A Loft in a State of Disrepair
The 25sqm loft had been neglected for over a century, and it felt like a dungeon since it was used only as a storage space. There were no windows for proper ventilation, the floors and roof were damaged, and there were holes and leaks everywhere. To make matters worse, we had some unwanted four-legged visitors that made me want to scream.
Despite all of this, I thought that finding architects to convert our loft to a master bedroom would be easy. But I was (very) wrong. I tried everything to find professional help but had no luck. By the start of 2021, the roof was leaking and I was freaking out. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, despite my lack of experience, and design the loft myself. As a newbie DIY renovator, I knew I had a challenging task ahead of me.
As of today, the loft space is nearly complete, with only a few finishing touches remaining such as door moulding, custom-made wardrobes, and bathroom storage. Painting and wallpapering will also be completed later.
By sharing my experience and lessons learned in this blog post, I aim to provide guidance and inspiration to anyone undertaking a similar project. Whether you’re renovating a loft or pursuing any other type of home improvement, my goal is to help you avoid common pitfalls and make the process smoother and more enjoyable.
First things first, I started by taking precise measurements of every aspect of the space, including the walls and lower beams, to ensure everything would fit seamlessly. I also noted any unique angles or features, specific to old stone houses,that required special consideration.
1 – Name a Project Leader:
In my experience, designating a project leader is crucial, even for personal renovation projects. This involves assigning one person as the leader, and it can be either you or your partner. After discussing with my husband, we defined our roles and responsibilities, and I took on the role of project leader. Having a single person responsible for decision-making ensured efficiency, streamlined information flow, and kept us on top of changes or updates. In addition, designating the project leader as the sole point of contact for vendors and builders helped prevent miscommunication and confusion.
2 – Consider Safety Before Renovating a Loft:
To ensure the safety and sturdiness of our renovation project, we hired a professional to inspect the floor and roof. They checked if the frame could handle the new design, ensured that the main beams were in good condition, and determined the need for a staircase. Extensive work was necessary, which included renovating the roof and repairing the floor by removing old insulation materials such as clay, straw, and even horse manure (yes, you read that right!).
3 – Design a Space With You in Mind:
The creation of a loft space that suited our personal behavior required meticulous consideration of our usage patterns, layout, and lighting preferences. By closely observing how we used our current apartment, I was able to guide the design of the loft to meet our needs. For instance, I have a preference for natural light, whereas Nick dislikes confined spaces. As a result, I ensured that there were enough windows to allow light and air into the space, creating an open and airy environment.
4 – Work on The Floor Plan First:
Having a clear vision of the loft’s layout and design was crucial before starting any work on the roof. This involved planning for necessary windows in advance. To get the layout right, I used simple means like a pen, paper, a good eraser, and a scale ruler, typically working on a 1:33 scale for accuracy. I created multiple floor plan versions with numerous revisions, defining zones such as the bed space, custom-made wardrobes, bathroom, and vestibule. Then, I positioned the bed while considering walkways. I taped the floor space several times to get it right. Although it took a couple of months to finalize, getting the layout right was essential.
5 – Plan For Windows to Maximise Natural Light:
Windows are crucial to loft design, as they provide natural light and ventilation, making a small space appear more spacious and comfortable. This is particularly important for walls with sloped ceilings. During the planning phase, I consulted with the roofer to determine the best locations for the windows. As a result of our discussions, I decided to include a Velux window in the staircase, another in the bathroom, and a large one in the bedroom to maximize natural light. Additionally, I added a dormant apec window to add character and interest to the space. Later, I installed a custom-made orangerie-style “verrière” to preserve the light from the staircase window.
6- Don’t Forget to Plan For Doorways:
Planning doorways was crucial to ensure they did not impact the overall design of the loft. In the limited space of the bathroom, I chose a French sliding door that allowed more natural light to enter, contributing to the loft’s modern country feel.
7 – Bathroom Design Requires Meticulous Attention to Detail:
Designing the bathroom in our loft was the most challenging part of the project for me. It was a bit tricky to figure out the proportions of every element, taking into account the allocated space, sloped ceiling, walkways, and Nick’s height, as he is 1.86m tall. It took several rounds of trial and error to get it right. To ensure the feasibility of the design, I maintained open communication with the plumber, making sure that the positions of the WC, shower tray, water heater, and vanity matched the plumbing requirements.
8 – Have an Electrical Plan Ready:
The electrical plan is equally crucial as the plumbing in designing a loft. To ensure sufficient illumination on dark winter days, I planned for both downlights and wall lighting. I also included an adequate number of electric plugs throughout the space, enabling future placement of electric heaters, accent table lamps, and floor lamps. Of course, I double-checked everything with my electrician to ensure everything was up to standard.