Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Cupboard Under the Stairs... Before !!

Don't worry.. this isn't some Halloween themed post about nasties in the understairs cupboard. Although as I'm now looking at the 'before' pictures, maybe I'm not so sure about that.. ;o)
No, what it's really about is getting off my arse [the darker colder autumn days making sitting in front of the telly my favourite pastime] and doing some work on the house.

I have recently been inspired by my favourite blogger Benita Larsson to organise a space I have been just putting up with for too long...
Yes it's the 'cupboard under the stairs'.. which also houses our hot water tank, and the access hatch to our crawl space. We don't have a proper basement..  most West Coast houses don't because of the high water table, but we do have a 4 foot high space which can be used for storage. 

One thing that has already been 'done' is the doors...   I had the much hated bi-fold doors removed and  traditional fully opening ones installed. Not just here but all over the house. The joy of this is that they open 180* flat against the wall, which means that every nook and cranny of the cupboard is completely accessible. I haven't finished painting them yet. The undercoat is done but I still have to do the final coat of CC40 Cloud White.. my favourite white.. I'm a broken record.  
So this is what it looked like before I started...
What a mess..

This space is directly adjacent to the kitchen, and as a result it has to fulfill a lot of functions.
On the floor you can see the big pale blue baskets we use for recycling. In Canada it's traditional to pay a deposit on beverage containers. Then when they're empty you can return them and get the money back.
So the right hand one is for wine and beer bottles, coke cans, OJ and milk cartons, all of which fall into this catagory.
The left one is for glass, cans, and cardboard. They do kerbside collections of these everyweek on bin-man day, or you can take them to the recycling banks.

The big brown box at the back has our fake christmas tree in... but after this year I'm going to find another place for that.
The huge tube, with the flowery cover hanging from the stairs is the working end of the house's built in vacuum, which I hardly ever use, since it's so cumbersome and heavy. I'd never pay to have one installed, but it came with the house and they are popular here so it will be a selling feature when we come to move. To be fair there is a separate tube and nozzle in the garage, which plugs directly into the machine itself.. and that's hugely useful for keeping the cobwebs down. 


There's a cool bag, a broom and my curling stick hanging from a nail on the right.
And the box to the left on the recycling bins, is wrangling a load of brown paper bags and empty boxes that I use for allsorts of things, and the dustbuster of course.. which I use daily.

Here on the left hand side is my beautifully hand crafted [yes that's sarcasm] plastic bag tube.. Don't get me wrong, it's not made of plastic bags.. it's for storing them. 
You can buy them, but why bother when it's basically just a length of fabric, sewn to make a long thin tube and then hemmed top and bottom with elastic. You shove the bags in the top to store them and pull one out of the bottom when you need one. Much easier than the alternatives. I do think I'll sew a new prettier one though for the finished organised cupboard.
Under it.. yes that's just a cardboard box that's being used as a shelf, which I will re-use because it actually works brilliantly. That's my staple gun hanging on a hook... plus there's a plastic rack for storing the tools for the vacuum. That will have to go.. but I'll create a better alternative.

So there you go..that's the 'before'. Not very exciting I know.. but today I cleared it out and was amazed at how much space there actually was..
See! it's huge.  

As you can see there is an enormous amount of under utilised storage space...  I'm sure I can make much better use of.  Of course the location of the hot water tank can't be moved, but there is a pretty big space behind it that I haven't made any use of up 'til now, I'll have to see what I can do about that. The floor is awful.. the same old vinyl that used to be in the laundry & loo when we first moved in. It's really scruffy and marked, and dealing with that might be my biggest challenge, since its stapled to the floor in places. I plan to paint.. maybe even wallpaper.. the side walls. Plus I'm going to paint out the stair treads, and finish the joints between the stringer and drywall with some trim. I also have a special idea for the inside of the door.. but I'll tell you about that once it's done. 

 There are lots of nails and assorted hooks screwed into the stair treads at various points by the previous owner [I assume] that I'll pull out and re organise... We use them a lot especially for extension cables. In this photo you can also see the handy little one touch light I put up on the door frame.
Both these photos show the gap between the stringer and the drywall.. that will get finished off more neatly.
That metal loop that holds the vacuum tube will also get shifted over to a more convenient spot. So that's it.. frankly it's taken me longer to write this post than it did you empty the space and take the photos. Now I'm off to the Home Depot to see if there's any wallpaper I like enough to spend money on..
Obviously I now have to do the actual work, so the results will take a day or two to post so bear with me.
Any suggestions for colour or pattern would be gratefully recieved..

Jo xx


  1. Hi Jo!
    That is quite a space to tackle. I would suggest keeping it simple. There will probably be enough going on with all the stuff that needs to be stored in inside. Maybe use that favorite white of yours, simple containers. Love the totes that you use as your recycle bins. That color with white always looks fresh and clean. I have started on my basement (of doom, as Anna says). Unlike you, I was not brave enough to take before pictures. It was really really bad. Was thinking of taking a mid-progress shot though and posting them.
    Looking forward to your progress pictures.

