A Bottom-of-the-Stairs Makeover – Shoe Storage

Our house is pretty old. That brings with it a whole lot of charm, and along with that, a whole lot of quirks – including the funny layout (don’t get me started on the lack of a first-floor bathroom!). We have no mudroom, and since we usually enter and exit the house through the sliding glass door onto the back deck, our things tend to, uh, accumulate in a less-than-desirable area.


As lovely as it is to trip over all your shoes as you enter and exit, I desperately wanted some way to bring some organization to the inevitable shoe and jacket proliferation in our breakfast nook. (It got pretty out of hand.) While the breakfast nook itself was a terrible candidate for built-in longer-term storage, another option presented itself Рthe base of the stairs.

An awkward little space, right? I’d already started playing with options here, hence the tape, missing baseboard, and temporary hooks… The door straight ahead (left) leads into the kitchen, not far from the aforementioned shoe proliferation zone, and the opening to the right leads into the living room. It’s a high-traffic zone, so blocking anything off too much was a non-starter. The footprint it left me to work with was about 3′ wide and ideally no more than a foot deep so as not to interfere with foot traffic up and down the stairs, in & out of the kitchen/living room.

I thought a small built-in shoe organizer would be nice, plus an abundance of hooks up top that would accommodate long raincoats and parkas. I sketched out some dimensions on paper (based around measurements I took of husband’s shoes & reasonably priced baskets available at World Market), bought some 1/2″ plywood, and assembled/painted the unit. I didn’t take photos AT ALL of this whole process, but trust me when I say that trying to assemble something with pocket hole screws in those tiny little shoe cubbies is just madness. My 90-degree drill adaptor came in mighty handy, since there was NO WAY the drill & bit were fitting into those tiny spaces otherwise! #facepalm

To attach it to the wall, I used more (longer) pocket hole screws into the studs, surrounded the whole thing with quarter round moulding, and caulked. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! Designing around purchased baskets (instead of the other way around) was a good call.

But I wasn’t done there – I wanted to do something fun with the wall itself, since most of it would be covered with coats anyway, and it’s such a tiny wall. If I did something crazy, it wouldn’t take long at all to paint over it. I remembered that I had an old California Thomas Guide that my parents bought for me when I first started driving – in 2000! Definitely not helpful here in Ohio. I held onto it during the move for no good reason, so I figured maybe I could cover the wall with maps…

This was an easy afternoon project. I calculated the square inches required to figure out how many pages I’d need, ripped out the pages with maps I didn’t think were overly busy/colorful, trimmed everything so each page was all map and no border, and got out a couple tubs of matte Mod Podge. (Pet peeve: calling it “modge podge!!”)

matte mod podge, via Amazon

To adhere the map pages to the wall, I used a foam brush to paint a light coat of the Mod Podge onto the wall, placed the map page where I wanted it, used a squeegee to remove any air bubbles, then applied another layer of the Mod Podge on top. Sometimes they bubbled up again and I needed to go back with a squeegee, but for the most part this wasn’t an issue.

Ah, Carmel…

This process is neither complicated nor difficult, and it went surprisingly quickly. It was kinda fun, too… I wouldn’t recommend trying this on a large wall, but for something as small as our little bottom-of-stairs wall, it was totally manageable.

The before and after makes me smile! We still accumulate shoes in front of the sliding door to the back deck, but at least I have a place to shepherd them every so often so we have only 3-4 pairs of shoes to grab as we head out the door as opposed to the volcano that erupted before, when we had to *gasp!* bring our shoes UPSTAIRS!


  1. The old home gradually bending to your will…
    Love how you repurposed the old Thomas Guide – can’t believe you held on to it all these years.

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