A Musty Attic is Transformed Into a Luminous Loft

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By William Lamb / Published by Dwell
In Seattle, an architect transforms a cramped space into a flexible family gathering spot.

The top floor of Gavin and Sheila Smith’s century-old Craftsman-style house in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood was, by any measure, a lousy place to sleep and keep an office. "It was cold, it was dark, it was cramped, it was just barely functional," Gavin says. So, in 2012, Gavin, an architect, set about transforming it into a light-filled suite that includes a master bedroom and bathroom and a versatile space where he and his family could work and play.

A Musty Attic is Transformed Into a Luminous Loft - Photo 1 of 7 - Bamboo flooring and custom built-ins—fashioned from medium-density fiberboard with a white-lacquer finish—brightened Gavin and Sheila Smith’s 650-square-foot attic. Gavin Smith designed the blackened-steel balustrade, which has cable inserts and a walnut handrail.

Bamboo flooring and custom built-ins—fashioned from medium-density fiberboard with a white-lacquer finish—brightened Gavin and Sheila Smith’s 650-square-foot attic. Gavin Smith designed the blackened-steel balustrade, which has cable inserts and a walnut handrail.

His first step was to remove a series of collar ties to create a cathedral ceiling, which added nearly two feet of headroom at the center. A brick chimney was demolished, and four skylights were installed. In the office, Gavin designed built-ins—cabinets, a pair of desks, and two daybeds where the couple’s sons, Emory and Oliver, like to read—that add a note of flexibility.

A Musty Attic is Transformed Into a Luminous Loft - Photo 2 of 7 - Smith designed the custom cabinets, which were fashioned from medium-density fiberboard with a white lacquer finish. There are three drawer heights. "The faces are consistent but some, when you open them up, are triple-height," Smith says. "So that helps with things that are really large, like sleeping bags or camping stuff or whatever. They're three feet deep, so it goes into the knee wall, which is really handy. So you get lots and lots of storage."

Smith designed the custom cabinets, which were fashioned from medium-density fiberboard with a white lacquer finish. There are three drawer heights. "The faces are consistent but some, when you open them up, are triple-height," Smith says. "So that helps with things that are really large, like sleeping bags or camping stuff or whatever. They're three feet deep, so it goes into the knee wall, which is really handy. So you get lots and lots of storage."

Construction wrapped in March 2014, after about six months. Now, Gavin says, "it’s somewhere you can actually enjoy being. There’s plenty of light, so it’s a good place to work or whatever you need to do. It’s 180 degrees from what it was before."

A Musty Attic is Transformed Into a Luminous Loft - Photo 3 of 7 - An added benefit of installing the skylights was adding headroom over the day beds, Smith says.

An added benefit of installing the skylights was adding headroom over the day beds, Smith says.

A Musty Attic is Transformed Into a Luminous Loft - Photo 4 of 7 - In the master bathroom, the Smiths worked with a Boston-based company, Artaic, on the mosaic tile.

In the master bathroom, the Smiths worked with a Boston-based company, Artaic, on the mosaic tile.

A Musty Attic is Transformed Into a Luminous Loft - Photo 5 of 7 - In the master bedroom, a small, cramped closet was replaced with a wardrobe that is partially obscured by a slatted wooden screen that was built by Metalworks & Design Studio of Seattle. "The idea was you see through it, so in a sense it doesn't feel like a small space," Smith says.

In the master bedroom, a small, cramped closet was replaced with a wardrobe that is partially obscured by a slatted wooden screen that was built by Metalworks & Design Studio of Seattle. "The idea was you see through it, so in a sense it doesn't feel like a small space," Smith says.

A Musty Attic is Transformed Into a Luminous Loft - Photo 6 of 7 - The bamboo flooring is by Plyboo. The Moonrise Plus pendant lamps are by Eureka.

The bamboo flooring is by Plyboo. The Moonrise Plus pendant lamps are by Eureka.

A Musty Attic is Transformed Into a Luminous Loft - Photo 7 of 7 - Before the renovation, the attic was a cramped, cluttered space—a feeling reinforced by the presence of a brick chimney that was later demolished and the relatively low 7.2-foot ceilings.

Before the renovation, the attic was a cramped, cluttered space—a feeling reinforced by the presence of a brick chimney that was later demolished and the relatively low 7.2-foot ceilings.

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