If your house has more than one floor, chances are good that there is a lot of wasted space above and below your stairs that is just crying out to be filled with stuff. Shelves underneath the stairs are easy, and something that I added when we first moved in. But after years of climbing up and down the steps and staring at all of that empty white space up there, I finally had to do something with it, so as a side project to my current family room remodel, I’ve conjured up an entirely new room right off the kitchen that I’m calling a butler’s pantry.
The floor is a piece of 3/4″ plywood made just a bit beefier with some 1x4s, connected with some heavy duty hinges to a 2×4 attached to the wall with lag screws into the studs. It rests on a matching 2×4 on the opposite wall, and I cut a notch out of the wood to allow room for the handrail. This was designed to hold a single person, but we’ve already tested it with two adults (300+ pounds) and it had no trouble holding us.
Once the floor is in place, you can assemble whatever kind of shelves or hanging storage containers you like. I used 3/4″ pine boards that will easily hold 50-100 pounds on each shelf. Add a few hooks to the underside of the shelves and you have a place to hang pots and pans, or dry herbs from your herb garden. Mmmm… smell the rosemary. For just a couple hundred bucks in lumber and hardware, maybe you should add a new pantry to your house too? Eat your heart out Pinterest!
[Update: 3/11/18] I added a couple of recent shots to show the current state of the pantry.
[Update: 12/28/22] Added a close-up of the hinges.
Looks great, excellent idea!
Very nice Jerry, impressive use of space.
I have the same empty space and have been looking on line, trying to figure out how to use it. This is perfect! My house is 480 sq. ft. and need all the storage I can get. Nice job!
Exactly what I would like to do to my stairway!!! Perfect place for a pantry to hold dry goods, canned goods, pots pans !!! Free up kitchen cabinet space!
How does the door get up and down ? And how much does it weigh ?
Pam, we lift it manually and it probably only weighs 15-20 pounds – it’s not a full sheet of plywood.
This is what I’ve been trying to figure out for
26 years this spot in our house has been stumping
Me. Thank you!!!!!!
What did you use to hang the shelves?
The shelves on the back wall are just sitting on screws that I put into the studs on all three sides.
The hatch door over our steps was perfect until we tried to put the hinges on. The door wouldn’t open and we would have to shorten the door, try it again and still no good? Any rules of thumb when binging it?
There’s an old carpenter’s saying – measure twice, cut once. 🙂 The part that required some trial and error for me was notching the board around the handrail.
How wide is your stair case? Wall to wall width.
It’s about 38″ wide. Why?
Just wondering if it would work for ours. It is 37.5″. So I guess it would. Love the idea. Thanks
You can make it any size you need by cutting the plywood the right size. It took me a couple of times dry-fitting it to get it right, especially the notch around the handrail.
This is brilliant! Hope I can get my husband to agree that this is exactly what we should do!
Glad you like it!
Very cool idea, and it turned out so nice! One thing that would I would add is a sheet of vinyl or lightweight laminate flooring over the plywood to help keep it clean and make it look even more finished.
Yep, not a bad idea.
How much weight do you think that floor could handle? I want my husband to do this because I feel like we could fall down the stairs when walking in w/our crazy dog . My plan would be to have it down all the time unless we needed to go in the basement do you feel that could work?
If you use 3/4″ plywood, like I did, it will hold a lot of weight. We’ve had about 350 pounds on ours (two adults), but I bet it could hold a lot more.
Do you or could you please take a pic of the plywood in the up position? Would like to see how it looks when not in use.
There is a photo on this page already.
How do you pull the floor up? I don’t see any handles or a strap or rope. Do you hook something into the hole that cut out to clear the railing?
I left a gap between the plywood and the top of the first step so I could reach in there and lift it up. Maybe I should include a video of us using it? 🙂
That would be awesome. I think a video would help with some of the fine detail things. I have a lot of free time it looks like in the next coming months and think this would be a great time to have a little more room for dry storage.
I might be able to put together a quick video…
Now I’m thinking of doing the opposite. I have stairs going UP… but nothing/empty below. I could rig a hatch at the landing; open it up and establish stairs going down;… into the…”don’t open the door and go down there” scenario. 🙂
I’d like to see that when you get it done. 🙂
This is awesome I just did this in my stairwell as well. Nicely done!!!!!
Thanks! Glad you liked it.
This is such a wonderful idea. Will you come to my house and build it for me?
I probably don’t have time for another project, but thanks for the offer. 🙂
This is brilliant!
A couple of years use! You are so neat and tidy. Excellent result.
Thank you for the inspiration! We built this floor above our basement stairs to create a space for our cats to eat away from the dogs. I think we may even put in some pantry shelves/cabinets as well. Thanks again for the perfect solution!
Glad you like it, Jess!
Perfect idea for home security for my staircase to the second story
Doing this just encouraged more hoarding of stuff not needed or used. It’s a great thought if the person is not prone to hoard stuff just because it’s a neat idea. I have a neighbor that did just that.
