Tag Archives: attic remodel

Attic Safari

Put on your pith helmets and khakis, everyone—we’re about to venture where few have tread: into the untamed wilderness of our attic! You lucky people!

I’ve never had the nerve to expose our attic to the public. I thought I might, once we had turned it from a horder’s heaven into an art studio. But as the years slipped by, I was unsure the attic would ever realize its potential. That’s sad, because it would make an awesome art space. However, while I’ve been slinging paint in the dining room, Eric’s been up there steadfastly trying to make order out of chaos. His efforts deserve recognition.

Okay, got your gear? We’re heading up. Step through the door into the unknown.

Door to attic stands ajar.

Creeeeek

The trail is steep. Be careful.

Steep, dark attic stairs

The climb.

And narrow.

Boxes block access to attic

Top of stairs.

Eric will light the way.

Man adjusts light in attic

The eagle’s job is to hold up the extension cord.

Behold: the detritus of two pack-ratty people. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Sometimes I worry that it will all fall through the joists and land in the living room. (This is a fear left over from childhood: As a small child I imagined where I would land in the basement if my bed fell through the floor. I would have landed in my dad’s shop, which didn’t seem so scary … as long as I missed the table saw.)

See how far you’ve climbed?

Top of attic stairs and many boxes.

You made it!

 

Boxes piled in attic

The small room by day.

 

Junk piled in the attic.

The big room at night.

If you’re brave enough, venture a little deeper into the terrain. Watch your step. (Click any image to enlarge.)

It hasn’t always looked like this, of course. You can’t amass such a jaw-dropping collection overnight. When I lived here alone, most of my stuff, much of which had belonged to my parents, was confined to the small end of the attic, where the stairs come up. Family antiques that I didn’t have room for downstairs occupied a portion of the big room, along with archives from my childhood and rolling racks of off-season clothes. And of course there was the requisite Christmas collection. I felt like I had endless storage space, even for a nostalgic person like me who never seems to let go of anything. But, we all know how things tend to accumulate over time.

Then I married a man who out-packratted even me. Well … that’s unfair. Eric had his own houseful of furniture and belongings, and I had a 1400 sq. ft. fully furnished house with three small closets. Everything we couldn’t find a home for downstairs went up to the “endless” storage space in the sky … until even the narrow trail down the center began to fill up. Just looking at the piles of dead electronics, clothes, and books made me cry with frustration and bewilderment, so I seldom went up there.

Paned attic windows and street view.

The view to the street.

Rewind to 1984, when I bought the house. The attic was perfectly empty and squeaky clean (for an attic). The dark-stained fir floors and stairs in the small room shone. But in the big room, white fiberboard panels had been nailed to the sloped ceiling, and they sagged from absorbing moisture. It made the space look like a big, white tent. The dormer windows were homemade casements jobs that sagged on their hinges.

We’ve searched for “before” pictures, but we can’t find any. Those were the days before digital cameras. I probably have prints around here somewhere … in the attic.

Insulation was added to the ceiling years ago, but it wasn’t until Eric came along that the beadboard paneling went up. Eric also installed the beautiful new windows in the dormer, which is now my favorite part of the attic.

But … all the stuff remains.

Attic dormer windows hidden by junk.

The unreachable dormer windows.

So, what’s the plan?

I’ve always admired this attic from an old Martha Stewart book, How to Decorate. It’s so similar to what ours could be.

Whitewashed attic room

Martha Stewart’s attic

 

Whitewashed attic dormer area

Martha’s attic dormer

Shelves. Slowly but surely, Eric’s moving the stuff away from a section of wall, installing plastic shelves, and putting the stuff on the shelves. More and more stuff is now off the floor and neatly stacked.

Purge. Bags and bags of junk are exiting every weekend. We will (I swear) ruthlessly purge everything else: toss, donate, or sell. Maybe we’ll even have the yard sale that we’ve talked about for 10 years.

Paint. I’ll paint the beadboard glossy white to maximize the light. More painting … yay.

Floor. The mossy carpet will crawl off to the dump. The attic floor in the large room is simply subflooring. We thought about just washing and sealing it, but it has gaps between the boards that you could lose a kitten between … so we’re thinking of covering it with finish-grade 1/4-inch plywood. We’ll paint or stain it and seal it so it’s spillproof enough for an art studio.

Layout. Years ago my neighbor gave me a big drafting table, complete with drafting machine, which he bought at Boeing Surplus. That’ll go in the dormer area. At last, a place to draw and paint! We’ll have a work table for framing and flat files for storage. I’ll create a cozy, funky sitting area at the far end beneath the little windows, with a couple of old armchairs, bookshelves, a table, and lamps, all anchored by an oriental rug. That old faux palm might even find a home. Can you see the potential in this space?

Crowded attic with boxes.

The far end of the big room, looking toward the stairs.

Speaking of kittens (weren’t we?) … my favorite story about the attic involves—surprise—cats! One day many years ago, I was rummaging around in the attic when I discovered a litter of four tiny black kittens in a bag of old dress patterns. The mom cat had evidently gotten in through the dormer windows, which were open for the summer. She was temporarily out when I found her babies, but when she returned,  she was a fierce warrior and she didn’t take my presence kindly. I began providing her food and water, but I had to fend her off with a broom to be able to set food down at the top of the stairs. As the kittens grew, I could hear them galloping back and forth across the attic floor. I came home one day when they were about 12 weeks old, to find them all sitting outside on the dormer windowsill. I quickly ran up to the attic and shut the windows. They all managed to shinny down an adjacent tree and I never saw them again. You can tell that in those days, even though I had a cat of my own, I wasn’t really a cat lady. If I found kittens now, I’d try to domesticate them and I’d certainly take them to the Humane Society where they could be neutered and find homes. But, I was clueless back then.

