How to Decorate Attic Space - dummies

By Katharine Kaye McMillan, Patricia Hart McMillan

Early Americans often used attics as bedrooms, but now they are more commonly used for storage. Because the structure (walls, floor, ceiling) exists, attics are relatively inexpensive to claim for living space. You usually need to remodel an unfinished attic before you can begin decorating. After you’ve done this, let the decorating begin! Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep it light: Unless you add dormers and/or skylights, attics are dark spaces. Add ample artificial lighting, preferably set-in-ceiling, high hat type fixtures, which don’t encroach on headroom. Use light, bright, cheerful colors for walls and furnishings, such as sunny lemon or banana yellow, apricot, or peach.

  • Consider the angles: Attics are full of interesting (and confusing) angles. Create unity to cut the confusion by keeping walls and floors nearly the same light color. If you’re using a patterned wallcovering for its old-fashioned charm, keep the background light and the pattern small to medium in scale and relatively open like a trellis. A trellis creates a three-dimensional effect that makes any room seem spacious.

  • Raise those low ceilings: Attics look smaller than they are because about 50 percent of the space has less than 7-1/2 feet of headroom. To compensate, stick to a light color scheme for floors and walls. Use a wallcovering in a vertical stripe with a light background for the knee wall area (the short wall between the floor and a peaked ceiling). Use a coordinating, small, open-ground geometric or floral pattern wallcovering for the ceiling.


  • Make the most of among-the-trees views: Leave attic windows, which are usually small, uncovered. If you need the privacy, install a simple blind, but avoid draperies (they take up visual space). If you feel the need for the softness draperies create, keep the contrast between the drapery and walls minimal, to retain a sense of spaciousness.

  • Let flooring do double duty: Let the flooring act as a sound absorber. A thick low-pile carpet with a generously thick pad does the trick and makes the attic seem more plush. Pass up noisy, hard-surface floorings, and avoid space-eating, deep-pile shaggy rugs.

  • Choose furniture that makes the space seem bigger: No big, bulky furniture for attics. Keep all furniture low and horizontal, so that it seems to blend into the low knee wall and not encroach on the ceiling height. If you plan to use your attic as a bedroom, consider dispensing with the bed frame and just placing the box springs directly on the floor. Or if the bedroom is for children or young guests, use a futon or camp cot as a bed.