Dark unfinished attic in Minneapolis is transformed into airy quilt room

·5 min read

Favorite room: A hobby room in the formerly unfinished attic of Carolyn and Dennis Davidson's longtime home in Minneapolis. It's where she does quilting and he plays music.

Created by: The couple hired White Crane Design:Build to design the attic space and to do the necessary plumbing and mechanical work and install Sheetrock. The Davidsons did all the finishing work themselves.

The back story: When the Davidsons bought their vintage Tudor in the Northrop neighborhood in 1989, its unfinished attic was one of the selling points. "We'd seen so many attics butchered with ugly paneling and shag carpet," said Dennis. "We didn't want to have to rip something like that out. This was one of only a handful that were a clean slate."

Originally, the couple had hoped to create an owners' suite in their attic. "We had talked about doing the upstairs for years. But with little kids, who has time or money?" Dennis said. Finally, as empty nesters, the Davidsons decided the time was right to finish the attic.

Carolyn, an avid quilter who devotes several hours every day to her hobby, was tired of quilting in the basement. "We painted the floor but it's still a stinky basement," she said. She was eager for a well-lit space where she could spread out her work and store her fabrics and other supplies.

How they did it: The 680-square-foot space retains the sloped ceilings of the original attic. The striking new flooring is made of locally sourced urban ash wood, supplied by Wood From the Hood, laid in a chevron pattern by Dennis, who once built canoes and owned a canoe shop. "I'm addicted to woodwork," he said. He was inspired by travels to visit their daughter in Vienna. "In Europe, they don't lay flooring in straight planking. Her entire flat is all herringbone." (Dennis also laid their wood kitchen floor, in a pattern that Carolyn described as a "man quilt.")

Dennis built the diamond-patterned stair enclosure, which was inspired by an original leaded-glass window with diamond-shaped panes. That attic window was originally an exterior window, but it was repurposed as an interior window for the small bathroom that they added to the attic. "We nicknamed it 'the confession booth,' " said Carolyn.

In the center of the room, under LED hanging lights, are Carolyn's cutting table, ironing board and two sewing machines. The knee-wall space along two facing walls was converted into built-in storage for fabric and other supplies, concealed behind barn doors. Sturdy rods were installed for hanging and displaying Carolyn's completed quilts, which she makes as gifts for family members and friends.

The formerly dark attic is now flooded with natural light, thanks to all new windows, including a large arched one that illuminates a nook with a table and pair of chairs, where the couple enjoy coffee together.

In another nook, where the brick chimney anchors one wall, are a sofa bed, TV and electric fireplace with a surround made of ancient barnwood from Dennis' parents' farm in Michigan. Dennis also fashioned a picture frame from the same wood to hang above the fireplace. That nook is where he spends time listening to and making music.

"I'm allowed in this corner," he said with a laugh. But there are restrictions on what he can do there. "He can play banjo while I'm quilting," said Carolyn. "The fiddle is off limits."

Pandemic project: The couple started their project in 2019, and did much of the finishing work during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home order. "It gave us plenty of time," said Carolyn. "We weren't going anywhere."

Budget: The attic conversion cost about $140,000, plus $7,000 for the wood that Dennis used to lay the floor and build the stair enclosure and railings.

The payoff: Carolyn now has a quilting room that will be the envy of her quilter friends — once they get a look at it. "They haven't seen it, because of COVID," she said. "But we did put extra outlets in the floor so I could have people over and plug in." The sofa bed will allow the space to double as a guest room for visiting quilters.

In the meantime, the Davidsons are enjoying their new space themselves. "We had Christmas up here with our kids," said Carolyn. "I like how sunny it is. It really turned out beautifully."

Kim Palmer has retired from the Star Tribune. To reach the new Homes editor, e-mail Nancy Ngo, nancy.ngo@startribune.com. To reach Kim Palmer, e-mail kjpwords13@gmail.com.

My Favorite Room is an occasional series showcasing one-of-a-kind spaces, as submitted by readers. During the pandemic, we've all been spending more time at home and tweaking our space to make home more functional and enjoyable. A favorite room doesn't have to be a showcase of fine design — it can be fun, whimsical or downright quirky. Maybe it's a uniquely personalized home office or a room you designed for your pet — or your pet hobby. Send a snapshot or two, along with a brief description of what makes your room special, to myfavoriteroom@startribune.com. We'll showcase readers' favorite rooms in upcoming Sunday Homes sections.