Basement outside entrance suggestions?

I have the usual (for New England) outside entrance to my basement with the standard metal lift door. That door had rusted through and let water get into the entryway so the stairs that were there are now mostly rot (I just pulled out the remains, was hoping to get a little bit of useful pine from the upper portion but that turned out to be mostly rot held together by gray paint--anybody need a pile of tinder?)
Now, rather than just stick in some more gray pine/spruce/fir steps, while I'm working on it I'd like to pretty it up a bit and improve the functionality. Before I go too far down that road I figured I'd run it past the wreck and see if anybody had any better ideas than mine.
First issue is the finish on the sides--it's currently rough concrete with some peeling paint of nondescript color. I'm torn between getting the dust hood and diamond blade for my angle-grinder that would let me smooth that out and tile it, or building it out a little with a wood panel finish--I figure I can go an inch or so on either side without compromising function--the door at the bottom is more than an inch smaller on each side.
Next is the space under the steps--as it was that wasn't useful space--only way to get into it to store anything that couldn't be fished out with a boat-hook would be to pull nails out of the steps. I'm debating whether to rig the steps so that they can be moved aside easily or whether to put some drawers underneath (trouble with that is the bottom drawer would have to be about 6 feet long to fill the space). Or perhaps put a piano hinge on the back of each step and put bins under them. Or maybe a combination--drawers with a bin in the front that can be accessed by lifting the step. Anybody found a good solution to this problem?
I'm also thinking about putting some skids down the sides that can be folded up against the wall when not in use. A lot of ladders on warships are set up like that and it's damned handy for hauling stuff up and down.
Next is material--was thinking of ipe both because I like the look of it and because I figure that another leak won't kill it like it did whatever rot-growth-medium had previously been there (I'm a big believer in overkill on repairs--fix the cause but also make the fix able to survive a repeat), and that it will take a beating moving stuff up and down without showing too many scars. Any thoughts on why this is a Really Bad Idea, leaving aside workability considerations?
Any other thoughts?
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
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