  2. Hi Jo! Lucky you who`s got a cupboard under the stairs! Wish I had one! It does look huge now that you`ve cleared out everything. If I were you I would paint everything white! I also would build a shelving system next to the hot water tank. Maybe you could build shelves that would go all the way down the wall to the left, just too maximum storage? Maybe something like this:
    Of course I don`t know if those will fit, but just to show you the idea. The space behind the hot water tank would be great for stuff that you only use a couple of times a year. I to have the cupboard next to the kitchen (well it`s the wardrobe in the hallway that I`ve been writing a post on and never posted..) It has to fit so many purposes.. and it takes time to decide which ones are most important.
    BTW guess what happened here last night??? Water leakage! From the apartment on the top floor… In the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom….The water came out from the wall where the glass shelving’s are… I don`t know whether I should cry or laugh…

  3. Thanks for the ideas ladies..
    Monica.. I think I'm going to do the stair treads and all the trim white, like you say..
    And the storage stuff too, shelves and bins and so on.. but I really fancy something jazzy on the walls.
    I used to think like that about the 'before' shots, but now I figure, how will people know how far I've come... I'd love to see your 'during shots' on the basement.
    Siri.. Thanks for the links.. that's sort of what I was thinking too, and I think the space down the back would work well for christmas decorations..
    I've got some of those shallow plastic totes with lids, and at the moment they're at the bottom of a wardrobe. They would stack down there.
    I'm so sorry to hear about the leak.. especially since you've only just finished those shelves.. ;o(
    Was it the home owners fault.. or is your management company at it again..?
    Jo xx

  4. Well the management company is at it again... the managements company’s insurance company is sending a guy over tomorrow to do an evaluation on the damage so I guess it will be on their insurance...All though the leak originated in the apartment on the 4th floor..There was a plumber there this morning and apparently the kitchen had been redone 15-20 years ago and the people who did it had installed a new plastic pipe/drain on an old big metal pipe that really didn`t fit in size, and without any adapter in between... It`s amazing that the pipe has been in place for that many years.. + all though the passage through the drain already was to narrow, old metal pipes and chemicals don`t mix together very well either.. so I guess there has been corrosion in the pipe and it has been sealed off by a clog made up of grease or something...So a heavy blockage/clog have made it almost impossible for water to pass through... so the water has built up over the clog and rotted...I don`t know really… It was a LARGE amount of water that came down from their apartment… I would say the same amount of water you would flush out after you have taken a bath… So I really don`t buy the owners or the plumbers explanation..Anyway.. It`s not easy to explain this in English – but you get the picture.

    The space behind the hot water tank would be perfect for Christmas decorations! Isn`t it great that Benita inspires us so much that we actually get things done`? I mean it`s one thing to get inspired and have ideas, but getting of our arses and going through with the ideas is HUGE!

  5. Be careful about giving Benita so much credit or she will start billing you.. ;0)

  6. Well that's something at least.. The management company's insurance company can argue the toss with the owners of the flat on the 4th floor. Let them sort it out.. at least it won't cost YOU anything..
    Jo xx
    Oh and yes it is great about Benita..
    I really like HER too which helps.
    I read some blogs and the pictures are pretty but I don't like the people.. you know ??

  7. A curling stick! You HAVE turned into a true Canadian.

    I have never heard of a built-in vacuum cleaner. If how I imagine it works is correct, wouldn't you need an awfully long hose??

    It actually looks like you are already utlising the space quite well by using hooks and bins. I imagine wallpaper might be tricky to hang in such a small space with a sloping ceiling, but I definitely say go for it with a bright paint colour.

    Hooray for Benita!

  8. Oh, and Monica: I take embarrassingly bad before shots but just don't let anyone see them til I've got the snazzy final product! In fact, my readers could be mistaken for thinking I don't even have a bathroom.

  9. I know just what you mean about Benita, Jo! - And Bill, maybe we should start billing HER for giving her so much free advertising!? Haha!

  10. Dear me, if you think that is a mess you haven't seen mine. I bought some shelves from Ikea 10 days ago, my husband assembled them and I still haven't found the strenght to charge through that.

    Please share when you finish so I can be inspired.

  11. Jo, youve opened up a kettle of fish here. Ideas abound on what we should do about our own little Harry Potter bedroom under our stairs. I like the door change idea. We suffer with the bifold door that we have to unhook when we remove stuff, especially hockey bags (no curling "sticks" here). We recently painted the floor of the room but of course as luck would have it we had a small leak in there before the paint dried and now it has little footie prints embedded in it. I look forward to seeing how you tackle this and plan on stealing your better ideas. Love your site...

  12. Clara.. I've seen the photos of your house don't forget and I can't believe anything in your home is as scruffy as the inside of my cupboard.. ;o)

    John.. my goodness I confess you were the last person I expected to see here. I'm very pleased though... and thank you so much for the compliment.
    I must say the floor is the thing I'm least looking forward to dealing with.. but we've got some leftover lino from the kitchen so I'm going to have a go with that.
    It's all coming along.. the making good and the painting is done, but there are some finishing touches still to do before I post the results..
    I'll keep you posted
    Jo xx

  13. Hello Jo, I was with the group of ladies from Campbell River who viewed your house today on the Christmas home tour....what a delight as were you! I was the lady in the red jacket. I have just had a moment here before preparing dinner to view a bit of your blog and I can't wait to sit down after dinner and enjoy the rest. Thank you for opening up your home and showing off your talents. Some very great ideas for sure, the rule of simplicity is elegance, rang true with your home. Pat Masters

  14. Thank you so much for kind words Pat..
    I got extra photos today of the Crown Isle house and the one on Buena Vista, tommorrow I'm going to photograph the other two.. so there will be lots more to come..
    I still love that jacket ;o)
    Jo xx


Thanks for letting me know I'm not talking to myself..