Stylish Solutions for Awkward Spaces You’re Not Sure How to Tackle

updated Jul 17, 2020
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Tight corners, the space under your stairs, the tops of cabinets—these awkward spaces are the great equalizers of design. We all deal with some or all of these things in our homes no matter what our budgets look like. Money may certainly give you more decorating options, but sometimes ingenuity is really all it takes to conquer these tricky areas. Here are some ideas to help you tackle your “dead zones”.

(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

Small empty corners? Plants to the rescue

You don’t have to fill every corner of your home (in fact, we recommend you don’t) but corners are an idea spot to bring some greenery to a room. You can try something large like a fiddle leaf fig tree, seen here in a beautiful Chicago loft, or try a grouping of smaller plants of different heights to create visual interest. which can be kinda finicky to care for but sure brings a lot of life to a space. Planters on stands work particularly well in tight living room corners to offset the height of pieces like consoles and sofas.

(Image credit: Paper & Stitch)

And don’t forget your entryway either. Just look at what Brittni Mehlhoff from Paper & Stitch did in her foyer. The white planter really pops against the dark walls and high contrast aqua door.

(Image credit: Fresh Home)

Take advantage of the space above cabinets

Want a cheap and fast solution? Keep a collection up there, whether it be kitchen related or not. I have cookbooks on one bank of cabinets and a vintage globe set on the other. Not going to lie to you—cleaning up there is a pain in the you know what, and I should probably be dusting up there more often. But the small space dweller in me loves reclaiming those precious inches. I’ve also seen a wine rack (like the built-in one above from a kitchen featured on Alvhem via Fresh Home), storage bins, pottery, artwork and more. The sky’s kind of the limit as long as what you put up there fills the gap nicely.

An under-the-stairs nook

Talk about a waste of space: I can’t stand when I see a staircase just eating into useable square footage. This is a problem most two-story homes have, and typically the solution requires construction. A small workspace like in this beach house by Built Custom Homes is a great idea, especially if you need a place for paying bills, keeping a family calendar and answering some emails. The one is built-in, but you can easily recreate this sans remodeling by either adding a pre-made desk, or getting a piece of wood cut to size and setting it atop rolling drawers.

(Image credit: Mocha)

Here’s another idea for using this small, but valuable space. Again, this would likely take a contractor or a carpenter, but you could also use the space under your stairs for extra pantry cabinets, off-season storage or an actual walk in closet as seen in this amazing setup seen on Alvhem via Mocha.

Space along a stairway

People have definitely gone full mudroom under the stairs, too, but for something a little more budget friendly, you could just add a bench off to the side of your staircase landing. This one from the Rachel Reider Interiors is built-in, but a simple backless rectangular bench would work here as well. It’d be a convenient place to put on shoes, drop bags or sort the mail.

(Image credit: Project Nursery)

Behind doors

The space behind a door is a bit of a conundrum, since you need clearance to open and close said door freely. But there are ways to work your walls here with super shallow shelving units. Children’s bookshelves seem to be a popular example of this technique (seen here in a room from Project Nursery), which makes sense, considering how many books kids have and how thin they are. Craft rooms are another place where shelving like this pops up. Get the look by adding narrow strips of wood or picture ledges + dowels (to prevent the books from toppling over).

(Image credit: Refinery29)

You can also store jewelry and other accessories on wall mounted hooks here, too (or install little platforms like the ones in this photo from Refinery29). Or really anything that’s relatively slim in profile—ironing boards, folding chairs, a surfboard or skateboard deck. A hanging yoga mat? I’m reaching a bit, but you get the idea.

(Image credit: HGTV)

Unused alcove

You know what works great for a weird little nook? Open shelving. Just go to the home center and have a planks of wood cut to the dimensions of whatever opening you’re trying to fill. Paint or stain the wood for a more finished look. And for a “Fixer Upper” look (if that’s your thing), you can always add a little shiplap to the back wall a la Joanna Gaines (like she did here in this nook found on HGTV).

(Image credit: HGTV)

If your niche is deep enough, adding a desktop here is also an option (like previously mentioned). But I think my all-time favorite nook solution is a bar. This one from Kelly Green Interiors looks professionally designed (because it is), but you don’t have to have a sink and wine rack to pull this off, I promise. All it takes is a nice collection of liquor and a table top (bonus points if it’s a counter that’s flush to the walls).

So go show your awkward spaces some love. And let us know if you’ve MacGyvered something special in one of your home’s problem areas.