Before & After: Minneapolis Attic Makeover

I am an experienced horror movie watcher. I was hit with a wave of both pride and embarrassment when I logged onto my Netflix account and every single “suggestion” for me was a gory or creepy sci-fi horror film. I’m too scared to investigate why I like those movies so much, but for today, I feel it qualifies me to officially declare this attic “before” the perfect horror movie setting. I can easily imagine a number of terrifying people (and things) occupying this space. Thankfully photo stylist and film maker Matthew Stenerson came along and decided to give this space a new life. Working with his friends, Ryan Fall, Jake Zontelli and Nadia Haddad, Matthew transformed the attic of his 1901 South Minneapolis “farmhouse” duplex into a beautiful bedroom and office. The full details and more photos are after the jump– this is definitely a project that went from scary to stunning. xo, grace

Photographs by TJ Thoraldson

We added spray-foam insulation, a stairwell from the kitchen, (I had to sacrifice my pantry, but that’s okay. I don’t cook) and some extra electrical. We cut 4×8 plywood sheets into panels and white washed them with one light coat of paint. I washed the floors and sealed the floors, but didn’t have to sand or stain. The front end of the attic became the bedroom with a small closet and the back became a living room and office, with the stairs located behind the sofa.

  1. my attic is now suffering from attic-envy.

  2. Natalie says:

    I like the wide, rustic floorboards and especially the way the skis match the coral, dark grey and white motif. A beautiful redo without looking “done-up!”

  3. Kate says:

    Got yourself a headline typo there!

  4. Gorgeous transformation. I am still to afraid to root around in our 130 year attic. This might have given me the courage.

  5. web tasarım says:

    it show us if you keep working, you will be succeed

  6. Cindy P. says:

    Wow! What a transformation. I love the floors.

  7. Tonya says:

    What a perfect place to go hide and read and pretend you have no chores:)

  8. Whoah! This has got to be one of my favorite before and afters! What a dreamy idea to turn a place we all dread going into a space full of light and warmth. I especially like the way you’ve used wide planks over the spray foam insulation. It’s a brilliant design choice. Well done Matthew, Ryan, Jake, and Nadia!

  9. DotM says:

    Fantastic job – and where is that ottoman from? I love it!

  10. What an impressive change! Amazing floor.

  11. This looks gorgeous! Love it so much!

  12. Kat says:

    This is lovely!! Where did you store your air handler and pipes?

  13. Gorgeous! You were lucky with the floors! Our attic flooring had been painted at least 47 times…

  14. Jenna says:

    This looks gorgeous, but as a Minneapoltian myself, unless there’s magic involved, it’s going to be super chilly in the winter & hot hot hot in the summer. As long as your guests don’t mind. :)

  15. Jenni M says:

    What paint (brand/color) did you choose? I’m looking at white grey variations for a bedroom in my 1920s craftsman house in SoCal… This actic is gorgeous! Love the A-Frame

  16. Shannon says:

    Where did the rug by the desk come from? Very nice makeover!

  17. Mary Farmer says:

    Where did all the pipes and havoc units go?

  18. Kristy says:

    That is an amazing transformation! What a beautiful space. I sometimes do my art by the light of horror films.

  19. This is just beyond! I love the entire space.

  20. Michelle Bourdon says:

    This is gorgeous! I would use this space as a parents retreat, child-free zone!

  21. Vero Palazzo says:

    wow! impressive change!

  22. Such good timing for this! We’re starting our own attic conversion in just a few weeks so I’m lapping up all the inspiration I can find. This is gorgeous!

  23. Aimee says:

    This is beautiful! I love seeing these renos. From hot mess to totally gorgeous. haha.
    xoxo Aimee

  24. Nicole says:


  25. jackie says:

    nice redo! where did you get the couch?

  26. Matthew says:

    Thanks for the nice comments! I love horror movies too! To answer a few questions:
    DOTM: West Elm
    KAT & MARY: We hid the pipes and ducts in a thicker wall in the closet. We also hid some along with heating vents between thicker beams that aren’t shown in the photos. The rest are behind the knee-walls, accessible through a “secret door” by the desk.
    JENNI: I mixed all the leftover whites I had in the basement, so I don’t have an exact color for you, sorry.
    SHANNON: The blue stripe rug is from Ikea, a few years back.

