This 'Little Gem' of an Attic Became an Impressive Primary Suite

bedroom colorful bed chair pillows
Photo: Kimberly Gavin

Anyone who's undertaken an attic renovation will most likely tick off the project's challenges: slanted ceilings, ventilation obstructions, an awkward layout. But with careful planning and thoughtful design choices, an attic can be an opportunity to claim square footage as efficient living space—without the burden of adding on. This attic remodel before and after shows how one couple converted their unused space into a hardworking retreat packed with storage and style. Steal their strategies to make your own attic a cozy getaway.

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Before: Bare-Bones Attic

room before wood windows
Courtesy of homeowner

The attic was unusable before the remodel—a lack of insulation left the space hot in summer and freezing in winter. Although adding a dormer would have expanded the attic's headroom, homeowners Leah Drury and David Dobish wanted to keep the original roofline and maintain the integrity of their classic 1930s Tudor-style home in south Minneapolis.

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After: Hardworking Attic Bedroom

bedroom colorful bed chair pillows
Kimberly Gavin

Leah describes the unfinished space as "a little gem waiting for the right approach." Though their attic was small, the couple expected it to work hard for their family. They brought in architect Ted Barnhill to help them realize their goals: an attic primary suite with a luxury bath, ample storage, a laundry room, and even an office.

In the new sleeping area, a bed with a slim headboard tucks under the eaves. Cabinets frame a large window, while a window seat piled with pillows serves as a comfortable perch; the top lifts for extra storage.

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Built-In Attic Storage

Attic storage cabinet pillows shelves
Kimberly Gavin

Built-in units throughout the primary suite make the most of the attic's sloping ceilings, offering lots of storage and eliminating the need for freestanding pieces. The unified look of the cabinets makes the small space feel more cohesive, and glass-front doors keep the shelves from becoming dusty catchalls. The see-through cabinets show off books and colorful accessories, while the standard cabinet door conceals extra bed linens and folded seasonal clothing.

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Small Home Office

desk Maximize Miniature Space table chair
Kimberly Gavin

No space is wasted in this attic remodel. A glossy white Parsons table and pair of chairs slide under the eave of a staircase landing, creating a convenient mini office for the homeowners. Brightly hued ceramic and acrylic containers hold pens, pencils, and other office supplies and keep the desktop in working order. Fun patterned accessories—like the lampshade and bolster pillow—bring personality to what would otherwise be a pass-through space.

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Custom Walk-In Closet

Closet Customization doors
Kimberly Gavin

The couple shares the closet, which is divided into two zones, customized according to each person's storage needs. Leah's side features hanging space and shelves, and David's area contains built-in drawers for folded clothes and display space for accessories on top. "My only regret is that we didn't do it 10 years earlier," he says. A barn-style door hangs in front of the closet, sliding open as needed.

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Closet Upgrades

Rods Shelves clothing hangers closet
Kimberly Gavin

This walk-in closet may not be huge, but it's certainly efficient, thanks to a multi-level approach to storage. On the right side of the closet, a combination of hanging rods and shelves creates a tiered storage system. A low rod along the back wall holds jackets, pants, and shirts, while shelves above provide a perch for accessories like purses, jewelry, and scarves. The highest rod provides hanging space for longer garments, like dresses or robes.

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Attic Skylights

attic storage light rug hallway
Kimberly Gavin

Since natural light was important to Leah, Barnhill supplemented the existing windows with three skylights. He purposefully positioned them to face east and north, ensuring they offer indirect light that won't overheat the space.

In the hall outside the closet, a base cabinet featuring Shaker-inspired molding shines under a skylight. Designed to serve as a second spot for hanging clothes, the storage unit nods to the home's original style, but a trio of funky pendant lights lends a modern touch that keeps the space from feeling dated.

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Attic Laundry Room

washer dryer combo laundry room closet
Kimberly Gavin

A washer and dryer slide into a niche across from the closet for easy-access laundry. Drawers next to the units conceal laundry supplies and a hamper, and a pocket door screens the stacked machines when they're not in use.

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Clever Storage Add-Ons

folding station laundry room
Kimberly Gavin

Look closely and you'll discover a hidden design element that elevates this laundry room from basic to enviably efficient. Between the cabinet's drawers is a pullout ledge, handy for folding clothes or holding a laundry basket. This smart laundry helper is just one of many custom storage solutions incorporated throughout the attic remodel.

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Attic Bathroom Remodel

relaxing light bathroom tub windows sink
Kimberly Gavin

In the bathroom, a knee wall—a short wall supporting the rafters—was bumped back on one side to accommodate a soaking tub beneath the eave. This quickly became one of Leah's favorite features. A custom vanity includes a diversity of drawers for stowing bath products, while the ledge around the tub holds bath salts (and even has space for fresh flowers!). A low stool keeps additional bath items within easy reach. Reflective glass tile and large windows fill the space with light.

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Attic Walk-In Shower

Unique Design tile bathroom brick
Kimberly Gavin

The relaxing suite maximizes every inch of usable space by balancing practical storage with thoughtful design. A walk-in shower is nestled in the space behind the home's chimney, and the adjacent wall leaves the structure's brick exposed, which adds dimension and preserves some of the home's original detail. Marble tile echoes the shape of the bricks, while a rain showerhead adds a luxurious touch. The narrow window was previously a vent but was opened up to let in a sliver of natural light. A chest-high cabinet serves as a linen closet.

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Bathroom Vanity Storage

bathroom storage tile cabinets
Kimberly Gavin

A section of the vanity top was set lower to accommodate the window. Since the base cabinet corrals spa-day supplies, the dropped-down portion became the ideal spot for touching up a pedicure. The shallow drawers above hold small toiletries.

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Storage for Toiletries

bathroom storage
Kimberly Gavin

Thoughtfully designed cabinets cut down on clutter and maximize storage. In this freestanding linen closet, toiletries are organized in bins on upper shelves and extra towels are stacked below. Keeping the paint color consistent with the vanity unifies the small bathroom and gives it a custom feel.

Updated by
Bonnie Broten

Bonnie Broten is an interior designer and field editor for Better Homes & Gardens. She has over 25 years of experience as a photo stylist and producer. Bonnie's work has been featured in national home magazines such as Kitchen and Bath Makeovers and Country Home, focusing on scouting, styling, and producing quality stories thanks to her interior design background.

Bonnie Broten attended the University of Minnesota, graduating with a degree in Interior Design. She was part of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

Bonnie is currently an interior designer at Design Collective and shop owner with stores in both Minneapolis and Chicago.

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