Last year we moved from a big old Victorian house in Minnesota to a roughly-thousand-square-foot bungalow we rented in our new town of Loveland, Colorado. Downsizing our stuff for the move was an adventure and a delight. Living very comfortably in a smaller house for a year made it clear to us that we didn’t really want to own a large house again, and as we finished up our one-year rental lease and searched for a house to buy, we landed in another bungalow of a similar size.
Downsizing has continued as we’ve come to value space over stuff, and it’s been fun to think about our particular small-house “problems” and find creative solutions for them.
Here’s one that an Internet search didn’t really help me with, so I’m hoping my post – if I tag it right – can help someone else sometime.
Our house, like many of its kind, has a small addition out the back, and the basement stairs are in the middle of this addition. These stairs were originally outdoor cellar stairs, and they are accessed through a trap door. Here is what this looked like when we bought the house:
That gold trim piece outlines the trap door, which when opened makes a gaping hole in the floor of this room (the mud room, that opens into the kitchen through the doorway pictured here, and the back porch through a door opposite.)
The basement, a pleasant surprise in our search of local houses of this era in our town, is a quite useful space – dug deep enough to stand in, with lots of storage space and a spare bedroom. We installed our washing machine in the basement (side note – there is no need for a clothes dryer in this dry Colorado climate!), and our workbench and tools are located in the basement, as well as a bedroom and rec-room area. So we use these basement stairs every day, many times a day, and basically leave the trapdoor open most of the time.
My concern was that small children, or even inattentive adults, could conceivably fall right over this open edge, onto the concrete basement floor below. We enjoy having guests into our home, and I wanted to eliminate this obvious risk.
But in moving furniture to the basement bedroom, we discovered that not having a wall here is very convenient for heaving large or bulky objects down the stairs. So we didn’t want to build a wall, not even a half-wall. We wanted a sturdy barrier but something removable for occasional furniture-moving.
I turned this over and over in my head, perused the Internet, discussed with other people, and the best I could come up with was a pole that would screw into both the floor and the ceiling at the top end of the stairs, with a removable fence or wall of some sort that would connect to the pole on one end and the existing wall on the other.
But then one night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I saw this in my mind’s eye:
Theater seating! Something that could be secured into the floor and easily removable, provide a protective barrier, and not take up too much space. And a bonus – since this is a mud room, you can sit on this particular barrier and put on or take off your shoes as you prepare to leave the house or are returning to it!
We found these seats on Craigslist, hauled them home in the back of our little Saturn wagon (everything comes apart, so we stacked it all in the back of the car), and screwed them into the floor the same day. Astute observers will note that small children of the crawling variety could still fall over the edge under the chairs, but we plan to add some sort of rail along the base of the chairs so this can’t happen. And of course if babies do visit us, a gate across the front of the stairs would be a good plan as well.