This Unexpected Spot Could Be the Best Place to Sneak More Book Storage into Your Home

published Mar 19, 2023
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If you have piles and piles of books or tons of collectibles, then a sturdy set of shelves is a great way to put those favorite items on display. When you’re dealing with limited square footage, though, a freestanding bookshelf might not be a viable option. Built-ins might be the dream, especially if you have an odd-shaped wall, but that kind of bespoke solution can cost a small fortune. Store-bought floating shelves might not work for an area with strange dimensions either, but one renter in Los Angeles, California, came up with a smart solution that has the appearance of a beautiful built-in — but not the price tag — and it takes advantage of a spot in the home that’s often overlooked: the spandrel of (aka the space underneath) a staircase.

Darien Stokes lives in a moody, modern 750-square-foot townhouse in West Hollywood that’s full of charm and character. “The two-story pitched roof with exposed beams, black-painted wood flooring, and stark white walls immediately caught my attention,” Stokes says in his house tour. His own design style — a modern boho mix of organic and collected elements — perfectly complements the original details of the home, and he’s filled it to the brim with books and vintage-looking knickknacks. “I add a new piece to my home almost every week with the intent of photographing it for my online marketplace, ‘Curiosities Shop,’” he says. “And I hold on to some of my most favorite things for a while before offering them for sale.”

Stokes has to be able to display those wares in order to sell them, so it’s no wonder he’s found places high and low to do just that. One of the best ways to display a collection is by installing shelves around his home, but instead of taking up floor space with standing shelving units or bulky bookcases, Stokes instead hung three rows of floating shelves beneath his staircase. 

Placing a trio of shelves in the staircase spandrel is a smart and efficient solution for many reasons. For starters, it provides a way to utilize what could easily become dead space, particularly because this spandrel area is inset, meaning there’s ample depth to work with when it comes to hanging something. Sure, you could just mount art — or try to squeeze in a console or desk, as people sometimes try to in this spot — but the shelves are just right for working the vertical space to add storage for books and objects without adding any obstructions behind the sofa. By painting the shelving the same shade of white as the spandrel, Stokes gave these perches a built-in look that feels custom and offers a neutral base for any style of books and decor. 

If you don’t have a staircase with ample spandrel space in your home, don’t worry. This idea could work on a spandrel that isn’t inset; you’d just have to be mindful of how far your shelves protrude into space for safe flow around the area. An odd-shaped wall could be another opportunity to try this same approach with open shelving. “My goal was to establish a gallery inside my residence where my favorite objects could be displayed,” Stokes says, and he did just that, thanks to this staircase spandrel storage.