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Ideas for that unused attic

Attic or loft spaces are fun rooms to decorate, with their angled ceilings and unique layout. These same attributes, however, can also prove to be challenging when it comes to furniture placement and hanging art.

The room in the photograph is a light and airy attic bedroom with a small office area. This would be a great space for a student because it provides a study area with lots of natural light and functional storage for books and supplies.

Loft spaces often have lots of large windows but because these rooms are above the main level of a house they can get quite warm during the summer. If you don’t have central air it’s a good idea to install a window air conditioner. Using window treatments that can block out the sun but also allow light into the room is also a good idea. Room-darkening shades/blinds under simple window treatments is a good solution.

You may have varying window sizes in your attic room. Our loft bedroom, for instance, has four windows all of different sizes. As well, each window may have its own special requirements. For instance, the treatment over the built-in desk area needs special attention because of where the bottom of the curtains or blinds will land. You don’t want curtains or blinds in the way of the small work surface. Other windows in the room may allow floor-to-ceiling window treatments. To keep some flow to the room, try to co-ordinate the window treatments by way of colour then have fun with each individual treatment style.

The built-in cabinets and desk are a great way to create a work area. Custom built-ins will allow for optimum space usage and storage. Because loft rooms have angled ceilings, it’s often hard to include a full-size dresser with mirror in the mix because there isn’t a lot of flat wall height. Built-in cabinetry can provide storage solutions to suit your specific space and needs. The attic room in the photograph has dresser drawers recessed right into the wall, utilizing the actual attic space behind the wall. Having these recessed drawers keeps the floor space open but provides lots of storage.

Before you haul furniture up into the space, work out a layout on paper. Be sure to include the height measurements and requirements for all pieces, and you’ll also want to make sure the furniture will fit up the stairwell before you start.

Depending upon the layout of the space, placing large furniture groupings might be a challenge. Again, the angled ceiling and unusual wall space is not conducive to overscaled furniture. You may have to remove the headboard and footboard on the bed to make it fit, for example. Another option is to purchase a platform bed that will work well in the space because of its low visual and physical profile. You may also have to either remove the attached mirror from a dresser or purchase a low-profile cabinet instead, or hang a wall mirror over the dresser. If you have to alter every piece in your current furniture set to make it fit, you might want to use a mix of items that will fit and forgo the matching set.

The centre of the room is where you’re going to have the most ceiling height so you may be able to place the bed in the centre of the room on an angle if you have a tall, four-poster bed. A low-profile dresser or trunk sitting at the foot of the bed can provide storage and/or seating. You have to get creative in attic rooms. Perhaps a teen or young adult would enjoy a hanging bed, suspended from the ceiling. Think outside the box.

Hanging artwork is a bit of a challenge in a loft space because of the limited and often low-height wall space. Placing artwork on a ledge, as in the photograph, is one option but this can take up valuable workspace so choose your pieces carefully. One or two may be all you need. You can also group a collection of paintings or prints on the floor leaning against a low wall. Some attic spaces have ceilings that extend to a very low-profile wall that is about two or three feet. This space is good for storage but can also be used to display art. Don’t overdo it though. A great wall colour will be more effective than a lot of knick-knacks.

About the author


Connie Oliver is an interior designer from Gimli, Manitoba.

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