A well-designed building has an energy that is transmitted through its space, the building has a power that is transmitted through its length, whether by vibrations that are audible, such as footsteps or voices that travel across a room, or optical, as in the way a staircase or a doorway presents itself, or physical, like the feel of the floor beneath one’s feet.

A simple ladder modified to a staircase simply meant for going up and coming down across different levels has the effect of a sudden shift into a unique space that is rectangular or circular or even spiralling all the way up, indeed transporting us from one floor to another. Staircases become the protagonist of space through their scale and might, as it is said. 

The informal and formal staircases are centred around people and the way they use them. Every part of the staircase is a separate detail-the steps, treads, landing and railing alongside the dimensions and shape are put together to create a focal point in a building. Smaller-level differentiating steps become the nucleus of public gatherings, wherein the liveliness makes one want to take part. While a beautiful stairway provokes an individual to climb up and experience what it has to offer, it adds to the aesthetics too. Some blend with the surroundings whereas some stand out as a distinctive and defining feature of the whole building.

Staircases and Elevators are functionally meant for vertical mobility, similar to blood streams in the body, says Pitirim Sorokin, about social mobility in a metaphorical sense. 

Architecturally, apart from the purpose of serving as a rigid structure for perpendicular connectivity, staircases are also quite often part of the greater outdoor interaction space or home decor. They are one of the best examples of depicting judicious use of space, enabling multi-use.

Stairs in Public Architecture

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet1
Chand Baori, Stepwell in Rajasthan_©Travel Leisure India

Stepwells were built in drought-prone regions of India to provide water all year round, ensuring communities had access to vital water storage and irrigation systems. These were also gathering spaces for small talk and chat in the villages for women. One can imagine the steps being immersed underwater as the level increases.

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet2
Open Air Theatres with stairs of low height and wide seating_© NID
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet3
IIM Ahmedabad_© Sangath

Double-way staircases and open-air theatres as defining features are commonly used in schools, colleges, universities, etc. These are meeting places that become lively as students fill the stairs, sit, interact, rush to class, chase a friend or simply enjoy the views in silence, spending a good amount of time, thus making the stairs a significant part of their student life on campus, carrying loads of memories back. These spaces also offer continuity of vision which is a feature desired for safety purposes in institutions.

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet4
Plaza seating, National War Memorial, Delhi_© Government of India

Indoor Stairs

The space underneath the stairs in most houses, apartments, public buildings or even schools or offices is mostly used for storing the janitor’s items or for the electricity wiring and boxes. But creativity has facilitated by aesthetically boosting the space’s value and making it useful.

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet5
Colourful solid block stairs as a design element_© Sangath

The images of various usages of staircase spaces can kindle one’s mind to rethink the presumption about it that is mostly not given due regard. Some of these ideas have enhanced the utility and image of the space by adding life to an otherwise dead space. From bathrooms to reading to the lounge area to storage units, they have all been incorporated innovatively within these spaces.

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet6
Bathroom under the stairs and landing_© Design Northwest Architects
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet7
Built-in Bar Cabinet_© Katy Bells Interiors
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet8
Laundry Area_© Wills Company
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet9
Art piece/ Decoration with lighting_© Beyond Beige
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet10
Shoe rack_© Marco Valencia
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet12
Lounge area_© Meadowlark Builders
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet13
Book shelves and mini reading area_© Wade Architects
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet14
Storage unit_© Lynn Donaldson Associates

The use of staircase spaces from the above images is wide-ranging, and the idea of space optimisation is the primary consideration in these cases.

One can notice how an otherwise wasted area is creatively turned around and made to look inviting. Either the space is used by itself or by adding an extra wall that upgrades the space to a cubicle or compartment. However, the advantages of both are that the already strong and stable structure of the staircase is supported by curated designs of one’s choice. 

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet15
Mini Office/Workspace_© Julia Novoa

A quiet and secluded workplace in today’s changing times of increasing work-from-home culture can be bliss for anybody looking forward to focused sessions of work at home. 

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet16
Pet Enclave_© Michaelson Homes

Here is an alternate option for pet lovers with no backyard space for the dream kennel. Cleaning out the area under the stairs and attaching an optional see-through metal door can give your pet the necessary alone time or some extra time to shrug off shyness when there is a new visitor.

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet17
Landscape/Plants © Alejandro Restrepo Montoya
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet18
Ladder-like stairs for a mezzanine floor © Sangath
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet19
Hanging objects © Pedro Sales
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet20
Kindergarten Classroom’s storage cum play area © Taran Wilkhu

Landing spaces 

Landing of stairs after completing halfway through the total flight of steps can be exhausting, especially for senior citizens at home. So, why take a small power-rejuvenating break?

Aside from the above viewpoint, the landing is often an ignored plain area that can be transformed with little additions like a glass window with a view or a plant and picture frame corner or can even include some seating. 

How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet21
Gallery Wall_© Timber Trails Development
Small reading nook_© Jamie Keskin Design
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet23
Throw pillows and painting wall_© Pattirober TSDesignCo
How to use different staircase spaces - Sheet24
Viewing window with sill seating_© Chango & Co

Hence the possibilities have proved to be endless, and any option can be chosen according to one’s needs. Staircases existing already can be modified with add-ons, and the quality of the space can greatly be transformed. Designers thus aim to design experiential flights of ascendence and descendants by expanding the scope of use in pluralistic ways.


Daniel Libeskind (2004). Breaking Ground Adventures in Life and Architecture. John Murray Publishers

ArchDaily. (2022). How to Take Advantage of Stairs for Different Uses? [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/988860/how-to-take-advantage-of-stairs-for-different-uses?ad_campaign=normal-tag.

www.sangath.org. (n.d.). Sangath – Vāstu Shilpā Consultants. [online] Available at: https://www.sangath.org/projects/ [Accessed 25 Jul. 2023].

12 creative ways to use the space under your stairs (no date) HGTV. Available at: https://www.hgtv.com/shows/room-lab/12-creative-ways-to-use-the-space-under-your-stairs-pictures (Accessed: 25 July 2023).

Hueston, M.P. (2023) 17 clever uses for the space under the stairs, Bob Vila. Available at: https://www.bobvila.com/articles/under-stairs-storage/ (Accessed: 25 July 2023).

Interaction at NID (no date) Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/NID_India (Accessed: 25 July 2023).

Jain, A.G. and T. and Jain, A.G. and T. (2022) Step wells in India that you need to visit at least once in your lifetime, Travel and Leisure Asia | India. Available at: https://www.travelandleisureasia.com/in/destinations/india/iconic-step-wells-india/ (Accessed: 25 July 2023). 


Nivedhita is an aspirant, for too many things indeed. She gets bored doing the same routine around the clock and so she takes big leaps or at least hops onto one thing at a time. She spontaneously ventures into new tasks and loves to get through deadlines, alongside juggling with life.