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By BILL DuPRE Raleigh News & Observer Artist Dorothy Loring was looking for a new studio. Dean Hering needed a home office; his wife, Molly, wanted a comfortable guest bedroom. Kim and Angus Grant were after a bit more space to make a true "guest suite" for parents who would be visiting to dote on their new granddaughter. All these homeowners found what they needed under the roof. "I could not believe what a big space that was," Loring said, recalling her first peek into the attic space of her North Raleigh townhouse. Today that big space is her studio, bright with natural light and so much handier than the studio in downtown Raleigh she used to rent. An attic is a space most people have, and finishing it may be your best buy in gaining living area. The basic construction is there; it's a matter of wiring, heat and air-conditioning, insulating, wallboard and finishing. Aside from the practical aspects of an attic refinishing, there's something appealing about these little spaces, with their angled ceilings, knee walls and out-of-the-way locations. They're cozy spots to retreat from the noise and bustle of a busy family. An attic can bring out the kid in you; it can be your cubby, a place to get away from it all. These three homeowners took different approaches to get the results they wanted. The magic attic "I always wanted a secret passageway," Dean Hering said. What he and his wife, Holly, got on their third-floor makeover in North Raleigh is worthy of Harry Potter: A bookcase that looks normal when closed, but slides open to reveal a large storage space under the sloping roof line. "It's our own 'Panic Room,' " Dean Hering quips, referring to the recent movie. And that's just one of the clever ways the Herings and their contractor, Solar Energy and Design of Wake Forest, found to make maximum use of the approximately 500-square-foot space. It's primarily an office for Dean Hering, who works at home a couple of days a week in his computer software business. The family also wanted a guest bedroom, so the Herings and contractor Randy Smith created a full-sized bed on rollers that disappears into the wall when not in use. Large drawers and a small pull-down desk are also built into the knee wall of the space. But the centerpiece of the home office is the large, flat desk where Dean Hering works. It also makes clever use of unused space: It's situated over the stairwell and integrated into the railing. It's his favorite feature in the makeover. Hanging the desk over the stairwell was his idea; Smith built the desk and came up with the idea of building it into the railings for a custom look. A light under the desk illuminates the stairwell. "It really saved a tremendous amount of space," Hering said. A final space-thrifty idea was Smith's: To stand the existing furnace on its end to free floor space for a bathroom. The six-week project cost about $30,000, Smith said. "It's a great place to work," Dean Hering said -- much better than the living room, where he used to have his home office. And the big window provides lots of natural light. "I can work there all day," he said. The artist's studio Parking was always a problem in the downtown Raleigh studio space Dorothy Loring rented for her portraiture business. So she looked up in her townhouse and found the answer -- but it wasn't an easy one. She contacted Dyck Dewid of Hands-On Contracting to check out the space. "It looked kind of impossible initially," Dewid said. The roof was supported by trusses -- wooden "webbing" between the rafters and joists -- that prevented opening up the space. And there wasn't much of a way to bring material up to the space. Dewid brought in an engineer, who determined that the studio project would require beefing up the structure down to the foundation. But Loring was determined. So a 14-foot "Flitch beam," a laminate of steel sandwiched between two wooden beams, was installed on the first floor. Walls on the first and second floors were opened to allow for more load-bearing studs. Then long, hefty beams were installed under the roof to replace the trusses. Now the space was open. "Other things were more normal," Dewid said. He built a stairway, installed R-30 insulation in the 2-by-10 rafters, put in heat and air-conditioning and a pair of Solatube skylights to give Loring natural light. To get building material to the attic, the roof was opened and a boom installed, he said. To save money, Loring did some finishing work herself, including installing linoleum flooring that's impervious to her oil paints, trimming out the doors and painting the walls. The two-month project cost about $22,000, Dewid said. "It turned out really well," Loring said. "I just run up there any time I want to. Sometimes I just go up there and sit and see what I did yesterday." Suite success Kim and Angus Grant have been in their home in Chapel Hill's Southern Village about a year. But even as they signed the closing papers, they were thinking about the future. One of Angus Grant's high school buddies, Jeremy Farber, had a small remodeling business, Maplewood Building Co., and urged the couple to have wallboard delivered and placed in their new home's unfinished spaces while the house was being built -- it's easier to get it in that way, and might be a bit cheaper. Today a portion of that space is a cozy, bright den that's part of an area for guests -- something the Grants expect a lot as their parents visit their new granddaughter. "The day they closed, I went in and Sheetrocked the room," Farber said. He also roughed in electrical wiring. A bookcase was built around the large window. With a TV, comfortable seating and exercise equipment, the 14-by-13-foot room makes a cozy spot for the Grants or guests. The room, between a bedroom and bath, makes the space "almost like an efficiency apartment," Farber said. There's more space, on the third floor, which the Grants plan to make into living area -- and the wallboard is there, waiting. "We call it our Add-A-Bead house," Kim Grant said. Farber estimates the cost of finishing the space, including the bookcase, at about $7,000. It was completed in a few weeks, he said. ..... This feature was originally published June 29, 2002.
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"Nook knack" "Homeowners turn attics into useful spaces" Headline by Pam Nelson of the Raleigh News & Observer: I brainstormed quite a while on this one. I wrote down some of the key words that the story suggested to me, among them: attic, renovate, under the roof, garret. (This is one of my favorite devices, working on paper to come up with head ideas.) I looked up attic in the dictionary, too. (That's when garret showed up.) I followed the "up under the roof" line - because the old Drifters song played in my head - but that didn't pan out. Then I followed "garret" line for a little while, trying to come up with a head that played off that rather unfamiliar, but nicely literary, word, but found my ideas unsatisfactory. I went back to the story and hit upon a description that the writer had used: "[Attics are] cozy spots to retreat from the noise and bustle of a busy family. An attic can bring out the kid in you; it can be your cubby, a place to get away from it all." I didn't want to steal the word "cubby," so I started looking for a word that suggested the same idea, and "nook" came to mind pretty quickly. Heads are like poetry sometimes; you look for poetic devices - rhyme, rhythm, allusions, alliteration, assonance. It occurred to me that the homeowners had shown some vision when they looked at their attics and saw what those spaces could become, so "Nook knack" popped up. I rolled it around on my mind's tongue and liked it. I tried it out on Bill, who is also the editor of the section, and he liked it, too. The drophead was fairly easy and straightforward because I wanted readers to understand quickly what the story was about.
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