Making an unfinished attic space feel livable

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I’m about to move into a new home.

I’ll be renting a bedroom and the unfinished attic from friends of mine.

I’d love to sleep in the attic, with all that space and all the windows. What are some good ideas on how to make an unfinished part of a house into something livable?

-Laura Nicole

Four key ingredients to create a livable “moment” in an empty space:

  1. Floor covering (area rugs are awesome!)
  2. Lighting (especially in an attic that might not have tons of natural light)
  3. Wall color (could be fabric, or can you paint? Or even one section of wallpaper?)
  4. Chair/bed

Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

Source: via Lori on Pinterest

Knotty-Naughty Pine

Homies, what are your tips for making an unfinished attic space feel like home? Links and pictures if you can!

Comments on Making an unfinished attic space feel livable

  1. I would emphasize climate control. It’s likely that the heating and/or cooling systems in the house omit the attic entirely and you’re going to need some way of adjusting the temperature. If those windows open a window fan can be a lifesaver, changing a stifling stuffy space into one with a refreshing breeze almost instantly. A directional space heater is great for heating the space you are occupying.

    • THIS, times about a million. Having rented a studio apartment once in the attic of a house, I can very much attest to the fact that attics often are not insulated to the same degree as the rest of the house. You’ll definitely want fans/an a/c in the summer and a space heater in the winter (assuming you live somewhere that has a significant temperature difference between the two–I live in the Northeast, so I base my idea of people’s living situations on my region, sorry).

    • Living in the attic sounds awesome, if you can make it work for you!

      Depending on your climate, temperature control may well be the biggest issue you face. Making it home-y is all very fine and well, but if you’re freezing your butt off in the winter and living with stupendously stifling stuffiness in the summer, you won’t care how nice the space looks.

      Something to look into is whether there are outlets up there. Unfinished spaces may or may not actually have any electrical outlets. If you don’t have electrical outlets already installed, are there places you can run an extension cord to get power up there? If not, heating/cooling and lighting are a lot more difficult, and it might just make a better storage and fall/spring hang-out spot than a bedroom.

      Keep in mind, also, that heating and cooling an uninsulated space can be expensive. Are you paying for your electricity, or is that included in your rent? Is there some way you can partially insulate at least a portion of the space — e.g. rugs against the walls/ceiling/whatever-you-call-the-inside-of-the-roof as well as the floor?

      Also, watch out for nails sticking out of the beams that make up your walls/ceiling.

      Good luck, and have fun making the space your own!

    • Yes. I rented an unfinished attic here in LA as an art studio. It was miserably hot most of the year. I bought an industrial fan on craigslist and even with that found myself sweating just walking in. Watch out for the kind of lights you use, too… those typical cheap studio lights contributed even more to the insane levels of sweaty. I could not have slept up there for sure!

  2. This is spectacular. My husband and I plan to renovate our loft space eventually but honestly? It’ll be years. In the meantime, we need a place to put overnight guests, and since hospitality is hugely important to me, I need it to be a place I would want to spend the night personally. This is a great article for that.

  3. My senior year of college, I lived in an attic.
    1. Rugs. Cover the floors with them!
    2. My attic only had 1 outlet. I ran an extension cord from each plug in opposite directions and then used a surge protector on the ends. That helped me have enough outlets.
    3. Put up posters/paintings/decorations.
    4. Buy a fan for the summer time. Remember, heat rises! Depending on the insulation, you may also need a space heater (I did).

  4. Be sure that you are not violating any housing laws by sleeping up there. Usually bedrooms need to meet codes for fire safety and other stuff. Other than that I would suggest lots of texture while still keeping it simple. Keep the furniture to only the essentials and use things like bedding and pillows to soften and brighten up the space.

  5. All other considerations aside, I totally want to live in a place with exposed ceiling beams so that I can have a freakin’ hammock (!) in my house.
    Now back to your regularly scheduled useful comments.

  6. My friend’s mom lives in a two story garage she rents from a business. There’s a kitchen and a bedroom upstairs and that’s where my friend lived. His mom kept her space on the unfinished bottom floor where she separated her workspace from her “bedroom” with screens and then in the bedroom she made this AMAZING decor for the ceiling with a bunch of tulle and wire over twinkle lights. I wish I had a picture, it looked like seeing stars through clouds.

  7. Make sure the insulation is right before you set up your furniture. And then – cloth on the wall (bedspreads, scarves, whatever), good light, rugs – I think that is all you need.

    (Or at least that is how my sister and I shared our attic. Our areas separated by old colorful sheets, soft rug to keep the feet warm and enough light to read.)

  8. when shh looks crazy i just paint everything white. it looks clean and intentionally shabby that way. i don’t know why. then you can add cheap and lovely ikea drapes and some throw cushions and call it day.

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