect, you might not have as many floorplans laying about), Fabrics, etc… anything that stores in tubes or long and narrow.

  14. posted by jeffj-nj on

    Why not just add these to your stairs without actually changing anything about your existing stairs? In other words, just plop this drawer-staircase right on top of your existing staircase. I can picture it in my head, or even draw it, but I don’t know quite how to describe it. Just imagine the entire set of usable places to put your feet was 8 (or so) inches further forward than currently. Your current step faces would be where the new drawer bases were. The new drawer tops would become the new step faces. It could definitely be done.

    Another idea, which would combat the “leaving them open” problem, would be to make each step into a cabinet (with sliding doors) instead of a drawer.

  15. posted by RobertB on

    I have come across this in magazines in the past. I wouldn’t recommend it for heavily used stairs but it would be a good idea for attic or basement stairs that are not used as much. I also agree that auto-closing drawer guides are almost a necessity.

  16. posted by jeffj-nj on

    …the cabinet idea would also work well in cases where a center support beam was present.

  17. posted by D. Reed on

    The step could be hinged, so that the storage is a bin, not a drawer. The hinge could be placed so that the lid will not stay up, which could avoid some of the spouse-tripping worries (or designs!). You might not like the appearance of the hinge, however, even if it were a piano hinge or a hidden hinge.

  18. posted by Tom on

    These are very cool!
    If you are concerned about safety you could add some springs to the back to make sure the drawers automatically close, and a latch to the front so they don’t open by accident. =)

  19. posted by Morfydd on

    My parents’ older house has these in the stairs to the basement. They’re old and small and hard to slide, which limits their utility for my parents.

    My extra-tall stairs are over my pantry and water heater, and I’ve already torn out the drywall to put in bookshelves, so I love this idea. I’m thinking they would be a great replacement for my toolboxes and junk drawers, as they’re central to everything.

  20. posted by Jersey Steve on

    Wow, that looks like an incredibly dangerous idea. How about, one is left open, a child opens one, the componants wear out a bit and one of them slide open a little accidently.. Now, you’re walking down the stair, and man you’re tired, but there you go down the stairs, stepping into/onto that half opened “drawer” and “WHACK” your knee fold in backwards just before “BAM” it smashes against the wall and you tumble down the stairs. not to mention, you just dirtied your clean laundry. I’ll keep my drawers in my drawers. :) I may start a website where all the brave carpenters’ wives can post their America’s most Painful Home Videos.

  21. posted by Anonymous on

    It looks like the stability of it may suffer do to the length of the drawer. What if one was to split it into two separate drawers, so there is still support in the center of the step?

  22. posted by amy lou on

    i want them right now…i would be willing (well maybe) to rework our 100 year old stairs for even a little storage space…i know i know just get rid of the extra stuff!

  23. posted by KJ on

    How about just using it for a bookcase. Books are not often accessed, but usually you want to have their side showing. So this way, no drawers, not much danger and it would still look nice. It might be a lot easier and cheaper to install too.

  24. posted by PJB on

    The photo looks like only the first two steps are actually drawers. (look at the little pull tabs on the top-right of the drawer face.) That would eliminate some of the structural problems of having a whole staircase of drawers

  25. posted by Anonymous on

    i’d be more impressed if there were drawers on a slide. Stairs are so 2003.

  26. posted by Terry on

    Addressing a couple of issues:

    Many staircases have a central stringer, but it’s not always necessary. The number of stringers needed are determined by the span of the individual stairs and the materials used for the treads (some woods are strong enough to span three (or even four) feet at standard thicknesses. Others need to be supported every foot.

    The open-drawer safety issue is really a non-issue. Under the best of circumstances, stairs are potentially very dangerous and should be treated with caution. If you have a spouse who tends to wander onto stairs without first looking at them, I’d suggest you move into a house with only one floor. Seriously.

    All things considered, I’d say this project is very do-able, but to justify the expense you’d have to REALLY need the storage space.

  27. posted by Larry on

    Huge safety hazard! And if the stairs shift or settle the drawers would bind. But I like D Reed’s idea to make hinged lids instead.

  28. posted by Hank on

    Oh, that is just the living end. One great idea to add into a custom house with the trampoline floors.

  29. posted by Yann on

    Why not just get rid of all your extra junk instead of paying a fortune for nifty storage solutions. Then, with the money you save by not having custom made nifty storage solutions AND by not buying more junk… take a nice vacation, or pay off your credit card debt, or put it in a 401k or Roth IRA.

  30. posted by gmillerd on

    good luck with building inspector selling your place

  31. posted by senorstu on

    I agree with the safety hazard of having drawers – it may even be a code violation.
    The risers (the drawer front) also provide support for the tread and eliminating this would cause the steps to sag.
    D. Reed’s hinge idea could be viable, though.

