Homeowners find respite under the roof with attic conversions

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 25, 2014 - 3:30 PM

Looking for a great escape, two couples found it in the attic, converting empty space into inviting master suites.

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At the end of the day, it’s easy for two Minneapolis couples to retreat to a quiet sanctuary. All they have to do is climb stairs that lead to the attic.

The couples’ well-designed attic conversions transformed uncomfortably hot — and cold — sloped-wall rooms into appealing sleeping and living spaces.

Nancy and Dan Griffin live in a traditional Tudor with coved ceilings and chopped-up rooms, but upstairs they’ve created a master suite that boasts open and uncluttered Asian-influenced spaces where Dan can meditate each morning.

Linda and Gerry Berglin’s remodeled attic in their Craftsman bungalow feels like it was always part of the house, yet it features a luxe bathroom, 10-foot ceilings and a closet as big as their kitchen.

“We’ve been getting a lot more inquiries about converting attics into usable space,” said Dan Hayes of Plekkenpol Builders in Bloomington. “Creating a bedroom and bathroom by far are the most popular.”

Many homeowners want to stay in their neighborhoods rather than move, and are exploring ways to expand, said Hayes. They might not have yard space for an addition, so they’re heading upstairs. “The appeal is you can create a nice getaway with its own modern bathroom and big walk-in closet,” said Hayes. “Typical old-house closets are only 3-by-3 feet.”

Here’s an inside look at two attic conversions.

Zen experience

The starting point: Owners Dan and Nancy Griffin bought their 1930s classic story-and a-half Tudor in the Nokomis neighborhood in 2001. The slanted-wall attic had been used for a kids’ room, but with only newspaper for insulation, it was chilly in the winter and sweltering in the summer. The home had only two bedrooms on the main floor and one tiny bathroom. The couple were planning to start a family and also needed a guest bedroom for visiting relatives. So five years after buying, they took out a home equity loan and converted their 450-square-foot attic space into a master suite.

What they did: To open up the attic to create a bedroom, sitting area and bathroom, they gutted the existing space. The demolition included removing a cedar closet and knocking down a wall next to the stairs. Now the Griffins are greeted by a nice wide hallway and a light-filtering, wrought-iron railing at the top of the stairs.

Asian by design: “We really liked streamlined contemporary spaces and Asian-themed features,” said Nancy. They chose feather-light, translucent shoji screens, which open to the closet, the bathroom and a meditation room. “They slide and don’t take up a lot of space,” she said. “They’re very streamlined, unique and look cool.”

Zen den: Dan walled off an area in a corner eave to create a cocoon-like room in which to meditate every morning, with a sliding shoji screen at the entrance. “I was surprised at how agreeable Nancy was to it,” he said.

Peaceful palette: Crisp white walls are outlined with black wood trim to match the shoji screens. The TV/sitting area’s leather cream couch and white Ikea tables add to the neutral aesthetic. “We didn’t want a lot of color,” said Dan.

Evolving bathroom: The couple enclosed a big, open gable and turned it into a bathroom outfitted with a shower and soaking tub. “I never thought we would have space for a full bathroom,” said Dan. “I hit my head once in awhile, but I love the angles.”

The basic bathroom felt spartan and unfinished, so the Griffins added enhancements several years later, working with Adam DeMalignon of Inspire Design and Construction in Minneapolis, with tile design by Lori Halverson, TilexDesign, Plymouth. They replaced a pedestal sink with a dark-stained wenge wood vanity covered with honed granite, and added new tile accents. “The new windows we bought in December with the wenge wood trim took the finished look up a notch,” said Nancy.

Biggest splurge: A glass and tile oversized shower customized to fit into a tight space. “That’s why we had to do the bathroom in two phases,” said Nancy.

The great escape: The Griffins ban clutter in their master suite to ensure a calm, relaxing environment. “We wanted it to be an escape from the rest of the house and where we can decompress after a busy workday,” said Nancy. “And feel like it’s uniquely ours.”

Craftsman boudoir

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  • Dan and Nancy Griffin transformed their attic into a minimalist Asia-inspired retreat complete with a platform bed and a meditation room behind shoji screens.

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