A staircase can often be an afterthought in the design of a small apartment. Many people underestimate the impact that every inch of space has, but it’s crucial to choose your staircase wisely when designing or redeveloping your tiny home.

When you’re living in tight quarters, every walkable surface and empty nook and cranny is prime real estate – so don’t waste them! A staircase can be so much more than a way to get from one floor to another.

If you use space-saving staircase designs and clever tricks, you can maximize your storage and make the most of your small space.

To help you out with this inevitable space dilemma, we’ve put together a list of space-saving staircase ideas for small houses and apartments to help you incorporate stairs into your home without it being too much.

Zoku Loft sliding bookcase stairs

zuku loft retractable space-saving staircase

The retractable staircase is the perfect way to add space to your home.

This was masterfully showcased by Zoku and their award-winning loft apartments located in Amsterdam.

zuku loft retractable space-saving staircase

The apartment features tons of cool tricks but their space-saving staircase design is definitely the star of the show. The stairs that ascend up to the loft can be pushed into the bookshelf storage unit when you need more floor space.

zuku loft retractable space-saving staircasezuku loft retractable space-saving staircase

Easy-peasy, retractable-staircase-squeezy.

Keep the stairs hidden during the day, pull them out to access the loft at night (or when you need a mid-day nap).

Zoku Lofts are available for rent. But with this creative staircase design in mind, you can bring something similar into your own apartment with the help of a skillful interior designer.

Stairway with hidden drawers

stairs with hidden drawers

Jordan Parnass Architecture, the designers of this 500 sq. ft. apartment, were trying to find the best way to get as much storage in a limited space without just throwing everything into stacks and piles on the floor.

And they succeeded.

stairs with hidden drawers

The best example of that lies in the staircase leading to the loft. Since the staircase is pretty narrow, turning that into storage seemed like a good idea. And it was: each stair of hides a built-in drawer that cranks up storage space to the max.

stairs with hidden drawers

Another bit of inspiration you can take away from this idea is the visual balance. The staircase is covered in the same wood paneling as the wall and the loft above. Due to that it effortlessly blends in with the surroundings, nipping the “bulky eyesore stairs” design trope in the bud.

Minimalist floating staircase

floating space-saving staircase

Staircases are often thought of as space-wasters, but they don’t have to be. This floating staircase designed by Haptic Architects helps save space without sacrificing beauty.

As far as looks go, floating stairs are hard to beat. Your guests will immediately make a quick stop at your stairs to admire this eye-catching focal point.

floating space-saving staircase

And these powder-coated space-saving stairs not only look good but also serve to discreetly divide an open space into separate living areas.

floating space-saving staircase

Due to their minimalist design and the way they interact with the storage units running alongside the wall, these floating stairs have managed to become a stunning design feature instead of just a bulky necessity.

Room dividing sunken stairs

sunken room-dividing stairs

If you have a traditional staircase and a tight-fitting space, you want to make sure that it does not waste any square footage. So let’s take a look at this small apartment from n2c Architecture and how they’ve approached the matter of stairs in a small space.

sunken room-dividing stairs

A simple set of stairs leads its way to the sleeping loft above.

But the stairs are, sort of, sunken into the wall separating the entryway from the living room. This way, the staircase doesn’t take any more space than it needs to and allows the room to breathe without cramping it visually.

Contemporary bookcase stairs

space-saving bookcase stairs

Having an alternate tread staircase that doubles as a bookshelf can be the perfect space-saving solution for your apartment.

The main body of the staircase serves both as part of the decor as well as a clever storage solution for small spaces. And, of course, as the means of getting to an upper-level sleeping area.


Stairs normally take up valuable space, but this design from n2c Architecture allows you to utilize every inch of free space in an interesting way. Fill the side of the stairs with decorative boxes, books, knick-knacks, and whatever else you need to find a place for.


Also, the wood entangled with white beams creates a stunning visual that makes this staircase an eye-catching focal point of a small loft apartment. You can even say that it takes an avant-garde approach to showcase something as simple as a set of stairs.

Alternate tread storage staircase

alternate tread storage staircase

A space-saving staircase idea like this one is great for small spaces because it provides a major storage solution while also serving its purpose. The staircase is easily accessible while also acting as a display piece, making it a functional decor element that will be unforgettable to all of your guests.

This straight staircase doesn’t use that much space when you consider that it doubles as a bookcase.

alternate tread storage staircase

The alternating tread style stairs lead to the upper mezzanine area while seamlessly blending in with their surroundings. This was achieved by General Assembly with a simple trick we’ve seen before – matching the paneling of the stairs with the paneling on the walls.

alternate tread storage staircase

And for additional support during the climb, a simple railing has been installed above the stairs. Minimalist in its nature, it doesn’t pull the focus away from the staircase design while also adding an industrial finishing touch to the whole construct.

Compact closet space-saving staircase

b-vds hidden staircase in the closet

This is one of our favorites.