  32. posted by Stoneddrow on

    I have done this before.
    Remove the treads. Then risers. Double up the existing stringers. Heavy duty drawers slides work well on the inside of the new stringer. If the underneath of the stringers is drywalled, as it was with mine. You are very limited in drawer length. The set of stairs I worked on were leading down to the front door, foyer for a family of 6. Each 12″d X 29″w X 6″t drawer/step was delegated to one member of the family for their shoes, gloves, hats, walkmans. I did 12 steps like that.

  33. posted by adora on

    My friend’s house in Tokyo has these drawers. It works only if the staircase is supported only on the sides, instead of in the middle which is the case for many N. American houses.
    Many N. American houses use pre-fab staircase components, pre-engineered by the manufacturers. They would hasitate to make something like this because of the possible lawsuit from people tripping over them when they forgot to close it.
    Besides, many N. American houses have the staircase right by the entrance. The area underneath is already been used as closets.

  34. posted by quest1962 on

    Back to the middle-stringer bit . . .
    You could build it with just one face plate and 2 “drawers” so it still looks like a stair.

  35. posted by Verne A. on

    I speak from the position of being a interior rail installer, I work with stairs every day.

    Everbody keeps saying that north american stairs have a middle stringer, which is untrue. In most cases, only free standing stairs (stairs without supporting framing underneath) have middle stringers.

    Stairs are installed by fastening through the stringers to the framing underneath, in addition to screwing through the top riser (upright kick surface) into the header.

    With the glue blocks and wedges that secure the construction of the stairs, it is basically impossible, or at least extremely impractical.

    You would have to design the stairs from the ground up, my guess about the easiest way to do it, would be to build structurally sound boxes (cabinets) and install them in the space.

    The amount of drawer space you will gain from a standard stair is very small, a standard tred is 10 1/4″, the drawer starts back from the nosing an 1 1/4″, so you are going to end up with a max drawer space of 8″ or less if you use 1/2″ plywood.

    And I would install the drawer slides on a 3 or 4 degree backward slant, we don’t want those drawers opening on their own when running down the stairs!

    But the whole thing sounds like it wouldn’t be worth it, if you really want storage space, and not just a gimmicky toy, go underneath the stairs, and create a triangular closet or set of drawers.

  36. posted by Louise on

    While I’m always excited to see innovative storage ideas (I live full-time in a 40 foot motorhome), I would have to pass on this idea. Unless the drawers were hermetically sealed, dust and dirt would get inside really quickly. The same would be true if the storage was bins instead of drawers. The dust on your floors is insidious; do you really want that in your storage?

  37. posted by Sascha Grant on

    Imelda Marcos would love that!!

  38. posted by Pyromaster on

    I think this is a great idea for space concious homes.
    As for keeping them closed, a light spring could be used to close the drawer. If attached to the back side and then to the drawer housing it would spring back when let go.

  39. posted by Sara on

    Verne A makes a good point: If you have access to the underside of the staircase, you could install a cabinet of sorts that has drawers that get deeper as you move towards the bottom of the cabinet. This gives you better use of the space normally too far back & too shallow for storage without having to expose the drawers to a high-traffic area. Remember, if the space under the stairs is not available, drawers won’t work no matter which way they face.

  40. posted by Ari on

    We did this in our house using piano hinges for the top two steps. If you’re interested in seeing a pic, email me at arigold99ATgmail.com

  41. posted by Tips Of All Sorts on

    Better keep an inventory list indicating which step stores what.

  42. posted by Leslie on

    I grew up in a house where each step was a drawer. We had eight kids and I can’t ever remember an accident. Each drawer had a catch on it, so that when it closed it latched shut. Plus, my mum taught us to close them when we finished with them. It was somewhat of a game to kick the drawer closed for us. We kept toys and games and books in them. We didn’t label anything, just learned where everything went. To this day, I bet there are still old games and toys in some of them.

  43. posted by Samrat on

    Idea is good, it can even be used as a Safe for keeping valuale things as will ensure safety (An unusual place to keep things)

  44. posted by Trap on

    Making wooden stairs ourself I was pleased to see this idea. On the other hand I agree with Adora, for stair manufacturers its a risk to produce something like this.

  45. posted by anarkissed on

    if the stairs are open on the back side and you don’t have another staircase and ceiling with drywall underneath, you can also just install shelves under the stairs and access it from the rear. The lowest stair could hinge open or even have a garage door type front, allowing you to access the storage without going to all the expense and trouble of installing what is essentially a gimmick. It looks neat and would be useful, but ultimately impracticable.

  46. posted by Carly on

    I really love the idea!
    For those of you who are terrified that someone might leave the drawer open… there’s a few simple solutions to have the close automatically… for one, you could have the actual drawer go in at a slight angle. The steps would be parallel, but the drawers would go in as an angle. It would be harder to make, and the bottom stair wouldn’t have a drawer, but if you’re desperate. Or, you could be more simple and use elastic to make resistance to keep the drawer open. The drawers could also be locked.

  47. posted by sak on

    how much does this sort of thing cost in ££££ what is needed

  48. posted by Maple on

    Under step “Pull out bin” How-to

    http://www.popularmechanics.co.....12966.html

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