  27. what a gorgeous space! we’re in the middle of renovating our home and I’ve been wondering what and if I should venture into renoing the attic…and now I think I might have to give it at least a fair shot.

  28. Lisa says:

    Awesome. I have a similar attic situation. I keep fantasizing that it’s huge and spacious with soaring ceilings…and then I poke my head up there and realize it’s not. But yours looks about the same and I LOVE what you’ve done with the space. You’ve restored my faith (and renewed my argument with my husband) that YES! I can do something constructive with that space. Hmmm…a few skylights and it would make a lovely new studio.

  29. Vanessa says:

    Super job Matthew!

  30. Kiki says:

    I can’t believe this before-after… it’s too gruesome to consider! And I am deadly afraid of Horror Movies so you can appreciate my feelings reading the intro. And then my mouth dropped… not a pretty sight!
    And then… I thought that looks exactly like certain ‘projects’ we see now for sale in Switzerland – far too expensive for the work involved, plus ‘DIY’ is not well looked upon because of security issues and insurance problems, plus ‘where do you live while you do this sort of enormous work’ etc etc – so YES I’m totally speechless with the wonderful result you offer us here – and I’m scared to death knowing that the stairs are hiding behind the sofa :) Hope you have a rail holding the sofa on the safe side!
    Thank You so much – this gives me hope.

  31. Sarah says:

    What is the sofa upholstered in and where did you get it?

  32. Lauren says:

    pretty impressive. Love it!

  33. Marta says:

    Beautiful after…Pretty amazing!

  34. Abbey says:

    What a transformation!

  35. Helen says:

    I like the colors you chose — all white — and then the neutral colored furniture with bright blue touches with bright green foliage. Not scary at all! Thanks for the gutsy work and the looksie for us…

  36. cynthia says:

    LUV the black and white ottoman!!! where did you find this?

  37. teri says:

    I love it but am concerned that you may have removed a load-bearing wall somewhere, did you consult a structural engineer or builder?

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      The home owner worked with two builders and a designer, so I’m pretty sure they took safety into consideration ;)


  38. Matthew says:

    To answer a couple more questions:
    The sofa is by Robert Haussmann, it’s on loan from my dad. My parents bought it in 1969. It was gray, but the fabric has faded to a warmer tone.
    The ottoman is from West Elm.

  39. cynthia says:

    checked with west elm. the ottoman WAS from west elm!! apparently they no longer carry it. grrrr.

  40. Mollie says:

    I audibly gasped when I saw this transformation. Beautiful!

  41. Rox says:

    Wow!! This is AMAZING! And those two old suitcases by the bed! Love them..

  42. Teri says:

    What a huge transformation! And you did what I do all the time… Mix a bunch of leftover paint together for a new project. I love it!

  43. amy says:

    Cynthia–You can still buy a poof very similar to the one in the picture. Fab is selling them. It’s one of those flash sites where you have to get there in six days and sign up but they look awesome.

  44. The Ottoman is from west elm and is still available! It’s the Kite Kilim Pouf:

  45. Angelique says:

    Please tell me where you got that poster?
    I had that poster in college ( I bought it at Agnes B in Boston )
    and have been looking for it ever since .
    Thank you kindly !

  46. Matthew says:

    Hi Angelique,
    Yeah, it’s the Agnes B/Godard poster, but I’m pretty sure I got it at Posteritati in New York. If they don’t have it now, you might be able to request it. I love that poster!!

  47. luna17 says:

    GENius, ripping the plywood into planks! Genius!

  48. sarah says:

    I love this transformation- I have a similarly scary attic, and need to do something with it- were you working with a very big budget? I’m wondering if this is something we can DIY, and would appreciate your insight on this! Thanks.

  49. Katharine says:

    The before picture is very similar to our attic and is so inspirational! I am wondering if this might be possible for us- can you share the budget one would need for this kind of transformation? Also how are you doing heating/air conditioning? Window units or did you install something? Thank you!!


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