No matter how well a home is designed, there always seems to be dead space that just isn’t useful in the traditional sense. So you have to look at it from another angle, change the way you think about the space and allow your imagination to run a little bit wild (within reason, of course).
Our home is not what you would call new, yet it’s not quite vintage, but it still has a certain charm left over from the decade when it was built: the ’70s. That is to say, when we moved in there was a lot of fake wood paneling covering the walls and even some orange shag carpet left over in a hall closet. It wasn’t short on nostalgia, but it was short on storage and architectural features.
What we did get was a small closet built under the stairs in the den. It was small, cramped, and dark and with only a little bit of floor space and one shelf, it wasn’t very useful.
This is where I had to think of the space in a different way, to use the space in a more useful and functional way. I realized the space wasn’t supposed to be a closet; it was supposed to be a workspace, a place for my computer to do paperwork and pay bills that wasn’t tucked away in another room away from the family. Albeit a small workspace, but with a little imagination, a big hammer and a few other power tools, it quickly turned into a space everybody uses.
If you don’t need a desk space for your home, there’s plenty of other things you can do with the space available under the stairs.
First, I gutted the closet, removing the shelves, the door and the door casing. I removed all of the old drywall, carpeting and any trim work, taking the space down to the wood studs. Next, I framed in the new opening, which was a few inches wider than the original door, which really opened up the space. I used a pre-made casing kit that I bought at my favorite home improvement store. Next, I ran electricity into the closet, because there was no power source in the space to begin with. This way, I could plug in my computer and a small desk lamp when the job was completed.
I then paneled the inside of the space with bead board, which fit well with the remodel of the rest of the room. I used the pre-painted bead board, because unless you are using some sort of electric spray gun to paint, bead board is a pain to paint by hand. But I like the way a simple piece of bead board can customize and bring out the personality of the space. Of course, I could just have used drywall, but that would have been a little too plain for the space, in my opinion. I trimmed out the space, adding a 6” wide baseboard to match the rest of the room, and then sealed any gaps with white painter’s caulk.
The last part of the project was to build the desk surface. For this, I actually just used the old door that I had removed from the closet. I ripped it down on the table saw and cut it to fit the space. Using some baseboard material, I nailed a base at a comfortable desk height inside of the space, being sure to level it, and then placed the desktop I had cut into the space. I cut a hole in the back corner of the desktop using a 2” hole saw so I could pass the wires from anything on the desk down to the wall outlet that I had installed. I then painted the inside of the space as well as the trim work, desktop and casing.
It was actually quite an easy project, only taking a weekend to complete and only costing around $100. Of course, I had some of the supplies from other projects, such as the caulk and paint, but overall, it made for a good project that added some depth and character to the space and to the room. It is also a great place to use the computer and still interact with the rest of the family.