Before and After: A $2,500 DIY Maximizes This Attic Bedroom’s Small Square Footage

published Dec 2, 2023
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Some of the most beautiful home transformations out there are a combined effort of professional work and DIYs. Maybe someone wants to hire a pro for plumbing, or countertop installation, or any other heavy-lift or heavy know-how projects, but they know their DIY abilities can take them to the finish with a hand-painted mural, an upcycled piece of furniture, or peel-and-stick wallpaper. 

That’s a bit how Mary Walker Harrold (@my_renovating_diary) and her husband, Paul, tackled their upstairs bedroom redo. The couple hired a professional to build out the 174-square-foot attic space in 2019, with a plan to turn it into a bedroom. After it was first built, Mary and Paul added baltic oak luxury vinyl tile flooring and painted paneling a dark gray shade. 

But after a while, the couple grew tired of the gray and still felt the space was unwelcoming and lacked the “cozy feel” of a bedroom. Here’s how they made it a more complete and welcoming space to be — with more storage, to boot. 

Custom cabinetry adds a sophisticated feel — and storage, of course. 

Although he isn’t a carpenter, Paul decided to take on the challenge of building closets from scratch along the slanted wall in the room. “He designed them to make the best use of the space and built them himself with MDF,” Mary explains. (To make things a little easier, Paul used pre-made drawers from IKEA, but the rest was built by him.)

A couple of woodworking tips from Paul? “Buying larger sheet material and cutting it up saved costs,” he says. And when you go to buy your material, bring a hand saw with you. “We always took a saw to the DIY store so we could rough cut it up to smaller sizes in the [parking lot] and fit it in the car,” Paul says.

Paul says the hardest part of adding the custom cabinetry was accepting the fact that each section would have to be a different size. “As the roof was not level, I quickly realized that each section I was fitting would have to be measured very accurately one by one rather than making all the same size and sliding them in,” he says. It was time-intensive, but he did it.

Lastly, Paul built Shaker-style doors and added pewter-look handles to the cabinets before painting them white, which brightened up the small space. Those cabinets connect to the white slanted ceiling, giving the illusion of more square footage.

A green wall behind the headboard wows.

The couple opted to turn the paneled wall into a feature wall, choosing a dark olive green paint (Coat Paints’ Pan) for behind the headboard. To give the bedroom a rustic, charming feel, Mary and Paul added lived-in furniture, textured soft furnishings, and plenty of gold accents. 

“The new space is so welcoming, cozy, and restful. Warm dark colors, beautiful rugs and throws, gold frames, and warm gentle lighting all contribute to this,” said Mary. “It has a rich texture, and it looks like a high-end professional finish with exceptional eye to detail.”

Building the closets and decorating the bedroom cost the couple £2,000 (around $2,500), and Mary and Paul say that the space actually “feels like a bedroom” for the first time since it was built four years ago.