My house is a victorian townhouse, and slightly unusual in that it has a basement, ground and first floor but no rear extension, so pretty tall and thin. Then I decided a few years ago to make it even taller by converting the loft. It was a promising project – the views would be amazing as the house is on the side of a hill and the landing was sufficiently large that all the first floor rooms would be left intact after the addition of the extra staircase.
Looking back, my exact reasons for doing the conversion seem a bit unclear – I was single and living on my own at the time and the house already had three bedrooms. But I knew it would make a great multipurpose room – an office from which to work, a spare bedroom when needed, plus under eaves storage for the endless stuff that accumulates wherever I live.
The project was completed in 2008 and I gained a decent-sized room (albeit with sloping ceilings all round) which included a clever under-eaves area which fitted a standard double perfectly. The plan was that it could be a workroom but still accommodate guests without the bedroom part of it dominating the space. And this worked well for a while, but over the years it just started to fill up with stuff. And more stuff. By time our first baby arrived in 2013, the dust had well and truly settled up there and it was pretty much out of use, with boxes and furniture piled up.
Two years later, I had a bit of a revelation – since the arrival of our baby we were short of cash and this could easily be resolved by using the loft for Airbnb! I would spend a week clearing out the room and then it could be furnished and styled properly for accommodating any guest who was brave enough to stay with a family who had a 2 year old…
Only the clearing out went on and on, and just never stopped. Every day I went up there and opened a box, filled rubbish bags, charity boxes, wept a little over sentimental items, looked through faded photos and re-read letters. Then after a few painful weeks, things started to take shape: I could see clear spaces and that meant I could start thinking about how the room could be used, and what furniture and accessories were needed.
I think the key pieces which drove the rest of the decor were three items which already happened to be there: a Gordon Russell walnut sideboard, a Tremaen pottery lamp with a cow parsely design and a brightly coloured vintage embroidery on hessian. All three items (bought from vintage shops at various points over the previous few years) sat together on the end wall and looked nice together so I just built things from there.
Furnishing the rest of the room proved to be a bit of a challenge as I had a low budget. The alcove bed area at that point only had a mattress and finding a bed frame low enough to fit was tricky, so I ended up getting Ikea’s most basic pine bed frame (an ex display one too so at a discount!) and then I chopped the legs off and stained it a darker brown. The bed could only be assembled inside the alcove and then of course once in situ I realised I hadn’t made the legs short enough to accommodate the mattress (pesky sloping ceiling meant everything had to be lower than low) so I spent a fun evening un-assembling the bed and amputating more bed leg, then going through the painful assembly process again.
Because the bed is right in the corner under the eaves, it meant I could make the main part of the loft into a lounge area and decided to configure it as a sofabed plus a single armchair. This meant that the loft could comfortably seat three guests at a time, and a sofabed would provide sleeping space for third guest. Budget constraints were again a big decider, next to the sheer challenge of finding something that would fit up the tiny loft staircase and after a bit of searching I decided on Made.com’s Yoko sofa. It’s a nice simple design with a budget price, and the quick and simple conversion to bed make it easy for guests to do themselves. It’s not the most comfortable bed, and is way too short for even people of average height, but it was a good enough compromise for occasional bed use.
The remaining seating was provided by one of a pair of vintage Habitat scoop chairs. I bought them off Ebay a few years ago and they’ve been incredibly useful throughout the house. They’re basically foam wedges with a corduroy loose cover over the top, you place as many together as you like to make a sofa, and they’re sufficiently wide enough for two people to squeeze onto a single unit. We kept one downstairs and the other one was pushed up the tiny staircase to its new home on the top floor.
Storage space for guests isn’t a massive consideration in that you don’t need nearly as much as hotels provide. There’s also the challenge of the sloping ceilings and so I went hunting for a nice chest of drawers which would fit underneath the eaves. After scrolling through several hundred on Ebay, I found a pair of CWS chest of drawers listed very cheaply and incredibly they were in the next street up from mine – still can’t believe my luck as I was looking over a fairly wide distance. The other chest from the matching pair sits in another room now, along with the matching Habitat chair, in our second Airbnb room which I will write about another time.
The remaining storage was provided by a bamboo hanging rail which came from Argos, a vintage toboggan for putting shoes and luggage on (just so happened to have that already, and it does still get used if it ever snows), a G Plan coffee table, Lloyd loom chest (for spare bedding) and a row of small Ikea Billy bookcases which have Cole and Son wallpaper covering the glass doors. I had some going spare and it matches the lamp base quite well!
And very shortly after the room was finished, we were open for business! We opened at Easter and over the summer months over 100 guests used the room. We can’t offer hotel facilities (instead of ensuite you have to take your chances in the downstairs bathrooms with the rest of us) but we were able to offer amazing views, a sideboard full of goodies (biscuits, wine, tea, coffee etc), fluffy dressing gowns and a mountain of local information that would put the Tourist Information Office to shame.
Unfortunately, we had to stop bookings once I discovered I was pregnant in the autumn and the Airbnb doors are still closed, but maybe next year… Meanwhile, we now have an amazing multipurpose room which has been rescued from under the piles of dust and junk!