Transforming an Attic into a Closet

Brian Patrick Flynn creates a glamorous walk-in closet with ample storage despite low ceilings


In 2009, Joel Darby and Molly Parrish purchased their first home, an 1,800-square-foot Atlanta bungalow built in 1925. While Molly envisioned its 450-square-foot attic as a walk-in closet, Joel thought it fit for seasonal storage and college memorabilia.

“Initially, Joel made much more use of the attic than I did,” says Molly. "It was dingy and had ugly, dark-green floors, and its ceilings were too low to use it as an actual room."

Unsure of how to maximize the cramped space, Joel and Molly asked me for design help. After my carpenter and I scouted the cramped area, we decided Molly’s original wish to add an island with storage was indeed possible. By using ready-made pieces that could be assembled in the attic, we could bypass carrying furniture up the narrow staircase.

Colorful Closet in the Attic

See All Photos

Glamour Up Above

Joel and Molly's attic was dark, dingy and completely disorganized. Now, the space is a walk-in closet packed with color, shelving and storage.

Island Time

To maximize storage, a ready-made island was assembled and outfitted with custom-cut mirrors. Behind, open shelving houses baskets and shoes.

Integrated Island Storage

Joel and Molly fold clothes on the island's surface and utilize the concealed storage below.

Mirror, Mirror

Full-length mirrored cabinet doors help reflect light in the closet while allowing Joel and Molly to try on outfits.

Sliding Closet Rods

To maximize the storage space, the height and depth of each cabinet was considered. A pull-out closet rod allows shirts to hang facing forward.

Hanging Storage

Installing two pull-out closet rods side by side allows Joel to see his dress shirts and dress pants in pairs. Meanwhile, the keen use of depth frees up the area below for other purposes.

Glass-topped Drawers

The space below Joel’s closet houses Molly’s jewelry and accessories. A clear glass top allows Molly to look directly into the drawer without having to rummage through it to find what she's looking for.

“I think it would have been much easier for Molly and I to figure out how to add closet space if our attic didn’t have two huge slopes on each side of its ceiling. The slopes stumped us. Actually, they’re kind of the main reason we called on a designer,” says Joel.

With our creative juices flowing, we turned again to the concept of ready-made parts for the rest of the space. We devised a plan to include hanging storage, drawer space, open shelving and a window seat with concealed storage.

After we installed ready-made cabinetry on both walls, we added drawers and hanging space. By using hanging rods along the top of each component and reserving the bases for clever storage solutions like shoe racks, drawers and jewelry display cases, all of Joel and Molly’s vertical space was maximized while minimizing clutter.

In order to add mirrored glass to the tall closet doors, we custom-ordered sheets of mirror to fit snugly inside a perimeter of chunky crown molding, totaling $45 per door. “I thought the reflection of any available light throughout the space was an excellent idea, not to mention all of the mirrors would allow the door fronts to double as a means for me to check out outfits as I try different pieces on.”

Affordable Walk-In Closet 03:58

Brian used budget-friendly stock cabinets for a custom-look walk-in closet.

To make use of the dead space below the attic’s only window, we built a window seat with concealed storage using basic plywood, beadboard and a simple piano hinge.

Joel and Molly are both ecstatic with their new closet. “I still can’t believe the transformation,” says Molly. “Before the remodel, this looked like a creepy attic from Tales from the Crypt or Friday the 13th. Now it’s straight out of Sex and the City.”

Keep Reading

Next Up

Mod + Masculine Closet Makeover

Brian Patrick Flynn makes room for a TV by relocating an entryway in his bedroom but not at the expense of his walk-in closet.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.