Solutions to suit the smallest spaces

Solutions to suit the smallest spaces

If you are planning to build or renovate a small space, stairs are a problem. They take up a lot of space, and their placement is important because the entry and exit points must be kept clean.

Placing them in the wrong place can really affect the usability of your available space. However, stairs have come a long way and there are many options available to help you maximize your space and even add great style and storage to your home.

Jennifer Sheahan outside her renovated 1800s cottage. Photo: Joe McCallion


When thinking of stairs with the smallest footprint, spiral stairs immediately come to mind. For good reason – they take up the smallest possible space, they’re affordable and easy to install, and they (usually) look good. On average, you need just over one square meter of floor space to install a spiral staircase – allow for between 1.2 and 1.5 in practice.

In addition to taking up very little space, they can also be rotated so that the entry and exit points can be positioned wherever best suits, giving you valuable flexibility in how you design the areas immediately surrounding your staircase.

Ornate spiral staircase.
Ornate spiral staircase.

If you’re at all handy, spiral staircases are very simple to install yourself and complete kits are widely available for not much more than €1000 – check out to get started.

Any basic set can easily be upgraded to match your personal style with a little imagination and elbow grease—think metallic paint, linoleum, or even a mix of tile patterns to transform the design.

But nothing in this life is ever perfect, and spiral staircases are no exception.

Their disadvantage is that it is difficult to carry things up and down. Imagine coming home from a long vacation and trying to lug your heavy suitcase up a narrow spiral staircase.

A home office under the floor.
A home office under the floor.

They’re also often too narrow for larger items like beds or wardrobes – you’ll probably need to let them in through an upper window instead. They are not suitable for many mobility impairments and do not offer the opportunity to install things like stair lifts if needed. They are also clearly not ideal for anyone experiencing vertigo!


Floating stairs are those very chic, modern stairs that seem to float in space with nothing below to support them.

They are usually attached to the wall, or may have one narrow spine that holds the entire display together. Floating stairs offer two desirable qualities for the small home owner – they take up very little visual space, and they leave room below to fill as you wish.

Visual space is an important feature; leaving space for light to pass through objects tricks the eye into thinking the object in question takes up much less space than it actually does. And of course, with all that space left underneath, you’re free to put anything you want there – perhaps a small reading nook, a coat rack or bookshelves.

The biggest downside to floating stairs is that they are more expensive than your regular staircase, and may require specialist installation in the form of reinforced wall attachments.

Some people don’t like stairs without risers – it can feel like you could slip right through them, although I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that happening! With floating stairs, an appropriate minimalist handrail is essential to honor the look.


If spiral or floating stairs aren’t your thing, a plain old staircase would be great because you can always build storage into it. Classic, people (including me) put a bit of bottom loose under their stairs, which really is an ideal use of space if I do say so myself. With any remaining space, you can install presses or even drawers to use every available inch.

If I had to add one thing to my home, it would be drawers in my stair risers – the perfect shoe storage solution. Drawers are not difficult to install – just add tracks in the stairs when you build, and the front of the drawer becomes the riser. For a more modern aesthetic, keep the shelves below open to showcase your beautiful shelf styling underneath. Anything can go here, from books to even kitchen presses when space is at a premium.


Okay so I’m not talking about a sliding metal ladder like one you’ll pick up in Woodies, but hear me out – if space is extremely tight or uncomfortable, and mobility isn’t a limitation, a ladder style step can be the last remaining option.

In reality, ladders take up not much less space than a spiral staircase; however, they offer flexibility for many tiny houses – retractable or sliding ladders can be moved to free up space for other things when the stairs are not in use.

Home office downstairs.  Photo: iStock
Home office downstairs. Photo: iStock

Ladders really need two handrails to be useful in a home, and can be a good solution for a small attic or mezzanine space.


If you have a big house and save some cash, please install a slide next to your stairs. I don’t have the space to do this in my own house, so do it for me. have fun Invite me over.



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