Attic

Winnetka Colonial Chronicles, Part 6

Happy New Year, friends! We mentioned the under-utilized attic back in Winnetka Colonial Chronicles Part 3, and now it's ready.

One planning principle we try to apply to our work is making better use of a space as we find it; if we can take advantage of existing square feet, then the argument for demolishing the entire home or adding square feet is less compelling. We've seen a range of homes on the North Shore that have existing space ready to be re-purposed, and it's very rewarding to improve them.       

This unfinished attic had a couple advantages before we began working on it. First, it had a full staircase for access, not one of those pull-down step ladders that fold up into the ceiling. Second, we had room to improve it because it ran the full length of the house. Third, it had good ceiling height. We tore off a section of the roof to create a large picture window over the stairwell and solved the ceiling height requirement for stairs.

Framing the attic, formerly used only for storage. We increased the depth of the studs to accept eight inches of closed-cell spray foam insulation. This helps an old house stay warm in the cold months and adds some structural support. We used the stairwell as a natural divider between bedroom or office and flex-space.

Framing the attic, formerly used only for storage. We increased the depth of the studs to accept eight inches of closed-cell spray foam insulation. This helps an old house stay warm in the cold months and adds some structural support. We used the stairwell as a natural divider between bedroom or office and flex-space.

The air-handler is now running efficiently in an enclosed space behind the two short doors, and the stairs are behind the half-wall under the lantern light. The view of the locust tree from the new picture window gives you the feeling of floating among the trees, so we named this attic space "the treehouse." One of our daughters decided it most closely resembles a "fairy castle." Despite my limited experience with fairy castles, I'm okay running with that, too.  

A view from the stairwell. Structural beams in the ceiling gave us the opportunity to dress them with clear cedar. New windows allow plenty of light into "the treehouse" and a long bench makes for a convenient perch. 

Installing a window seat in the dormer just seemed like the right thing to do. Also approved by the Fairy Castle Building Authority.

The adjacent bedroom with closet and new windows. This room is flooded with light for most of the day and has its own reading bench in the dormer.

The treehouse is complete. It's a good example of "recapturing" existing square feet in a house without the need for a major addition or a major investment in new construction. We will move downstairs in the next update.

We hope you'll find a window seat of your own and let your mind wander in 2017. Cheers!

Winnetka Colonial Chronicles, Part 3

We did major surgery on the inside of a 1925 colonial in Winnetka, and you can catch up on the colossal mess we made in Winnetka Colonial Chronicles Part 2.

The dust has temporarily settled. Just when we thought we were losing our minds with all of the debris, rotted pipes, fire-hazardous wiring, and atomized plaster particles covering every square inch, we finished most of the items behind the walls. New electrical. New plumbing. New windows. New roof and gutters. Repairing the walls, ceilings, and floors is just around the corner. We're getting close to sewing this patient back up.

During weekends and off-hours, we give the doors some much-needed attention. We think this old colonial would approve.

We decided to preserve as many of the original solid wood interior doors as we could. Some were in rough shape, and all of them needed to be stripped, sanded, and repainted. 

We decided to preserve as many of the original solid wood interior doors as we could. Some were in rough shape, and all of them needed to be stripped, sanded, and repainted. 

We saved the front door of the house from the landfill. After sanding it down to bare wood and repairing some minor damage, it received a coat of Hollandlac oil-based primer. 

We saved the front door of the house from the landfill. After sanding it down to bare wood and repairing some minor damage, it received a coat of Hollandlac oil-based primer. 

Although it's pricy compared to water-based paints, we like  Dutch oil paint and primers  when the job calls for it. The rich depth of color is incredible and nearly impossible to achieve with latex paints. This exterior door will endure decades after we're finished with it. 

Although it's pricy compared to water-based paints, we like Dutch oil paint and primers when the job calls for it. The rich depth of color is incredible and nearly impossible to achieve with latex paints. This exterior door will endure decades after we're finished with it. 

Our resident artist at work. It's not too early to start thinking about the interior paint schedule. 

Our resident artist at work. It's not too early to start thinking about the interior paint schedule. 

The former attic might be our favorite space to finish. It was unfinished when we came upon the property, but it was connected to the 2nd floor by a full stairwell. Tall cathedral ceilings, be still my beating heart! 

The former attic might be our favorite space to finish. It was unfinished when we came upon the property, but it was connected to the 2nd floor by a full stairwell. Tall cathedral ceilings, be still my beating heart! 

In order to create the required headroom at the top of the stairs, we could have removed a step at the peak and dropped the ceiling on the 2nd floor to accommodate the new landing in the attic. Or  . . . we could rip out a big chunk of the roof and build a dormer for a dramatic tree-house effect.

In order to create the required headroom at the top of the stairs, we could have removed a step at the peak and dropped the ceiling on the 2nd floor to accommodate the new landing in the attic. Or  . . . we could rip out a big chunk of the roof and build a dormer for a dramatic tree-house effect.

Happy to finally meet you, my favorite new tree house. I feel like I've always known you somehow.

Happy to finally meet you, my favorite new tree house. I feel like I've always known you somehow.

I feel something sentimental as the project turns the corner from the unglamorous plumbing, electrical, framing, and other "behind-the-scenes" work to some of the tangible finishes. It's a mixture of relief and anticipation with a twinge of farewell because I can see the end approaching just over the horizon. There's probably a German expression for this jumbled feeling, like schadenfreude, but I don't know what it is. I'm glad for it, I suppose. It reminds me that we must hand over the keys eventually, so we'll make every day count until then. 

 

Remodeling and Home Design