By Helen Stone
The wedge-shaped space under the stairs can be many things from cloakroom to broom cupboard to chaotic dumping ground. However, with the demand for a well-stocked pantry on the rise, this is also a prime candidate for an accessible food store. Let the coats to go hang someplace else.
- Have more space for storage? See more of our pantry ideas
It’s important to take into account what essential services may be located here, such as an electricity meter or the mains water stopcock. These need to remain accessible so any storage solutions will have to work around them.
Consider also how any doors and drawers may impinge on the flow of traffic in the hallway, especially a narrow one. Bespoke solutions will always offer the best solution from making the most of every inch of awkward space to creating smart doors that fitted to the millimeter.
Ideally the pantry would be near the kitchen but it’s not such an issue when used for bulk storage; ingredients in regular use should be kept in the kitchen.
A super-effective solution is where the original hallway has been opened up, allowing the kitchen to flow into this space. The odd-shaped cavity under the stairs can then become a row of pantry cupboards or pull-out larder units, putting all ingredients close to hand.
Find inspiration in these beautiful under-stairs solutions.
1. Build a breakfast station
If the staircase is set away from the main hub of the kitchen, consider how to use the space to your advantage. Here, a dedicated breakfast point and drinks station away from the main cooking zone allows guests and children to safely help themselves. And there is still plenty of room for additional pantry storage too.
Photography / Darren Chung for Martin Moore kitchens
2. Put in pull-outs
Pull-out larder units make a brilliantly accessible solution in an open plan layout. Designer Lisa Robazza created this clever run of pantry units for a client moving into a smaller home.
‘The staircase is often the focal point in an open plan room so it's important that anything you do here looks good. These units are fronted with smart paneled doors; always use a good bespoke joiner to get that precise fit in such an odd-shaped space,’ advises Lisa.
Photography / Dave Remple for Lisa Robazza Design
3. Use the height
Depending on which way your stairs run, you may find that you are facing into the void from the kitchen.
For practicality, it’s a good idea to retain access to the lower portion from the side but the tallest portion can provide surprisingly generous pantry storage. Use the full height, adding a library ladder to reach the upper shelves.
Photography / Paul Craig for Humphrey Munson kitchens
4. Store your wine collection
Depending on what you have to store, you may take the pantry solution a step further with a specialist project such as a wine room.
Fitted out with tailor-made racks and glass doors to give some control over temperature and humidity, ambient lighting can add to the impressive vista.
Photography / Tom Howley, Devine collection kitchens
5. Step it up
This open-plan apartment by Simon Whitehead Architects has a central staircase providing pantry storage to the kitchen backed by a media centre facing the adjoining living room. The kitchen and cabinetry is by Roundhouse and includes a moveable island making this a flexible space for entertaining.
Photography / Billy Bolton for Roundhouse Design
6. Go open plan
Opening up the downstairs layout to enlarge the kitchen offers a great opportunity to create a really hard-working hub beneath the stairs.
Here there is space for an American-style fridge-freezer with ample store cupboards all round, and all within handy reach of an island.
Photography / @82mmphotography for Blakes London
7. Surprise with a color pop
Just because it’s functional doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish too. Clad the interior for a neat finish and to create sound and even surfaces for shelves and cabinetry. Choosing a bold color for the interior gives a wonderful element of surprise that will make the store a joy to use.
Photography / Plain English in collaboration with Rita Konig
8. Add glazed doors
The particular architecture of your home will be a big decider in how much usable space you can eek from the under stair area but, where you can, consider extending it to give a more generous space to boost storage and accessibility.
Using glazed doors will let in much-needed extra light. And, if it opens directly onto the kitchen, better integrate your pantry with the rest of the room.
Photography / deVOL, Classic English kitchens
9. Go deep
A larger property with a staircase of grander proportions will provide more useable space. Bespoke furniture creates a perfect fit in awkward corners and this store is fitted with cabinetry to match the kitchen and is very much on view.
‘We like to celebrate the simplicity and beauty of a walk-in pantry with glazed screens or, where space is lacking, a half-glazed Georgian door will do perfectly well,’ says Peter Humphrey, Design Director of Humphrey Munson. Bright, light and with gorgeous Georgian styling, this ticks all the boxes for a dream pantry.
Photography / Paul Craig for Humphrey Munson
10. Quick drawer
Making the most of the space and accessibility are key factors, especially in smaller spaces. The benefit of drawers over doors is that you can store more and easily see and reach everything.
Convert the entire space or combine with a traditional tall cupboard or cloakroom where space allows.
Photography / Clever Closet, under-stair solutions
How much usable space is enough?
If you're wondering how much usable space is enough for an under the stairs pantry, experts say there are two things to consider.
‘Head height and wall space are the two most pressing considerations for an under stairs pantry,’ says Peter Humphrey, Design Director of Humphrey Munson.
‘If you want some form of prep space, it will have to be in the area with the maximum head height so position the doorway accordingly.’
Which fittings make the best use of space?
Open shelving, cubby holes, bins on castors and racks on the inside of doors are all fittings that will make the best use of space.
Likewise, pull out pantry units are great for accessing all stored items, including those right at the back, but you will need to front such towers with bespoke doors.
Bespoke cabinetry will give the smartest finish, not just for making the most of space but also for creating drawers, shelves and compartments tailored to the specific things your household likes to store.
‘Angled cabinets have to be correct to the millimetre otherwise they look off,’ advises Sofia Bune Strandh, CEO at Sola Kitchens.
‘If it’s a renovation, we usually wait until the space is completely finished, plastered and painted so that we can get the measurements spot on.’
Does a pantry need ventilation?
If you're asking yourself if your pantry needs ventilation, the answer is both yes and no.
Just being in a dry, cool, dark space will usually be enough for jar storage, sealed bags and hardy fresh fruit and veg such as potatoes, onions and apples when stored appropriately.
Insulating the space will keep it cooler but you do need air to circulate. If next to an external wall, consider adding a small mesh-covered window or an airbrick; you could also add a ducted ventilator fan such as you would have in a bathroom. Have it wired to come on with the light through a single switch.
But avoid installing cooling appliances in a pantry as they emit a lot of heat. In a larger pantry, a small air conditioning unit can be used to circulate air and chill stone work surfaces for easy cooling of hot dishes and to create cold zone for working with pastry.
What other services do you need?
So, what other services do you need in a pantry? Decent lighting is a must and needs to be considered at the start or the project before any fitted furniture is installed.
‘It’s not a well-lit area so you need bright task light to get good visibility throughout,’ says Jane Powell, designer at Roundhouse.
‘In a pantry on show, gentle illumination from dimmable LED spotlights integrated into open shelving is a great way to bring that space to life,’ adds Peter Humphrey.
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