How to Create a Cozy Reading Nook Under the Stairs

Under stair shelves with books, ornaments and baskets

Now, this is a story all about how my life got switched, turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I became the owner of some storage under the stairs.

Sorry, a blatant rip-off of Prince of Bel Air there, but my new under stairs storage needed something a little more exciting to introduce it other than, nice shelves in a small area.

When we moved into our old house, we inherited a space under the stairs that needed a bit of love and attention. It was definitely an overlooked space and I knew we could do more with it, from creating a cozy reading nook to using it as extra storage. 

We mainly used it for throwing our shoes under and hanging up our coats so it always looked a little untidy and unkempt and I knew the area would be perfect for under stairs storage!

When we finished our kitchen renovation, we asked our builders to put under stairs storage to hide away all the outdoor paraphernalia and firmly keep a door shut on it. This large cupboard eventually became a bit of a dumping ground and we could never find anything in it!

green velvet sofa in the living room with gallery wall and pink peonies

Fast forward 18 months later and my sofa of dreams was being delivered to much fanfare. The living room and hallway had been tidied and I eagerly awaited its arrival.

So, imagine my huge disappointment when we realized, we couldn’t remove the old and frankly awfully huge and bulky sofa from the room.

How? I asked. We got it in there?! But I soon realized that we had the storage cupboard put in after moving all the furniture into the living room and now couldn’t maneuver it back out.

The delivery men were about to take my new sofa away and I had to say NO! Over my dead body! The sofa stays, we will find a way. The delivery men took my signature and quickly made their escape with my new sofa in the hallway blocking everyone from either coming in or leaving the house.

green velvet sofa in the living room with gallery wall and pink accessories
Our splendid green velvet sofa in its new home

A quick phone call to my husband later, our carpenter friend popped over to our house in the early evening and began to rip out our under-stair storage cupboard. However, we still couldn’t remove the old sofa so the only thing for it was to saw it in half!

Finally, we managed to remove it and the new sofa easily fitted through the doorway and into its new home.

With a hallway full of dust, a sawed-in half sofa on our front drive and coats piled up on the floor, I sat down that night on my comfortable new sofa and set about trying to decide what to do with the new open space in the hallway.

How We Created a Cozy Reading Nook

shelves under the stairs with a reading book and pouffe

With an empty space under the stairs left, I started researching under the stairs storage ideas and tried to figure out what we could do with it. I didn’t want to put the cupboard back in as it became a dumping ground and we could never find anything!

I looked at potentially putting in bespoke cupboards and drawers to make it easier to access, but the cost of doing this put me off. I wanted it to be an area where we could hang our coats and place our shoes, but it had to be pleasing to the eye.

I also wanted the ability to display books and plants to keep the space looking contemporary. So I came up with the idea of adding shelves, hooks, and baskets. 

an empty hallway space under the stairs
After the cupboard was ripped out, we were left with a very sorry-looking space under the stairs
an empty space with cupboards under the stairs
The fuse box cupboard and some hastily put-up hooks

Under the Stair Shelves

We asked our carpenter friend to come back and we hastily drew up a plan for the under stairs storage shelves in our hallway with paper and pencil and ordered all the wood and materials needed to tidy up the area. It took a whole weekend to put up the bespoke shelves due to there being a lot of pipes and holes in the existing wall.

shelves under the stairs
MDF was put up to cover the back wall and shelves were added to start the cozy reading nook and storage area

We were left with an unpainted and empty shelving unit, so the next decision was how to integrate it into the rest of the decor in our home.

I decided to go with white shelves and a wallpapered background to make it more interesting. I had some blue and white geometric wallpaper left over from B&Q from an upcycled project, so I used this.

wallpaper going in between the shelves.
After painting the shelves white, I then wallpapered in between with a geometric pattern
hallway shelves viewed through the door in the kitchen
Our under the stairs shelves coming together in the hallway

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Paint and Decor

We also had a cupboard to the right of the shelves which contained all the fuse boxes, that were painted with black chalkboard paint. I whitewashed the doors and used Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue to match the blue of the wallpaper, finishing the doors off with some new door knobs.

The last job was to find some jute or wicker baskets that would fit on the bottom shelves and would be big enough to contain all our shoes, bags, and winter gear.

Originally, I had planned to put some IKEA wicker baskets along the bottom which I already had, but the gaps were too large and they looked a little odd. I found some baskets from La Redoute that fitted so perfectly, it was like they were made for the space!

under the stairs shelves with baskets and books
The La Redoute baskets fit perfectly in this space and are where we throw all our shoes.

Finally, it was a case of filling the shelves with books, plants, and other items and finding a light shade for the bulb that hung under the staircase and the area was complete.

We had several coat hooks put up to the right of the cupboard and all the shoes and bags were put in the baskets which completed a practical, but contemporary use of our under stairs shelves. I am extremely pleased with the results and actually quite glad of the drama of trying to get our new sofa into the living room!

under the stair shelves with baskets and books
Much better to look at! We then added a large occasional chair to create a cozy reading nook
under the stair shelves with books, ornaments and baskets
I love how the wallpaper makes our under the stairs shelves pop, but still ties in with the rest of our hallway decor

Thanks for sticking around and reading my very long-winded explanation of how we put up some under the stairs shelves! 

Storage is such an important and often overlooked design in our homes, it can help make our lives easier, tidier, and more organized!

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a very small commission if you click through and make a purchase. These links help to pay the editorial costs of writing a blog. For more information, please read my full affiliate disclosure here.

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