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Attic Bedroom Conversion

Location: Narberth, PA

Building type: English Cottage

Renovation style: Creative Playful

Before this dramatic remodel in the nearby, lovely town of Narberth, this attic room was a dreaded and dark space filled with ductwork, ghosts and splinters. Our client’s two children were never allowed up to the attic and had to share a cramped bedroom down on the 2nd floor. Our clients had contacted a great architect that we already knew from prior work. This connection made it easy to discuss possibilities for layouts and to trouble shoot redesign based on our input and ideas for cost savings.   

Redesign for a Narberth Attic Stair

The architect needed our help understanding the clearances possible for the proposed stair reconfiguration. Stairs are a specialty of ours and we have helped many architects with stairwell geometry options and limitations. This home was similar to many of the Narberth homes that we have worked in: an attic stair with a tight, box winder style with pie shaped treads at the base, missing handrails and a head knocker-beam at the bottom. Ouch! 4 strikes against a comfortable stair.

Most of these conditions were "grandfathered", meaning that they were not up to current code but still permitted because the existing conditions can be worked around to be made safe. This fact led us to the biggest risk: modifying a portion of the stair can often trigger complete compliance with modern codes! We installed railings and the head beam at the bottom was restructured and raised, but changing the overall geometry as requested (box winder and tight width) would have created a major expense so the architect and owner both agreed with us that the budget should be spent on the attic bedrooms instead. 

Hiding Ductwork and Design Solutions for Attic Storage

We arranged for relocation of most of the air conditioning equipment but the octopus of flexible ductwork made for a design challenge. The bedrooms and closet storage design needed to help hide the runs of duct down into the second floor bedrooms. We arrived at multiple solutions for hiding the ducts, including placement in the floor framing, knee wall cavities (with access doors to additional storage) and the best solutions were stylish built-in bench seats and platforms which held the last offending AC ductwork. These seats turned out to be a perfect design element, creating unique sitting and play areas at different heights. The final design included central bedroom closets laid out back-to-back which also served as great sound barriers between the two children's bedrooms.

Completed with Double-Bay Skylights and Bedroom Egress Windows

In the first bedroom, we installed code required egress windows (in case of fire for firefighter's access). In the second bedroom we finished our project with a generous double-bay skylight installation at just the right height, allowing both children and adults to enjoy views of the rear yard treeline. Plenty of sunshine to chase away the ghosts! 

Let us know if you would like more information about this great kids bedroom solution!


  • Custom built-in bench seating with storage
  • Modified stairwell details
  • Energy-efficient skylights and windows
  • Exposed collar ties
  • Smart bedroom closet layouts
  • Hidden ductwork