Living Small: Using Your Stairs To Their Fullest Potential

Have you ever considered whether or not you're taking full advantage of the storage space under your stairs? When you live in a small space, every space has to be functional and under the stairs is no exception. While many people have an open closet under the stairs, it's most likely a hodge-podge of luggage and camping gear, very few will use it to it's full potential. A truly functional under-the-stairs space should be organized, useful, and aesthetically pleasing. When planning a renovation or new-build, don't forget to consider this space as a prime storage unit and never hesitate to transform your current stair situation. Here are five ideas that might just give you a case of stair envy. 



1. Bike Storage

Got a cool looking bike? Put it front and centre with this under-the-stair storage solution. This idea keeps the bikes out of the way and adds a certain je ne sais quoi to any staircase. Finding a place for bikes in any small place is a serious conundrum. This is an amazing solution. 

Source: Apartment Therapy

Source: Apartment Therapy

2. Built-In Kitchen

Who wants more counter space in their kitchen? Look no further than this idea to build your kitchen appliances and cupboards right into the stairs. This one wins in my opinion for the most useful under-the-stair idea. This is designed so that the entire space is useful and creates a really unique look. Nailed it. 

Source: Brit + Co

Source: Brit + Co

3. Coat Closet

If your entry way doesn't have a coat closet, under your stairs might be the answer. It's also the perfect way to get traffic flowing away from the door when welcoming guests so it doesn't become crowded in the entrance. The added hooks outside the closet, under the stairs, are great for hanging your daily bag or a guest's coat. This particular coat closet is awesome because it has a basket for hats and gloves, hooks to hang bags, places for shoes, and a bench to sit on. Great use of this space. 

Source: De Zeen Magazine

Source: De Zeen Magazine

4. Shelving

A simple solution for under-the-stair storage is to build open shelves right into the stairs and stairwell. They could be open and filled with books and objects or closed for a more minimal and clean look. Either way it's a modern, interesting, and functional approach to making the most out of your stairs. It works well when the shelves and walls are kept neutral and pops of colour are added through the objects themselves. There are endless options for configurations of shelving so make sure to consider what you'll be storing before deciding what type of shelving will go in.

Source: Unknown

Source: Unknown

5. Wine Storage

Being a minimalist, I don't really agree with keeping this amount of wine stored in your house, however, if wine is really important to your life, this is a great idea. Not only does it look cool, but keeps your wine organized and on hand for any occasion. After living in France for a while, I can definitely see why some might like more wine on hand and why some might like to buy in bulk with the ridiculous price of wine in Canada. In fact, I might just have to ship a few cases home after this adventure and set up a little under-the-stair wine rack. Will definitely be dealing with sticker shock when I get home in the wine department. 

I hope this has inspired you to look at every space in your home as an opportunity for storage space! 

Wishing you a well organized home,



 Living small has become a huge interest of mine and I have taken it upon myself to become an expert in the field. Experiencing it myself was the perfect way to start my research on maximizing small spaces and living a more minimalist lifestyle. At the beginning of August we moved to Paris for one year. Just like many other giant cities with condensed populations, space is at a premium. If we wanted the same amount of space we had back home in Vancouver, the rent would be astronomical, so we decided to keep it small and settled into a 200 square foot apartment. In the first few days it became apparent that in order to make this space work, we would have to adopt some new routines. Here is what I have learned so far about living in a small space. Some of these tips can be used to great effect in larger living spaces as well for a more minimalist lifestyle. 

1. All clothing and shoes should be items that you a) love and b) wear often. Invest in quality items and only buy things you absolutely love and need. This is a constant process of evaluation and if something isn't being used it needs to either be donated, sold, or thrown out. Be ruthless in your decisions and you will never leave the house in an outfit you aren't happy with again due to the fact it was all that was left in your closet. You will also do less laundry. This has been one of my favourite changes so far. 

2. Clean and organize for 15 minutes a day. In a tiny space, being messy is not an option. You simply can't close the door to the overflowing storage room or shove your cloths under the bed. I have found taking a short break to clean and organize each day is necessary to keeping our sanity in check. Doing something each day avoids hours of doing everything at once and doesn't seem like such a chore. 

3. Shop for your food daily and eat everything you buy. North Americans are notorious for wasting hoards of food left to rot in the back of their gigantic fridges. I for one was extremely guilty of this! It was insane how much food I threw out. When your fridge is a bar fridge, you are very selective in what you can store and it is usually only enough space for one or two days of food. I can't remember the last time I actually finished a jar of jam or pickles without accidentally buying another one first. When you buy your food daily you can eat exactly what you feel like that day and it is guaranteed to be fresh and delicious. In Paris it is much easier to accomplish this as there are markets on every corner and they package their food in smaller quantities, but you could probably swing every few days in a North American lifestyle without too much trouble. 

4. Use your daily grocery bags as garbage bags. Instead of buying garbage bags here, I have been using the plastic bags as my daily garbage bag. I fill it up each day and take it down the next day. When you sleep right beside your kitchen, garbage can't be hanging around for too long before things become unpleasant. I have found the small grocery bags to be the perfect size to collect the days garbage and that way we are re-using the plastic bag instead of throwing it out or letting it pile up in a drawer. Yes, you could use a tote bag to get your groceries and buy garbage bags, but this is cheaper. 

5. Do your dishes immediately after your meal, eliminating the need for a dishwasher. Not many places in Paris have the luxury of a dishwasher. Keep dishes to a minimum and wash them after every use. In North America we all have far too many dishes taking up far too much cupboard space. If we washed them daily instead of letting them pile up in big dishwashers, we wouldn't need as many dishes. It's a vicious cycle really. 

6. Hand wash one item of clothing each day. Many apartments don't have washing machines here and even fewer have dryers. While I don't think I would give up having my own washer and dryer upon moving home, for now, I'm going to avoid the high cost of doing laundry for a daily hand wash of one item. A lot of my cloths are hand wash anyways so it works out nicely to keep on top of it daily. I will still head to the laundromat from time to time but I'm going to try to keep it to a minimum.

7. Use products (make-up, lotions, cleaners) until they are completely finished before purchasing new ones. You only have so much storage space for products and you don't need two different products that accomplish the same thing. Are you like me (pre-minimalism kick) and have 10 bottles of body lotion half used in your bathroom cupboard? I thought so. When you live in a small space it's best to stick to products you enjoy and use every day. You will save money, reduce clutter, and need less space. I would challenge you to completely purge your product hoard and start fresh. It feels good. Trust me. 

8. Mirrors make things look more spacious. Strategically placing mirrors on different walls in a small apartment can make it look twice the size. In our place there are mirrors on all of the closet doors. It gives the illusion of a continuing space and reflects light to brighten the space. 

9. Utilize multi-purpose furniture. Our sofa folds into our bed and our table folds into the wall to free up space. In such a small space you need more out of your furniture than ever before. Everything has to be easily moved and multi-functioning to warrant it's place. Function and beauty should still go hand in hand in small places but function is king. 

10. Keep clutter and unnecessary decoration to a minimum. Decorative objects aren't really an option in 200 square feet. Great art on the walls is a good idea, but keeping the small surfaces you have clear is a necessity. Focusing on great finishes, fixtures, and storage units that are permanent is key to great design in small spaces.  

I am really enjoying incorporating some of these new tactics into my increasingly minimalist lifestyle. It has been an adjustment, but will ultimately save me time and money. Time is our most valuable asset. No amount of money can buy you time so spending the day cleaning your giant house might be better spent exploring a new cafe or museum wouldn't you say? 

Until next time,