Originally part of the Bradley Van Der Straeten Architects’ design of a large terrace house, these loft stairs can serve as inspiration for small homes as well.

The stairs leading up to the loft are discreetly tucked away in a small corner behind what could be mistaken for closet doors. Running along the wall with an expansive bookcase, the stairs also let you have access to the books on the highest shelves.

b-vds hidden staircase in the closet

Keeping loft steps behind closet doors not just hides them from view, but also gives the loft’s residents some privacy. And these kinds of design ideas are the best for this specific reason – they take a lot of things into consideration while also keeping the precious square footage in mind.

Minimalist loft stair ladder

Minimalist loft stair ladder

Minimalist staircase design ideas are incredibly practical for small spaces. For example, this staircase is very steep, creating a ladder-like effect that takes up little room in your home.

In the photo, you can see how the staircase creates a small nook for stacking wood logs. But in a regular apartment, you can fill the nook with storage boxes that you’d like to keep out of the way. Or you can leave that nook unencumbered and treat it as a room divider that adds more visual structure to an open space.

Either way, if you’ve had enough of loft ladders give this idea ago. It has the same benefits of wasting almost no floor space while looking more refined than a simple ladder.

scandinavian minimalist loft stair ladder

Plus, just because these stairs take up very little space doesn’t mean they don’t have style. The Scandinavian look has been “in” for decades now and creates a calming sense of peaceful coziness in a small home.

Mini-library spiral staircase

mini library spiral staircase

Spiral staircases are popping up everywhere from small homes all the way to hotel lobbies and large office buildings.

This spiral staircase is only slightly curved but it makes up for that with its multipurpose design. Not only does it act as the means to get up to higher floors but it also doubles the storage space in the main room.

mini library spiral staircase

So this spiral staircase is not only a functional stair but it can be used to store books, magazines, and other knick-knacks that can be found in small spaces with no place to go.

mini library spiral staircase

And, to expand on this creative idea, take a look at the design blueprints from 5ft2 Studio Architects. The bookshelves extend into a 3-story library! Bet you didn’t expect to find something like that in a 72m2 (775 sq. ft.) small house.

Kitchen cupboard storage staircase

space-saving staircase kitchen cupboard

If space is at a premium in your home, this unique staircase will be right up your alley.

This space-saving staircase connects a small kitchen to the second floor. The body of the stairs hides a series of shelves that allow for extra space in a tiny kitchen. You can use the additional shelves to store anything, from sets of plates to stand mixers to bottles of wine.

This also highlights the fact that the placement of space-saving staircases matters a lot more than you might think. And in a tiny home with an even tinier kitchen, this staircase-pantry can be a total game-changer.

Chicken wire railing staircase

minimalist floating staircase with chicken wire railing

Everyone knows that with little space come big limitations.

These space-saving stairs take a minimalist, no-nonsense approach to the assigned task. Running along the kitchen wall, they create an illusion of floating stairs and take up little space. In fact, the space underneath them remains usable as showcased by a small dining nook you can see in the photo.

minimalist floating staircase with chicken wire railing

Our favorite detail, however, is the outer railing. Or the way it has been substituted with a white chicken wire.

This amazing design detail adds loads of character to what looks like a simple staircase. From a simple set of stairs to a modern industrial accent piece. Not bad!

Spiral staircases design ideas

Spiral staircases tend to be the most popular choice for small spaces. Frequently found in tiny houses, a spiral staircase takes up very little space (definitely less space than a straight one) and, as a focal point, adds refinement to the room.

But since we’re here, let’s take a look at a more elevated version of a small-space spiral staircase.

space-saving spiral staircase

The staircase from Jo-a is surrounded by steel framework beams that create a dynamic visual whirlwind of white and wood. Thanks to this design approach, the stairs lack the central shaft which opens up the space underneath them.

space-saving spiral staircase

And for extra storage, the small boxes created by each step offer clever spaces for small decorative objects, art, and knick-knacks.

As you can see from this example, even something as classic as a spiral staircase can be transformed into a creative sculptural accent piece.

Hidden spandrel storage cabinets

under stairs storage spandrel

Imagine the most traditional staircase you can think of. The one you’d normally find in a 3-bedroom suburban house. Got it? Good. Not the most space-saving staircase design, is it?

Now try to imagine how much space you could save by using the staircase shown above. With multiple storage drawers and closets hidden inside the spandrel, it’s perfect for small spaces or even shared living spaces.

What’s more, this solution doesn’t waste even an inch of space. The drawers are custom-cut to perfectly fit underneath the stairs to maximize the storage space it’s creating.

The design is simple yet ingenious, making it much easier to incorporate into your plans than you might think.

If you are someone who lives in a small space, this staircase could be the missing piece of furniture for your home.

Final thoughts

No small house or apartment is too small for a set of stairs.

By cleverly choosing space-saving staircases, you can maximize the space in your home and create additional storage at the same time.

All you need is to be innovative and draw inspiration from the examples above.