Two cats cuddle on a bed.

Bonus picture of Chex and Peggy Sue napping.

So, there you have it. I bet you’re ready to go back to civilization again. I know I am!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

 

The never-ending list, 2015 version

With a new year comes the opportunity to get organized and be productive. (Is anything preventing us from doing this at any time of year? No … but it’s traditional to think about it now.) So what does her 102nd year hold for our bungalow? And how far will we get in the next 12 months? It didn’t take me long to come up with this list.

1.  Finish the kitchen! We don’t have far to go, but it will have to wait until summer and dry weather. I want to strip the three kitchen doors (back, attic, and basement), and that’s an outdoor job. Eric has also talked about taking the windows apart and cleaning the balance mechanisms, which means the kitchen would be wide open. Again, a task for warm weather. Painting the doors and window trim is on me, but messing with the balances is Eric’s domain. I don’t want to be to blame for ruining our windows! How confident am I that this project will be completed? 100%!

single-hung window rope

2.  Finish the side porch. All we need is a pile more lumber and a good stretch of that elusive dry weather. It’ll come.  The actual construction is Eric’s task, but I’ll be pitching in with sanding and painting. I can’t wait to see this porch completed because it’s going to be AWESOME!! Right now the porch is looking rather forlorn, wet, and forgotten. The cats are the only ones who use it. Confidence rating: 100%.

unfinished side porch

3.  Redesign the triangle garden. I’ve been dissatisfied with this garden for a couple of years, but I didn’t have the energy last spring to redo it. It’s way overgrown and looks its worst at this dismal time of year. I’m eager to get out there and at least clean it out, but every weekend day seems to cold or too wet, or we’re busy watching Seahawks football. I waste the best weather stuck in an office with no windows. Next month, winter turns the corner (as far as I’m concerned) with the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, which is sure to get my sap flowing again. Confidence rating: 100%. IF my back holds out.

overgrown triangle-shaped garden

4.  Rebuild the backyard fence. Eric reminded me to add this project. The six-foot fence along the alley and south lot line is only standing up from habit. Doesn’t it have great patina? I want to salvage the fence boards. The ones that aren’t rotten. When I pressed Eric about his confidence factor, he said, “I don’t have a choice.” Twice. Of course, Duke will help him. Confidence rating: 100%.

fence with backlit Nishiki willow

5.  Finish the attic. You didn’t even know we were working on the attic, did you? Little by little, Eric’s been working on this project, but he hasn’t done anything up there since last spring, when outdoor chores took over. Our goal is to turn the attic into an art studio/lounge/storage area. There’s a ton of work to be done up there, and I doubt we’ll finish it this year. But, I hope we make some good progress. I’ll take you up there in a future post. Not now … you’re not wearing the proper shoes. (You’re dying to see what’s up there, aren’t you?) Confidence rating: 25%.

attic stairs

6.  Repaint the living room, dining room, foyer, and interior hall. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll get around to this, but it’s been on my mind and should be done soon. I painted the present color, Valspar Oak Grove with cream trim, in 2003. I’ve always liked it, but now I’d like to go with something lighter. I’ve been seeing a lot of pretty light grays with ivory trim, but that won’t go with my dining room wallpaper, which I love and sweated bullets to hang 15 years ago. I’ll be damned if I take it down! I dunno … I suppose I could find another Craftsman-y pattern and do it again. Or I could paint another lighter tan color that would complement the paper. We’ll see where this goes. Confidence rating: 10%.

oak brown living room wall color

7.  Paint the exterior. OMG, this will be the big one! Eric and I are debating just how much of this mammoth task we want to take on versus hire out. I don’t want to say we’re getting too old to do it ourselves, but it’s so time consuming. An old house like this, with all its trim and windows, will take a ton of prep work, and the gables are a long ways up. If we could take the summer off, maybe we could get it done … nah, probably not! Maybe we are too old for this stuff. Our house’s dirty little secret (one of them … well, not so little nor secret) is that when my ex and I painted it in 1994, we, um … never got around to painting the trim on the south side, or the high barge board on the rear gable. I spend, like, zero time on the south side of the house, so it wasn’t until our recent plumbing misadventure that I reacquainted myself with just how wretchedly BAD things look from our neighbor’s point of view.  It’s long past time to make that right. We have a new paint scheme in mind, but we have yet to test it on the house. Waiting for drier weather … again. Confidence rating: 50%. If we don’t finish (e.g., leave the south side unpainted?), I’m pretty sure we’ll at least make a start on prep work. We have to.

gable with peeling paint

8.  Finally, there’s the project that lurks behind this door. Can you guess what I’m about to tackle next? Confidence rating: 100%.

wood door to ?

Yes, there’s a lot on our plate for 2015. I know better than to think we’ll get all of this done (although, wouldn’t that be nice!). A lot of it depends on decent weather, for which we Northwesterners wait impatiently all winter and spring. We like to say that summer begins on the fifth of July, and sometimes that’s not an exaggeration. I hope we have some sun breaks long before then!

Meanwhile, the project behind the door is waiting for me right now.

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