If you’re currently using your attic as a catchall for everything from your old Beanie Baby collection to those torrid letters from your sixth-grade pen pal (what were you guys thinking, anyway?), you’re missing out. Homeowners craving some extra space can pass on a pricey addition and invest in a top-floor renovation in the rafters instead. Whether you’re on the prowl for a kid’s playroom, the walk-in closet of your wildest (and weirdest) fantasies, or a man cave with a view, the attic might just be that special ticket. Here’s how to turn this long-forgotten space into the fave new spot in your home.
Replace pull-down ladders with stairs
Converting your hideaway in the rafters into a livable space isn’t without its obstacles. The biggest hurdle is often the stairs … or lack thereof, if your attic is ladder-accessible instead. “This can be the most challenging aspect, since there just might not be enough space to build stairs,” says Kathryn Scottof Kathryn Scott Design Studio. That said, you’d be surprised at what’s possible if you get a little creative.
Tom Cirignano of South Boston, MA, would know: When he and his wife downsized from over 2,700 feet of living area to just 1,100, they quickly found themselves panicking and asking, “Where do we store our stuff?” Fortunately, their new cottage home in Lakeville offered an unused space above the garage. Seeing an opportunity, Cirignano seized it.
“It had a pull-down ladder and a few planks laid in the middle; I had some ideas and went right to work,” he says. “A contractor designed and built an actual stairway.” To avoid sacrificing living space, Cirignano’s contractor turned the stairway 90 degrees halfway up.
“Then I insulated the entire garage and went to work paneling and making storage compartments along both walls, leaving room for a cool man cave in the center,” Cirignano says.“Now, I think it’s the coolest space in the house.”
Create a walk-up closet
If you’ve always dreamed of a walk-in closet/glam room worthy of a Real Housewife, here’s your chance. “Attics easily transform into wonderful walk-in closets,” Scott says. “All you have to do is install clothing rods, shelving, cabinets, and drawers.” Or go further and install semipermanent storage space that looks more polished.
“Just because it’s in an attic doesn’t mean it can’t look good,” says Keith Jajko, marketing manager for Closet Factory. “You can create a significant amount of storage space, add value to the home. Think of them as a twofer—a project that frees up space and unclogs bedroom closets, while adding usable square footage in the attic.”
Elevate your playroom
Dreaming of the day when your living room isn’t teeming with toys? Move your playroom to the top floor, and you’ll never (or almost never) skate across the floor on a Hot Wheels Camaro again. “Attics can become a dream room for your kids,” Scott notes.
Worried it’s too hot up there—or too cold? Solutions abound. “The attic may need to be insulated from extreme weather, but there are plenty of easy-to-install options available that are environmentally safe and reasonably priced,” Scott says. Fiberglass batts, rigid foam, and spray foam all prevent heat loss in the winter and help ameliorate sweltering conditions in the summer. If you have an HVAC system in place, talk with your contractor about extending it to the attic. Or at the very least, small electric baseboard heaters could be the way to go, while window units and portable air conditioners will cool the space down nicely in the summer without costing you a fortune.
From there, go ahead and get creative with decor: Cover the slanted roof walks with chalkboards so the kids can go wild, or add a few beanbag chairs and some comfy throw pillows to make it a cozy nook kids will love. You may not see them for hours at a time. This is the natural order of things. Embrace it!