Very neat idea and the exact solution I was looking for. We have a small home that is chronically short of storage space and I don’t have a pantry. I do a lot of home cooking and gardening and I would love to have a spot to put cans and jars and boxes. I could line the upper area with narrow shelves just for cans and jars. The access to our attic is also in the worst spot in this stairway so there is no place to put a ladder to get up to it. That would solve that problem as well although we don’t ever go up into the attic for anything but maintenance.
Thanks, Natalie. Glad you like it. That is pretty crazy that they put the attic access in a stairwell!
I did it! Thanks again for the inspiration! https://wordpress.com/post/tumbleweedstumbling.wordpress.com/9644
Great job, Natalie. It looks great! You have a lot of storage space in there!
This is genius! Even my project-shy carpenter husband is eager to do this. Thank you!!
Thanks, Diann. Glad you like the idea. Good luck with your project!
How wide are the shelves?
Are you asking how wide the stairwell is? It’s about 3 feet.
Very Cool. I just did something similar. The back wall of the stairwell faced a landing between the kitchen and the living room, so I knocked out the wall and built a short platform for our refrigerator. It leaves just enough head room so
don’t have to duck going down the stairs. There was a little space to the left side of the stairs so I fit narrow shelves for my wifes massive tea collection. We’ve got a braided rope attached so it’s easier to lift the trapdoor. It’s so satisfying reclaiming the unused space. Thanks for posting your project.
My husband and I love this idea, we’re planning to work it out this week! One question though, the lag bolts and 2×4’s, are they attached just to the studs in your wall? We have some joists that we’d like to use but the position of them isn’t ideal.
Op, just reread your description, never mind! 🙂
I Just have to thank you so much! I have had this idea for 20 years just couldn’t figure out how to get a floor to get over to the other end! I am not done yet but the platform is built at the end (my usable space allowing for head room is about 3 x 4. My area seems longer than yours at almost 12ft so I will have lots of sotrage. I was excited to move our AC unit downstairs so I could gain that closet but this is over the top excitment! I can regain valiable counter space. We are putting a counter top on the back wall and several upper shelves. Installing electric and an overhead LED shop light. I also plan a shelf all around the top like you did and at least one more under that. Hoping to add storage for a pot rack. This is also going to clear out some kitchen cabinets! Bless you for putting this info up!!!
I can’t thank you enough for this idea! I have the same exact space and one day I was looking at all that empty unused space in my tiny home, so I googled empty space over the stairs and your design was the first thing I saw! You’re a genius. But I wonder if anyone can put up a video of doing something like this? I’m a new DIYer so some extra instructions would help! Oh and I just noticed that you posted this seven years ago. Never take this down! You never know who will find it helpful.
This is an old idea, nice to see it put to use in a modern home! I was part of a group who restored a 1910 ranch house and it had this. There were shelves along the walls and the floor lifted up to get into the basement. Very nice, the pictures would not load, but very nice idea.
Very cool, Charlene. I didn’t know the idea had been around that long.
The photos have disappeared. Any idea how to fix it? Thanks.
Thanks for letting me know. This is a problem with the SSL certificate. I’ll see if I can fix it.
What a genius idea! Did you ever get your video up? If so, where can I find it? Do you see any problem with using this idea with attic stairs? I have permanent stairs, five foot wide going to the attic. The house was built in 1917 with high ceilings, including the attic space; and the stairs were added around 1980. There needs to be more storage as closets, pantry, etc. are small, so I love this idea. And I hate wasted space, which around the stairs there’s plenty of. Thanks for posting and leaving it up!
I was wondering about how deep the indent on the far wall is. I have a closet on the other side of that wall and was looking to extend part of it into the stairwell. Not sure how deep I can make it. Did do the plywood drop down after the indent or is it easier to do it before?
Not sure what you mean by extending the closet, but in my case, the plywood floorboard folds down underneath it, so it’s not an issue.
I would like to know how that sheet of wood is holding up, being used as flooring? I’m buying a house that was built in 1955 and it has a cabinet above the stairway, to the basement, however, there’s no sheet of wood. I see in your picture, that you have a strip of wood on the wall holding up 1 side of the sheet, but not on the other wall (across from it) for support. I was trying to find videos on how this is done, but I haven’t found any ):
I not only would like to have this figured out also, for the safety of others (prevent accident of falling down the stairs) because there’s no door at the top of the stairs ):
Lori, it may not be easy to see in the photos, but there are two 2x4s on the walls (both left and right) supporting the floor when it’s down. The plywood is hinged to the 2×4 on the left, and the one on the right is painted white so it’s a little harder to see.
We are planning on building this for our stairwell. You said the plywood weighs about 15-20lbs. How long is your plywood? I seen it’s just over 3 feet wide.
It is about 6 ft long.
Any tips on installing the hinges????
I can provide a better photo of the hinges so you can see how I did it.