Tiny House Stairs: Storage Ideas & Inspiration

by Tessa Hobart | LAST UPDATED October 29, 2021

a woman going up yhe stairs with a yoga mat in her arm
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Some people categorize tiny houses as one-floor dwellings, but the truth is that a tiny home can come in several different shapes and sizes. Tiny house builders have specific parameters they need to work in if the house is built off-site.

For instance, a house can’t be too big, or otherwise, it can’t fit the trailer that it’s built on. You might not even be able to transport it to your property safely. As for the tiny house designs built directly on your property, they can be as wide or tall as you want. Of course, if you’re going to go vertical, then you’ll also need to add some stairs to your tiny house plans while making the most of your limited space.

Tiny House Stairs

Tiny house living is all about using all the sq. ft at your disposal, so dedicating an entire section of the room just to the stairs is a bit too wasteful. As such, we’ll go over a few stair designs that can be placed pretty much anywhere and don’t take up much space, as well as staircase ideas that’ll take up a bit more floor space, but they can pull double duty as storage space to make up for that.

Without further ado, our list of the best type of tiny house stairs that you can install are the following:

  • Ladders
  • Spiral Staircase
  • Tansu Stairs
  • Storage Stairs

1. Ladders

When we say ladders, we don’t mean propping one on the outside of the house so that you can enter the second floor through a window. Instead, we mean the sort of ladder that you can find in most attics where you can pull a hanging cord to lower a section of the ceiling that holds a foldable ladder.

These ladders are incredibly convenient for space-saving since they retract into the ceiling when they’re not in use, and when folded up, they don’t take up much space on the upper floor either.

You also have the option of getting a simple bunk bed-style attachable ladder that can be placed through any permanent hole in the second floor. The alternative is placing it on the outside of the house, but that won’t be very convenient.

The problem with both of these types of ladders is that they’re usually more dangerous than a tiny house staircase, and they’re honestly a pain to use every time you need to get to your second floor or your loft space.

A ladder is much steeper than a set of stairs, and it has much narrower footholds. Additionally, going up and down a ladder requires both hands and legs, so carrying something up to the other floor becomes much more difficult. Another thing to note is if you have a dog or cat, they will most likely be confined to the first floor if you use ladder stairs.

Yes, a ladder is the most optimal way of using the limited square feet; however, if your second floor isn’t a storage area, then using the ladder multiple times might not be ideal.

2. Spiral Staircase

a table placed next to a spiral staircase

Spiral staircases are great for tiny spaces because they can simply be placed in the corner of the main room instead of taking up a whole wall all on their own. They’re also extremely easy to add to your tiny house plans since all you need to do is draw a circle where you want them, and the builders can simply cut a hole and install them.

You can also add a handrail for an extra bit of safety, but many people find that they can do without this feature, so we’ll leave the decision up to you.

On the other hand, standard stairs need to be placed at the beginning of the planning stages, and a much larger section of the ceiling will need to be cut off to fit them. Additionally, if you have a loft, you’ll need to be careful that there’s enough room for standard steps since making them too steep will make them difficult to climb.

The only downside of this type of tiny house stairs is that they’re designed to be narrow. On the one hand, this means that there’s as little wasted space as possible, but on the other, this makes it a bit more challenging to climb than the standard set of stairs.

Luckily, this is a very minor issue, and you’ll likely get used to the narrow design. 

3. Tansu Stairs

stairs with storage compartments

Tansu stairs are essentially storage boxes stacked in such a way that they can be used as steps. There are two types of tansu stairs: DIY stairs built from scratch and pre-built drawers placed under a staircase.

When it comes to making stairs from scratch, all you need to do is build tiny bookshelves and place steps on top of them. You don’t necessarily need to place a support board under each step, but we’d recommend not spacing the supports by more than two steps since that might make the staircase less stable.

As for the pre-build drawer type staircase, you’re going to need a few cabinets that increase in size and simply place them under the steps that you’re going to build into the wall. There might not be furniture elements that are quite so conveniently shaped, so you might need to order cabinets of specific dimensions to be made so that they can fit precisely under your stairs.

The end result of building these types of stairs is that you’ll either have drawers or shelves built under your stairs which can be used as storage space. While they take up a lot more space than the tiny house stairs that we covered earlier, they’re much more useful.

These stairs are a great way to make the most out of the limited space in your small house, and it even means that you have a place where you can store your clothes and don’t need to try and find space where you can put a cumbersome full dresser.

4. Storage Stairs

a hallway with stairs

Similar to the tansu stairs, these steps will need to be built into the wall. The majority of the weight will need to be placed on the top of the step itself, rather than the vertical board that connects one step to the other.

This is because the vertical boards this time are drawers that can be pulled out from the stairs. Meaning that while these drawers are also placed under the stairs, you pull them out from the stairs themselves, rather than the side of the staircase like with the previous example on our list.

The major issue that comes from these sorts of stairs is that they can be quite flimsy if they aren’t given enough support, and the drawers can even collapse in that situation. Additionally, the top board on which you step will need to be more durable than the drawer itself, and a flimsy piece of wood may result in your foot going into a drawer and getting stuck.

However, if these stairs are built properly, then you’ll be able to use the space on the side of your stairs since you won’t need to worry about having enough room to be able to open your drawers.

Conclusion

The tiny house movement is all about a minimalist way of life and making do with just the essentials. This means that homeowners need to get creative in how they use the space they have and create a house centered around utility rather than extra space.

We’re confident in saying that any of the tiny house stairs that we went over in our article can help you do just that and will either take up as little space as possible or simply use the space in a meaningful way.

Tessa Hobart
Tessa Hobart moved into her first tiny home (a trailer in her uncle's backyard) when she was 19. Without giving away her age, she now has many years of tiny home experience and is currently designing an A-Frame as a second off grid home. She lives with her husband and enjoys card games and mountain biking.

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