Un­lock the po­ten­tial of the space un­der your stairs

Look be­low the treads to find ver­sa­tile rooms you never knew you had, writes Robyn Wil­lis

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - FRONT PAGE - More C+C Ar­chi­tec­tural Work­shop, cplusc.com.au; Si­mon An­der­son Ar­chi­tec­ture, si­mo­nan­der­son­ar­chi­tec­ture.com.au; So­phie Solomon De­sign Stu­dio, ss­d­stu­dio.com.au

Harry Pot­ter might have been the best known oc­cu­pant of a space un­der the stairs but, as our homes start to shrink, this long-ne­glected area is fast be­com­ing valu­able real es­tate.

Long seen as a handy op­tion for ad­di­tional stor­age, un­der-stair space has now be­come home to ev­ery­thing from toi­lets, laun­dries and kitchens to study ar­eas and play rooms.

Ar­chi­tect and builder Clin­ton Cole from C+C Ar­chi­tec­tural Work­shop says stairs are be­com­ing rooms in their own right. He re­cently de­signed a play space with draw­ers be­low un­der the stairs.

“The par­ents needed stor­age but I thought the kids needed a break­out space and all these things come to­gether in this space,” he says. “It’s a space of com­plex uses.”

He says us­ing the space un­der the stairs can pro­vide amenity with­out sac­ri­fic­ing a whole room.

“You don’t need an en­tire room to have a break­out space,” he says. “Build­ing costs are go­ing up at an ex­tra­or­di­nary rate so de­sign/in­stall spaces like this will be more and more com­mon.” It can also make sound eco­nomic sense. “It can cost be­tween $25,000 and $30,000 for a big ar­chi­tec­tural stair­case but a stair with a closed in tread and riser for sup­ply costs be­tween $7000 and $8000,” Clin­ton says. “If you add join­ery un­der­neath, it’s about $15,000.”

Room within the room

Ar­chi­tect So­phie Solomon says the best way to ap­proach us­ing the space un­der the stairs ef­fec­tively is to think about the whole room.

“The stairs can be the fo­cal point of the space, the way it links the up­stairs and down­stairs is re­ally im­por­tant,” So­phie says.

“De­sign­ing a beau­ti­ful stair re­ally adds to the living space and takes it beyond be­ing just func­tional.”

So­phie re­cently de­signed join­ery for the spaces be­side and be­low a stair­case with open shelv­ing and draw­ers. The shelv­ing pro­vides the own­ers with an op­por­tu­nity to dis­play their favourite things while the choice of build­ing materials gives it a strong ar­chi­tec­tural feel.

The stairs also func­tion as a lightwell, throw­ing the whole space into the spot­light.

“When the stair be­comes more than stor­age, and it be­comes a fea­ture, it al­lows you to use the stair as a dis­play el­e­ment and it cre­ates some­thing quite dy­namic,” she says. “Us­ing that space is never re­ally an af­ter­thought for us. We are re­ally mak­ing the join­ery work quite hard.”

Best of both worlds

Grad­u­ate ar­chi­tect at Si­mon An­der­son Ar­chi­tec­ture, Alexan­dra Woods, says more peo­ple are see­ing the benefits of us­ing this spare room un­der the stairs.

With good plan­ning, her firm has de­signed ev­ery­thing from laun­dries to pantries in that space.

“It’s now be­com­ing some­where that peo­ple want to showcase,” she says.

“It comes back to want­ing to make the most of the space you have but also mak­ing it beau­ti­ful to look at and func­tional.”

This stair­case by Si­mon An­der­son Ar­chi­tec­ture con­ceals kitchen draw­ers and a walk-in pantry.

Open shelv­ing and draw­ers have made this space de­signed by So­phie Solomon the fo­cal point in this room.

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