Attic Playrooms Attic Playrooms

Why is it that no matter how much space you have, kids seem to grow faster than you can keep up with them? Even if you don't actually have eight kids, some days it can feel as if you do. Just a couple of children will bring with them their friends, their toys, their sports equipment - and before you know it, your four-bedroom home is feeling as tight as a 2 x 5 foot cell.

But as you roll your eyes toward heaven and try not to say some rather un-heavenly things, keep thinking up. If you have an attic, you may have an extra room for the kids, and it may be easier and less expensive than you think to renovate an attic into a playroom.

Before you get all excited about the idea of banishing the kids to the upper regions of the house, you'll first need to determine whether your attic is room-worthy. With a tape measure and flashlight, go on up there, making sure you step only on the edges of the boards - these are the ceiling joists, and they should support your weight easily. But if you step between them, the ceiling may not support your weight.

  • Tip: The first question you need to answer is whether the roof is made in a conventional rafter system or a trussed system. A trussed system is just what it sounds like: it's a web of boards forming triangles between the roof and floor. All these boards depend on one another, and so cannot be moved to make way for an attic room. If you see that you have a trussed system, you must consult with a builder or architect to see if there is anyway to convert the attic into a room, but it's unlikely you'll be able to do it.

However, if you have a conventional system, you'll see lots of space in the attic, with the only boards in the way running from one roof pitch to another, a few feet below the peak. Once you consult with a builder - and get the proper construction permits - you'll probably be able to remove some of these.

The next thing to consider is the light in the attic. No matter what, the light in an attic will not be as good as it is in the rest of the house. Once you get the go-ahead from the necessary authorities, the first step may well be to install a skylight, and once you do, you'll know much more about the rest of the look of the room.

In fact, you may want to install more than one skylight. If you're doing this on your own, make sure that you first figure out the path of the sun during the course of the day. A badly-planned skylight will mean the light's pouring in during the afternoons of August but is barely making an appearance in February, when you need it most.

There are many kinds of skylights available on the market these days, and to go with them, there are many kinds of skylight shades, so that you can protect the room from the sun in summer.

You can also talk to a carpenter about the feasibility of installing a regular side window. You may need to be creative here, and use an oddly-shaped or off-sized window in order to fit.

The next step will be the walls and the flooring. You will need plenty of insulation in the walls, if you plan to use the room in summer.

For flooring, you can choose anything you'd choose for the rest of the house, but making an attic over for a playroom necessitates using a flooring material that's durable and easy to clean. One idea is to use laminate flooring, one that looks like wood, marble, or painted wood, and yet is super-easy to clean.

Of course, even with the skylights you'll have to work to keep the room from being dark, so we recommend you install an easy-clean flooring that is light-colored, or even white if it comes with a scuff-proof guarantee.

To make such a playroom really work, you'll want to have loads of floor space. Don't crowd the room with a lot of furniture. If you're planning to use it as a guest room for sleepovers, invest in a few blow-up mattresses and keep them stored away in a trunk. If you want it to double as a guest room for grown-up visitors, try a trundle bed, which will offer a good bed for adult guests, but which will be a nice sofa for the kids as well.

Of course, you'll also need lots of storage room for the kids' toys. Like the windows, this may take some creativity, as you'll want any shelving or cabinets to fit in with the slanted ceilings in order to make the most of the space. If you can afford custom-made shelves and cabinets, this is the way to go.

If you have to use bookshelves that are ready-made, and therefore don't follow the line of the sloping attic ceiling, choose a model that has an open top. Then, put something on the top shelf that doesn't have a flat, straight line - such as balls, stuffed animals, or a round vase - to fool the eye.

Make sure to use washable wall paint, and keep a roll of paper towels and a spray cleaner on hand.

And then, send the kids up to the attic. Once they have their own room to play in that's set a little ways apart from the rest of the house, you can reclaim the living room for yourself again - at least for a couple of hours.


Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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