Empty Attic Remodeled Into Two Bedrooms, Bathroom + Living Area

One family's need for extra space becomes the unbelievable story of how a formerly unused attic is transformed into a home for an entire family.
By: Jane Dagmi

Attacking the Attic

After inviting Susan Chancey's father to move in with them, she and her husband Guy knew they would need to add space in order to accomodate the three adults, as well as Guys' daughter Ella and the family's three dogs.

Meet the Chanceys

At the end of a day, the Chanceys load up on the couch with dogs Rusty, Clyde and Jelly Bean. The tight-weave chenille sofa holds up to the clan.


An architect friend drew up initial plans for the renovation. It wasn't until the contractor and crew really got into the space and experienced it, however, that details of the job really took shape. Drawings were altered several times over.

Paint Samples

The relationship of colors was integral to the flow and feel of the upstairs. With nature as her inspiration, Susan studied several paint chips before choosing the final seven.

Bath Before

Prior to the sheetrock, a thick layer of Icynene spray foam went in to increase the energy efficiency of the home. Icynene is an environmentally-friendly insulator.

The Outside

The only attic windows that existed pre-remodel were the two fixed dormers in front. All of the new windows that Susan specified were double hung, energy efficient and easy to clean.

Staircase to Heaven

The staircase was the last architectural feature built. The three-step winder design, with a landing substituted for winders, took the least amount of space away from the living room. In accordance with code, tempered glass was installed in the window by the stairs.

A Treehouse Vibe

"We have such a different view from up here in the trees," says Susan of her peaceful roost, dotted with natural-themed decorations such as a papier-mâché bird on the desk, a bark-framed mirror and a large snake print canvas. Susan flipped over the rich colorations in the giclée print and then, nearly flipped too as she hung it, balanced on the banister with Guy holding on. Despite the odds, she got it level.

Penchant for Pendants

Susan has a thing for lighting, especially if it has industrial or old school-house styling. Most of the lamps in the attic are purposely made to look vintage or have been recently designed with authentically old parts. The simple cone pendant, reminiscent of early American tin pendants, is lined with mirror.

Working Girl

For someone who once conducted business from her living room couch, Susan delights in her 300-square-foot open office, furnished with family cast-offs that include her father's cherry desk and leather swivel chair. "I can still hear him squeaking in it," she says. The sculptural wire chairs can be pulled into the nearby nook as needed.


Hearty textiles, such as sea grass and hemp, mean low maintenance and few worries underfoot. Susan says, "for me, a durable world is important given three generations and three dogs live here."

Color & Texture

The combination of soothing colors and yummy textures warms the lofty space. Wheat, earth, sky and the pale underside of a leaf — these are some of nature's beauties reflected in the chosen organic palette. Shaggy blankets, wispy pillows and smooth wood are pleasing to the touch.

Lots of Light

"I wanted the biggest windows that would fit comfortably in the space. I didn't want that creepy attic dark deal," said Susan. The double skylight does the job, casting light through the space all day long. Susan doesn't really need to turn lamps on until evening.

Bathroom Blitz

Configuring the bath was quite the challenge, but Susan's requirements for function and beauty were eventually satisfied. In addition to being roomy and airy, the symmetry is a pleasing design element.

Memorial Transom

During construction, the Chanceys observed the movement of sunlight inside the space. In the latter afternoon, it flooded the bathroom wall. To take advantage of this natural infusion, Susan designed a transom that would carry light into the bath and also honor her mother, whose birthday was October 2nd.

Basic Luxury

For pattern and texture, Susan mixed simple, classic materials such as white subway tile, hexagonal tile, beaded board and natural linen. A neutral palette of white, cream and gray is energized with pops of green from plants and toiletries.

Elusive Bit

The angled wall mount for the shower rod proved to be the hardest-to-find item. But eventually, Susan located one in an obscure online hardware catalogue; it cost her roughly $200.

The Laundry Nook

Susan and Guy did not want to forfeit usable habitable space over to utilities, so tucking the washer and dryer in the bathroom niche was a spatial coup. Putting the appliances here also made more sense for the plumbing.

Master Plan

Throughout the attic, Susan continued the wall color on the ceilings, thereby creating an envelope of continuous color. She was nervous about how this color wrap would fare in the dark, smoky plum bedroom, but when counterbalanced by an abundance of creamy linen, pops of red and a giant glass orb that looks like the moon, it looked quite heavenly.

Treasured Chest

Impressed by the large proportions of this old pine chest, Susan bought it from a local Asheville antique mall pre-renovation, knowing it would come in handy one day. When mapping out the master bedroom, she and Guy designated a place for it from the start and provided an extra foot on either side for bins or baskets. Glass containers keep Susan's color-coded jewelry organized and visible. Meanwhile, Jellybean, recognizing the sound of kitchen treat jars, expects a handout.

Mouthwatering Linen

Western North Carolina weather is fickle, so Susan keeps an assortment of various weighted cotton knit and linen bed coverings close at hand. "Imperfections in linen make my mouth water," says Susan describing her visceral attraction to natural and nubby materials.

Ella's Room

Ella Skye Chancey lives here part time, so the big blue metal letters mark her territory. She is nearly 11, thinks several years older, favors green, and loves her "really cool and different room." With its extreme roof line, ethereal curtains, and misty light, Ella's special space feels magical.

A Place of Her Own

Ella's room is the most modern of the upstairs spaces. Susan felt that the crisp white furniture, bright warm colors and lively patterns would work well into the teen years. Susan consulted with Ella on the decorating and then revealed the finished room to her. "It was like the TV shows," Ella says.

Odd Closet

Ella's closet door was "a happy accident" — one of the many construction details that triumphed out of necessity. She emphasized its funky shape by painting it a fun stand-out green.

Smooth Transitions

To stay within budget, Susan had to find an affordable wood that would coordinate with the old heart pine downstairs. French Bordeaux, a darker and less grainy wood, was the answer. She introduced it on the stair's first floor landing before carrying it throughout upstairs, while the risers and treads echoed the pine.

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