Storage under the stairs is the perfect solution when every inch counts, and it can be done seamlessly.

"We were trying to use every square inch of space that we possibly could," says architect Joanna Lombard of her compact yet comfortable Fort Lauderdale home.

Joanna and husband Denis Hector, who is also an architect, worked with her parents, Anne and Rocci Lombard, to do just that.

For example, they tucked the powder room under the stairs and planned a series of partially recessed drawers to make even further use of the space. "If I have a choice between a drawer and a cupboard, I always go for the drawer," says Joanna. "They're much more user-friendly."

During construction, the team designed a cavity under the stairs for the drawers. They laid cherry plywood on top of gypsum drywall, and then Joanna's father built runners for a set of recessed drawers. He rabbeted the edge of the opening to about 1/8 inch and put bumpers in the back of the drawers to prevent slamming.

Next, Rocci crafted the face of the drawers out of oak. Unobtrusive pulls from a local marine shop were selected as the finishing touch. "We even built a few of the drawers low so that the grandchildren can get into them," notes Anne. Videos, music tapes, and children's toys are housed in the bottom drawers, while family photos and holiday items fill the top ones.