Revamping the Understairs Cupboard

Although it might seem strange that we are blogging about renovating our understairs cupboard, it was actually a lot of work.

When we moved in the space was in a dreadful state of repair and included a crumbling lathe and plaster ceiling, a manky old moth-infested carpet, patchy plaster-work throughout and large holes leading in to the kitchen (as a result of some of the dodgy wiring).

The space had been ear-marked for storage and for housing our tumble-drier. We didn’t much fancy being covered in plaster or battling with moths every time we went in there with clean washing. Also, we are injecting a lot of love everywhere else in the house and it wouldn’t feel complete if we didn’t tackle all the spaces.


The ceiling was one of the first things that was tackled when we bought the house. Kate’s Dad pulled it down and replaced it with a plasterboard ceiling. At the same time he created a larger and more sturdy shelf using a bit of old kitchen worktop he had lying around (Dad’s are so useful like that, aren’t they?) and used plasterboard to hide the stairs above shelf.

Understairs Ceiling. Left: Crumbling plaster. Right: A new plasterboard ceiling.

The existing paint was patchy, peeling and a delightful shade of dirty-yellow.

After giving everything a jolly good “Polyfilla”, I got started on a mist coat for the walls using watered down paint. Disaster! The dirty-yellow paint was distemper; consequently, it stuck to the roller as soon as the wet paint touched it and off the wall it came in large patches. We encountered distemper whilst decorating  our master bedroom, so I should have recognised the signs.

All of the walls were sealed using B&Q Plaster Sealer (useful stuff Kate’s Dad introduced us to – you only need a little bit so it goes a long way). After a thin layer of this was applied – hey presto, no more peeling paint! We went for plain white here as it is such a small space and its mostly only us (and now you lot) that will see it.

Paintwork under the stairs. Left: Before, Right: After.
Paintwork under the stairs. Left: Peeling “dirty-yellow” distemper, Right: clean white walls.

We also opted to paint all the woodwork white to match in with the rest of the house and brighten the space. This took ages (Mike started referring to me as “Harriet Potter” as I was spending so much time under the stairs). Firstly, one of the walls is effectively wood paneling so there was lots to paint. Secondly, the wood had been stained a dark colour in the past and so it was sealed using the same plaster sealer that we used on the walls.

We have been using Dulux Primer and Undercoat for wood and then Dulux Light and Space Satinwood on top. Generally it has taken two coats of primer and two of satin to cover our wood work, but in this case the dark stain continued to bleed through (despite the sealing) so it took a lot more coats of paint to get a decent finish. It was worth the effort though, as it feels like a much cleaner and brighter space now.

Wood work under the stairs. Left: Before, Right: After.
Wood work under the stairs. Left: Before, Right: After.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the manky carpet, but we pulled it up when Kate’s Dad ripped down the old ceiling. It turned out to be quite a useful vessel to carry all the old bits of plaster out in! When we put new flooring down in the lounge we extended it into the cupboard so that it all matches.

Under the shelf - a good look at changes to the floor and walls. Left: Before, Right: After
Under the shelf – a good look at changes to the floor and walls. Left: Before, Right: After
Coming up:

We also refurbished the door (separate post coming up in the future).

Still to do:

We still have the odd thing to finish off this project:

  • Box in the gas meter – this will tidy things up a bit and should give us a bit of extra “shelf” space too.
  • Start using it as proper storage for things like the hoover. We still have a lot of tools and decorating bits stored in here which are preventing that (we need a shed)!
View through the door. Left: Before. Right: After
View through the door. Left: Before. Right: After

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