by Rita St. Clair

Home Decor - What to Do With Nooks and Crannies

Stair alcove lacking headroom for closet is perfect for a desk

Romantic or nostalgic settings aren't the only interiors suitable for displaying decorative objects in nooks and crannies. I regularly see recesses that have been carved into traditional or even contemporary-style rooms -- sometimes in quite unexpected places. They may house decorative items, just as in a Victorian interior, or they may have a purely functional purpose.


What do you suggest I do about a storage space below the staircase leading to the second floor of my home? It lacks the headroom to function as a useful closet, but I hate to just fill it with stuff that really should be given away.


One possibility is to convert that space into an indoor garden. This would obviously entail removing the door, and you would probably also have to choose plants that do well with little natural light. Such a decorative option has often proved successful, although it does work best with a dramatically sweeping staircase -- which you don't seem to have. So let's consider a functional alternative.

This photo from "Making Room: Finding Space in Unexpected Places," written by Wendy Jordan, shows a situation similar to what you've described.

You'll find lots of other intriguing ideas in this Taunton Press book that focuses on using or creating nooks in unlikely parts of the home. In this case, a desk wide enough to be functional has been placed under the highest point of the staircase. The recess is tall enough to allow for a light to be installed above the desk. I suspect that your own storage area meets these specs.

Note the clever use of previously unused wall space where the staircase descends. File cabinets or bookshelves do make handy accompaniments to a desk.

An adaptation like this probably wouldn't be appropriate in a formal entrance hall. Even there, however, an architectural alteration of this kind can be effectively integrated by means of a simple camouflage operation. The wall surface in this example contrasts in color and material with the staircase, but it would be preferable in a more elegant setting to cover the wall with wood paneling in the same stain as was given to the staircase. Any doors or cabinetry added to this space should be treated in the same way. Also, latches and other hardware for opening and closing storage compartments should be chosen in accordance with the overall design of the area beneath the staircase. Is it to be decorative? Or is the aim to camouflage what's been done?

Available at

Making Room: Finding Space in Unexpected Places.


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Home Design - What to Do With Nooks and Crannies

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