David Cloak has been working behind the scenes as a set carpenter on TV design shows for six years. However, it wasn't until recently that he applied some of those on-the-job tricks to his own Hapeville, Ga., home.
When the single father of two purchased his 2,200-square-foot 1946 cottage, he put every space to good use with the exception of the attic. With daughters Gaby, 10, and Channing, 7, beginning to outgrow their cramped first-floor bedroom, the 18x13 attic showed tons of potential for becoming a spacious alternative.
To put a home makeover show spin on the top-floor redesign, David decided he'd enlist the help of a few designer friends, keep the entire project a secret, and reveal the finished space to the girls as a surprise. But along the way he ran into a few surprises of his own.
For space planning purposes, David was determined to create three different zones: one for sleeping, one for study and lounging, and another for storage and drawing. In order to add lounging and study space, an L-shaped window seat made from pre-fab cabinetry was installed, topped with custom cushions and pillows, and finished off with a round pedestal table and solid aluminum armchairs.
To sneak in a space dedicated to storage and drawing, David bolted pre-fab pine cabinets along the room's left-side wall near the room's entrance, painted the door fronts with chalkboard paint and added open storage below in the form of pink plastic bins. Of all three zones, the study and lounging space is by far the biggest hit: "Everyone is in love with the window seat," David says. "It looks like a custom piece. People are really surprised to hear it's made up of budget-friendly pre-fab cabinets."
In order to install the window seating cabinetry, a steel track was mounted directly into the wall studs 18 inches above the floor, just one inch below the top of each cabinet. With the track securely installed, each 24'-inch-deep by 38'-inch-wide cabinet was fastened to the wall with metal cleat along its back. The amount of precision involved with ensuring each cabinet hung perfectly level was so painstaking that David suggests do-it-yourselfers hire the labor out to a professional.
After rummaging through piles of accumulated stuff, David re-discovered some possible key design elements for the new space. "It had been so long since I'd spent time in the attic that I'd completely forgotten about some hand-me-downs I'd stuck up there, including an old dresser and twin headboards," David says. "These were too grown up back when the girls were 2 and 5 years old, but are very appropriate now."
The super dad decided to give these re-discovered pieces new life. “I took everything down to my workshop, sanded it all, and sprayed each piece with high-gloss paint using an HVLP sprayer," David says. Although the spraying was easy, drying was the difficult part. Due to the humid weather, he learned that sprayed furniture pieces cure best in air-conditioned spaces. It took six hours in the living room for everything to dry.
While both carpentry and home improvement come naturally to David, decorating and design are much more of a stretch. "I can assemble, fix and install just about anything but when it comes to choosing decor, I have no idea what to do," David says. Since many of David's designer and art director friends often call on him for handyman work, he enlisted their expertise both for the attic's space planning and furniture selection.
David was surprised at what a difference painting the ceiling the same color as the walls made. "I thought painting the ceiling in a dark or bold color would make the attic feel cramped and cavernous," David says. "Instead, it made the angled ceiling pretty much disappear. The attic actually feels larger now."
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