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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Attic Renovation

Attic Renovation

well now, that was exciting

I'm not going to lie. I feel a little bit overwhelmed. The super kind comments and the enthusiasm have been a lot of fun. E was pretty tickled to read some of them last night - she really enjoyed the one that said all sleepovers are at E's house! It's fun to live in a room that everyone wants to hang out in. The overwhelming part was my email inbox - hundreds of comments and questions and stories, etc. It's fun to hear about everyone's renovation successes (and stresses) because we've been there, and still are there.
Late last night I thought it might make more sense to just post a little more information on the room, and touch on some of those questions about sources and process that I've been getting. This might not be an exhaustive post, but hopefully it will answer most of your questions. And the blog has stories scattered throughout it about the renovation work we've done on that floor - but I know it's not always the easiest thing to navigate through almost 1400 posts. The rehab slide shows will give you an overview (and show you just how gross the house was when we bought it), but I like to think of this house as having two stages. The first stage was making it habitable with as much sweat equity and as little money as possible. Now we're in stage two - working our way back down through the house, slowly adding pieces and parts, paint and furniture. We've got a long way to go - and I'm still dreaming of a modest kitchen and studio addition, and one day an alley garage / workshop - but for now it's a happy home, a sometimes messy and unfinished home, but a happy one for sure.
My husband and I did the majority of the work in this room with the exception of the rough electrical and mechanical, and the custom millwork - although we did install that. The mantel was original to the house, although not in this location. It came from a second floor room. The center 4x4 tiles were painted by me (while my mom watched, and even helped) and I painted them while I was pregnant with E. The store where I painted them, and many other things, has sadly gone out of business.
It's a scene from The Little Prince and I have several quotes from the book scattered around the tiles, and I signed it love, mom. The glass tiles were special ordered in that color combination from a local tile shop. Tile brand is Bisazza.

The three piece, 9" high baseboard trim was milled locally by Gravois Planing Mill, and we're lucky that they have these knives and stock this trim (it's pretty common in our neighborhood) so we don't have to pay a set up fee when we want to get some more milled. We salvaged a good portion of the trim in the house, but the attic never had fancy-pants trim, so that's all new trim with the same profile. Same goes for the door and window casings and rosettes and the much used picture rail.
The cable lights are from Tech Lighting, and we ordered them locally through Metro Lighting. I love how they look in the room, and the fact that I can light the whole front wall and the two side walls by repositioning the fixtures and there's only one junction box with the transformer at the ceiling. The last thing we wanted to do was cut a ton of holes in the ceiling, and I really like lots of lighting options in rooms. To me, flexible and abundant lighting is one of the best things you can invest in for a room - it makes the room so nice to be in no matter what time of day or night, or what sort of activity level you are going for.
Speaking of ceilings - that's probably one of the best features of the room. Here's the short version to the most popular question I got yesterday - How do you keep the attic cool??? The original attic had no insulation - just masonry walls (three wythes of brick) with no plaster, and wood roof joists with a flat roof above. By flat I mean not really flat - it drains to the back of the house, but at a very low slope. So the ceilings also slope from the front mansard to the back. Several problems with inhabiting these spaces. First, you have to insulate them, and they were never designed to be insulated / vented. The roof joists are big enough to carry the load of the roof, but not the additional load of a hanging system and drywall or plaster. And even if they could carry the weight of a new ceiling - any insulation stuffed into the spaces between the new ceiling and the old rafters would need to be vented. That meant installing a vent at each joist bay along the side walls (through the brick) or dropping the ceiling low enough to allow insulation to be added, plus an additional 2" of airspace minimum between the top of the insulation and the bottom of the roof rafters. We hated the idea of losing the charm of the ceiling, as well as the height, so we bit the bullet and used Icynene spray foam insulation installed by the pros.

It doesn't require venting and so it could be applied to the underside of the roof sheathing, and covered right up. We did that by installing brackets along each side of the existing roof joist and hanging beadboard plywood between them. Then we covered the unattractive 2x6ish joist with Fypon beam covers. That was an expensive undertaking - but those things are worth every penny in my opinion - way lighter and not much more expensive than having custom wood ones made. They really make the room. The beadboard is painted a light blue, and the rest of the trim is white. And I'm so sorry, but I can't find the name of the paint colors. They are Behr, and it's been awhile since we did them. We now use Sherwin Williams Duration line of paint, and when the white paint needs repainting in here (heaven help us!) we'll switch over to their bright white. There are very few regular walls in this room, and those have a very subtle wide stripe to them. It's the same blue as the ceiling - and they alternate between a flat finish and a satin finish. You really just catch the difference in the light.

The floors are Brazilian cherry and I'm sorry that I don't remember the manufacturer. They've held up very well for 8+ years, and they are very similar in color to our old pine floors in the rest of the house (which is why we chose this flooring.)

The cabinets were designed by us, and made by a local millwork shop FG Lancia. Other millwork in the house was done by Full Circle Design Works (they are making our current living room bookshelves). We maximized the space under the sloping mansard roof, and the cabinets function really well in the room. My favorite part is the built in dresser and the deep drawers along the bottom that hold games and puzzles and a ridiculous amount of Playmobil and American Girl doll stuff. The wardrobes also mask the ductwork that lays on the floor and feeds the second floor. Our house is zoned with two furnaces, and running the ductwork under the cabinets and window seats in all the upstairs rooms kept us from needing any ugly soffits in the house. The working hardware on the cabinets are Blum, the drawer and cabinet pulls are from IKEA.

