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Spruce up that old staircase with these clever remodels

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | February 13, 2015

Those stairs take up a lot of space -- it would be nice to reclaim some of it, right? A good remodel of the stairs can give you a fresh new look, extra storage space, and even the equivalent of a small extra room. Best of all, these cheap remodeling ideas won't break the bank, and some of them can be done by a handy homeowner with a weekend or two to spare. Which remodel will you choose for your staircase?

Update the risers

For the ultimate in cheap remodeling ideas, reach for the paint. It costs very little to create a brand-new look for this focal point of your home. One of the coolest tricks is to paint the risers and stairs in complementary colors. You could get crazy and add a third color for the railing. Or why not paint words on each riser, creating a very personal poem? Another option is to change the risers altogether by using new materials. Replace the simple wood with sturdy bead board for a unique country look, or give it a touch of glam with mirrored stick-on decals that can be removed if the mood strikes.

Turn the stairs into bookcases

Do you have so many books that you are stuffing them into boxes in the attic? Pull them out of that dusty hideaway with bookcases built into the stairs. There are two options for this: You can use the space underneath the staircase, or the spaces underneath each step. Assuming that the structure of your staircase allows it, carefully cut through the risers, opening up the area under each stair. Then insert and anchor solid, sturdy boards to serve as the bookshelves. This works well if the staircase has an enclosed space underneath; if the staircase has a more open formation, get in touch with a contractor or home designer to figure out how to make bookcases work.

Drawers add unexpected storage

Speaking of the space underneath each step, why not use it to hide away the things that you don't really have room for elsewhere in the house? Recessed drawers with flat pulls can hide away everything from stacks of paperwork to off-season clothing. Make this project even more affordable by scouting out yard sales, flea markets and thrift stores for old dressers that have the same drawer size as what you will need to slip underneath each stair. Invest in several sets of drawer rollers to make the new storage space slide easily out of hiding. Just as with the bookcases, this works well for staircases that have an enclosed space underneath.

Do homework under the stairs

That empty space under the stairs is a pretty good size -- big enough for an extra room, in fact. By opening up the space underneath the stairs, you can turn the area into a reading nook, complete with a comfortable chair or sofa and plenty of targeted light. Or you could tuck a desk into that new space and create a homework station for the kids. Already have those things and just need a bit more space? Try installing handsome cabinets in the space and use them for storing everything from linens to kitchen supplies.

Turn it into a pet haven

Don't forget about the four-footed creatures that live with you. Why not give them their own special space? Creating a cozy opening underneath the stairs creates the perfect hideaway, complete with a comfy bed and a few favorite toys. This also allows them a "safe" place to go when you have guests. You can even turn it into a special bathroom for your feline friends, hiding litter pans behind a small door that allows for easy access when it's time to do the daily scoop.

Check with a contractor first

Keep in mind that the staircase is an integral part of the home's structure, and might bear some weight from neighboring rooms or floors. Because of this, it's a good idea to get in touch with a contractor before you cut through the walls underneath an enclosed staircase. A contractor can help you figure out how the staircase and surrounding area can be changed to accommodate your clever remodeling ideas.

Photo credit to Kevin Irby

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.