Before and After: $1,000 Later, a Dingy Attic Is Now Unrecognizably Chic and Practical

published May 12, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Attic space with built in storage before renovation.

Attic spaces and upstairs areas, much like their basement counterparts stories below, are often used as offices, family hangouts, sleep spaces, or some combination of those. 

For Marcel Dagenais (@brewcitybuilds) and his partner, Ben, the upstairs in their home is technically a third bedroom. But Ben also used it as an office, and they also wanted to use it as a space to hang out and maybe listen to music or have a cocktail with guests after dinner. (A tall order for a long and narrow 450-square-foot space that, overall, “needed some love,” as Marcel describes it.)

Before, the cream-colored carpet smelled and had holes and tears in it, the walls were a grayish blue color that needed to be cleaned up and spackled, and there was a large cabinet built around the top of the stairs that needed to be removed to open up the space as well as a column in the middle that needed a solution, Marcel says. “I finally finished renovating the first floor of our home, so it was time to take on the upper level,” he says.

It took Marcel about two months and a bit over $1,000 to complete this attic renovation. “I really went in hard on this, so I chipped away at something I needed to do every day,” he says. “It was exhausting, to be honest, but so worth it!” 

His first step was removing the musty carpeting and putting tile down instead. Marcel had used peel-and-stick tile before, but he’d never installed tile with adhesive, and he was surprised at how easy it was. “The only thing was finding the floor glue on places of my body that I had no idea how it could have gotten there,” he says. “That stuff is intense.” Marcel and Ben opted for an affordable black vinyl tile with white specks that make it look like much more expensive terrazzo.

“The other priority was removing the old built-in cabinet that took up way too much space,” Marcel says of the project. Marcel removed that and replaced it with a sleek black metal railing that allows for open sightlines. Down the line, he says he might add a feature wall on the window wall because he thinks “it could use a little pop as you enter the space.” 

And even though the cabinetry around the stair railing was removed, there’s still plenty of storage in the “after” by way of the angled open shelving Marcel added, the built-in bookshelves on the opposite end of the space, and the storage cabinets built into the walls. One of Marcel’s favorite details? The new hinges and hardware he added to the doors on those, which he painted the same color as the walls (Behr’s Mesa Taupe). “It just makes it feel more modern with that little detail that no one really sees,” Marcel says.

Plant stand: Amazon
Flush-mount light: Wayfair

The trickiest part of the redo was working around the large column in the room. Because the column was a chimney stack that would require pros (and roof patching) to take out, Marcel decided to keep it and use it as a natural divider in the space; he just expanded it and added vertical slats to make it a pronounced partition with a more modern feel. “I had to figure out the angle of the pitch of the ceiling and then create a frame to encase all the 1x2s,” Marcel says. “It was a lot of angles and a lot of cuts, but luckily, it turned out great.”

Now, the room has distinct zones that make it the multitasking space Marcel and Ben were after. And Marcel likes to use the office portion, too! “It’s my new favorite place to edit my videos,” he says. Not only is there a nice work setup with shelving for Ben’s books, but there’s also a large sofa for sleeping and hanging out, too. (Marcel sourced it from a local vintage furniture store.)

“My favorite part is the cozy factor in the chill area,” Marcel says. “The Mesa Taupe color really makes it feel warm and inviting in that back corner. It also complements the rug I ordered from Society6. It all just flows.” He adds that although he didn’t change the square footage of the space, it feels like there’s more usable space now, thanks to the separate office nook behind the partition wall.

Marcel’s advice for working on an ambitious redo like his is to focus on one thing at a time. “This was a big project to take on with a lot of things to do, so instead of thinking about everything that needs to be done all at once, focus on one task at a time, and eventually it will all be done,” he says. “I was a bit overwhelmed taking this project on, but it’s finally finished, and it just feels perfect.” 

Inspired? Submit your own project here.