The photo albums are from Kolo and I talk more about those here. The striped one was a gift and it came from Hallmark. The mobile hanging from the ceiling has been there since she was born, and was a gift from dear friends. I believe they got it at the High Museum in Atlanta. The green circle has a hole in it from a curious toddler. We still love it, hole and all. The artwork on the wall is by E, but now that piece hangs out in the master bedroom, and this letterpress print hangs in its place.

The fan is one of many fans in our house - all are from Modern Fan Company and ordered locally through Centro Modern Furnishings. We also ordered all our Artemide fixtures through them, and the small Tolemeo lamp is the one above the built in dresser. The red lamp by the bed is from IKEA.

I painted the flowers and bugs on the wall mostly while E was sleeping in her crib at night. They were inspired by a card I received in the mail from a friend.
One of my favorite parts of the room is the hidden access door to the mechanical room. For E's third birthday we made this access frame and panel with small ledge, inserted a piece of homosote covered in blue linen and she uses it as a tackboard and bedside table. Windows are all new on this floor - Marvin Ultimate Double Hung.

Her bed is from Charles P. Rogers - a gift from my parents, and I can't remember where the bedding is from - several different places collected over the years. Now one of my grandmother's quilts resides on it (not shown in this photo). The rug in the room is from Pottery Barn, and so are the metal bins on the front ledge. I had several questions about the toys on the ledge. The marble run toy is Q-Ba-Maze and the cars next to it are Automoblox. I think we took these photos soon after we got back from a convention in Boston where we got both of these. My daughter is obsessed with cars and building things (and books), and this ledge is a good place for rotating out her favorite things. All in all it's a colorful place - so is her bathroom. Some of you may have seen it here.

I hope that covers most of it. I'm sorry if I can't get back to each and every one of you on your renovation questions, but feel free to look around the blog a bit. It's not all house project all the time. And it's not always this clean either - trust me. But like I said before - we love it, even the messy, unfinished parts. And sometimes we even write love letters to it. Thanks for all of your kind words and notes. They are much appreciated! Come back anytime

Another post on the subject:

When E spent a few days with her Nana and Grandpa earlier this month it wasn't the first time she's been away on her own. We always miss her while she's gone, but there is a strange sort of quiet efficiency in the house as we go about our business without her. Even this summer, with the addition of a baby who remained behind, it still felt as if we were home alone - probably because F goes to bed at the ridiculously early hour of six, and doesn't appear again until seven or later the next morning. E keeps her room pretty clean most of the time (with some help), but the projects in process - the crazy amounts of paper that girl uses and keeps - well, they start to wear a bit on me as they stack up. When she hits the road we hit the stacks, and the room gets a good scrubbing from top to bottom that doesn't have to get finished before 7:30 or 8:00 pm. This year we wanted to do things a bit differently. E's been drawing floor plans of her dream room for awhile now, and most involve the installation of a small waterpark as a key feature. If you remove the fantasy pieces from the plan, they all seem to include better access to her library from her bed, a larger play area, and cozy spaces with more seating for friends. Playmobil is always on the list as well. She's got a great room - one that she uses every square inch of - but it's not a huge room, and because of the numerous built-in's and window seats and a mantel... well, there's not a lot of variety to the way the furniture can be rearranged. We thought about it awhile, and went a little against our grain by putting furniture in front of shelves, and we turned out making the room seem twice as large, and way more functional for this particular stage. Previous room photos here.

Dogs (the stuffed kind) have been a big fan favorite lately, and several end up in bed with her each night. The remaining dogs have their own little spot now, with easy access from the bed.

Behind the pillows sit the clock, chapter books in progress, a diary (with a lock!) and a few small treasure boxes - perfectly hidden, for now, from roaming one-year-old's. Side tangent: Can I tell you how annoyed I get when companies call things like car covered bed sheets "boys" sheets? Very annoyed. Bonus points for the Garnet Hill catalog that showed up today sporting mix-and-match pajamas with patterns like hearts and monsters and ponies and rocket ships listed as "unisex". Done with tangent.

Successful rearrange? Oh yes, I think so. She's flying through those books now...
Oh, I almost forgot. The new item: one very over-priced red bean bag chair. One that the baby and I drove WAY out to the suburbs to pick up on the morning of E's return, after searching high and low at closer locales for one. When I called to ask if they had one in stock they said they did. When I showed up at the store and mentioned it was for my daughter they said they were out. Why? Because the red ones were boy's chairs. Ahem.

The "new" room

Another post on the subject:

and now her room is eighty-seven percent done

It's only taken six months to do, but I've finally gotten everything out of F's closets and her stuff, and her stuff only, inside them. Just to shame me a bit I've included a photograph of what this thing looked like a couple of weeks ago.
When the room operated as a studio space the closets and shelves were actually quite organized. But we never really converted the room over to nursery - I think there was a bit of denial on my part that all my space was going away. So I've slowly moved the projects down to other parts of the house, and you know how empty spots in closets attract junk...well, this one was a toppling pile of it.
Part of the hold up was that her room doesn't have the built in dresser space that her sister's does:

So we had to come up with a solution for her clothes that don't hang, and this elfa system did the trick. I originally drew up something a bit more elaborate for the space, but what I really wanted was the flexibility, and this freestanding unit fit the bill a lot better. Now we hang a variety of clothing lengths above, store her clothes below and have bins and hooks in the system for accessories.
There are a few toys and bins stored on the side...

...but the majority are in the bottom drawers for easy access.

So, eighty-seven percent done because we're still missing one last light fixture and we need to take out the foam core squares in the windows and do something a bit more attractive and functional back here.

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