Add space with lofty ambitions

Framed in storage cupboards are just one way of making effective use of loft space, Kya de Longchamps reports

A POPULAR way of conjuring new square metres of warm space, attic conversions and extensions offer new territory with particular interior design challenges. Here are a few structural and creative suggestions as you take your living aloft.


Where you have a standard pitch roof conversion, with that inevitable triangular volume, snipping off a bit of space actually yields a better look. Those pinched eave spaces can be tidied up in what are termed key walls, essentially a low framing of wall that erases the acute angle where the ceiling meets the floor. Rather than just obliterating this space completely, the key wall can be set with framed in storage cupboards. The key wall can even curve into the ceiling in an organic line in the hands of a clever carpenter/plasterer team. Don’t eat into the available upright wall with deep skirting. Using slender profiles or leave it off altogether.


Generally, any pitch means relatively steep angles to the ceiling, but you can soften these thrusting lines with pale reflective paint. Light colours will also throw the walls and ceiling back, fighting off the claustrophobic sensation that can come with being nestled in a roof space. If a really cavernous attic room without divisions appears hauntingly long, paint the end wall a darker colour to draw it shorter. Just a shade or two from the main colour will do, no light devouring diva shades. Treasure all the upright walls not set in storage as staging spots for artwork and shelving, and where you do put pictures on slopes, secure them from flat mirror mounts holding them firmly to the surface.


If you have an older house with a sloping attic floor, rather than bullying into 21st century conformity, try living with a slight misalignment. When you have shelving, or curtains, where possible, follow the line of the floor as your level rather than a true level. Take the curtains to floor to ceiling where you can to hide the lack of parallel or install a deep pelmet, strengthening that essential vertical that makes low ceilings see higher. Avoid using geometric wallpapers with a determined repeat that will be cocked eyed at one end of the other and will simply underscore the room’s quirky shaping. This solution was a popular 1980s response to imperfect proportions and sloping ceilings — it’s your call.

Think non-standard and clever built-ins to make use of every centimetre of storage to the gables end and eaves of your attic rooms. A large wardrobe could stand centred on a triangular of wall flanked by two, 2/3 height matching modules. Your carpenter can make sleek built-ins using the entire pitch. If your bed is tucked under an eave, waist high storage in blind cabinets, drawers and shelving can embrace the bed head on both sides.


Many attic rooms are long, gangly spaces, and short of partitioning them up into unhappy boxes, you’re better off going with their eclectic flow. Long low furnishings, highly in vogue for 1950s hip are ideal, and also offer up a short back that hugs nicely into low key walls. If you are laying wood flooring, having ensured that the sound insulation is A1 beneath your feet, consider laying the floor across the space to crank open a commonly narrow room to the eye. You can play the same tricks of proportion with broadly striped rugs or carpeting. Where the ceiling height is at a premium, keep the highest areas free of furniture. The gable end is a grandstand position for a great bed as the wall forms a magnificent castellated area around its head and can be dressed up in lofty style.


It makes sense to suit the room height to your activity. So, if you can slot your desk into the eaves, two metres of breathing room floor to ceiling won’t be a problem with low shelving set around and into the desk itself. Attic windows that push out as dormers offer a parcel of well lit standing room, perfect for placement of a wash basin with a cupboard beneath for example, but the bath can be closer to the eaves as you’ll be lying down anyway. Alternatively, where you might not stand for periods, a window seat in a dormer space offers a magical reading nook to curl up with a book high about the banality of downstair rooms. If the area is wider and deeper, a desk and chair can start the bones of a study area. If there’s a great view, furnishing on either wide with twin beds or seating showcases the window or a full balcony system and will draw you to just stand and stare at the world below. Side on, a low divan bed can create a cosy berth embraced by the low pitch with a rail run parallel to the bed’s outer edge set on the ceiling with a sheer curtain.


With the exception of a large set of windows or glass doors to the gable of your attic space, heavy curtains can suffocate an already pinched space. If you’ve invested in a terrace of stunning Velux windows, let their architectural strengths shine out and watch where all that lovely light falls during the course of the day. Slated blinds, Romans or rollers will allow various winks of illumination while shuttering the World out. Together with standard blinds appropriate for roof lights, there is a range of clever opaque and semi-translucent ‘scrims’ in fully supported framed in systems to play with beguiling open sky. Where artificial light is vital, halogen lighting has a wonderful purity. Using a series of ceiling mounted spotlights, you can chase out the patchy shadows around sloping, creased ceilings while keeping light fixtures neatly out of the way. Taking your total floorspace, use 15% of that number in glazed areas as a suitable to light your life in the clouds.


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