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How this family created the perfect kids’ play area using the cupboard under the stairs

Carving out an under-the-stairs nook at this family home in Mira created an extra five square metres of children’s play space – all in just five days

Child entering her play area under the stairs
See how one family made use of existing space to create the perfect play area for their little ones

When the Prexus family, from Denmark, moved into their brand-new home in Mira in Dubailand two years ago, finding clever ways to build in more storage was at the top of the agenda.

“While we loved our new home, the layout and design of the property meant there wasn’t a huge amount of space to stash our belongings. Plus, it lacked a dedicated play room for our daughter Emily,” says Emmett Prexus, a software engineer who has lived in Dubai with his family for five years. “It’s common for houses to have under-the-stairs storage and, although ours was blocked off, I wondered if it would be possible to excavate it.”

Emmett called upon Bjorn Fagerlind, co-owner of Handy Scandy (+971 52 167 5464) who, after assessing the internal structure of the property, confirmed that he was onto something. 

Play area under the stairs with shelf and kitchen
Over just five days, the Prexus family transformed the cosy space

“At first I thought it was a crazy idea,” jokes Bjorn. “But after looking at the CAD drawings, I realised that we could happily go ahead. The process was fairly straightforward: we drew an opening in the wall and used a hi-tech saw with a built-in HEPA filter that sucks up dust as it goes, to start digging it out. The only unknown to the project was what we’d find on the other side. We had predicted that we’d get sufficient usable space, but there was a danger that there’d be something inside blocking the way. When we broke through, however, we were pleasantly surprised by what we found.”

Underneath the stairs was five square metres of floor space, cluttered only by some stacks of breeze blocks, which were easily removed.

“Once the space was cleared, we set about wiring in an electrical socket, tiling the floor, plastering the walls and giving them a lick of paint,” says Bjorn. “It was then ready to be styled as Emmett and his wife Esmée wished. We’ve since had lots of enquiries from homeowners in Mira. The project seems to have sparked a trend for under-the-stairs storage.”

The finishing touch? The walls were painted with the washable Valspar Ultra Interior Paint (to guard against scuffs and marks) in Weathervane for a touch of drama

How to transform space into a child-friendly play area in just five days

Bjorn Fagerlind

Want your very own under-stairs cubby? Handy Scandy’s Bjorn Fagerlind has these top tips

Make a plan

When planning a renovation project, it helps to compile a mini dossier that details what you are hoping to achieve, to hand to your contractor. Pinterest pictures or sketches are always helpful in communicating your vision. 

Check your contractor’s credentials

Before employing a contractor, you should always check out their previous work and whether they’ve carried out any similar projects. It’s important that they have the correct licence to carry out the work – if in doubt, ask to see their trade licence. Any reputable contractor will be happy to show you. This will also confirm that they have the required insurance in the event that anyone is injured on the job. 

Room with a desk and toys for kids

Ensure you have permission

In the planning stages, you’ll need to check with your developer if a No Objection Certificate (NOC) is required. Removing internal walls is usually straightforward, as long as the surrounding area affected is structurally sound.

Check the project plan

This should detail the timeline and payment terms so you know exactly what to expect at every stage. 

Communicate

Start a WhatsApp group between you and your contractor so you can easily stay up to speed on what’s happening, as well as flag and respond to issues quickly and easily. 

Toy shelf which looks like a house
Toy shelf which looks like a house

Nail the flooring

For many residences in Dubai, you can request the details for the exact floor tiles that have been used throughout simply by contacting your developer. It should be mentioned in the homeowner’s handbook. In more established developments, like Arabian Ranches, you may find that the standard tiles used have been discontinued. If this is the case, ask your contractor for advice on finding something similar – RAK Ceramics (rakceramics.com) is your best bet – or simply opt for a different shade for a point of difference. 

Invest in good materials

Further to the above, it’s important to buy the best materials your budget will allow. We have refused to work with materials that are substandard before as it can significantly affect the end result. 

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