a peek inside the fishbowl

12 Sep, 2011

Reno post #15 – upstairs lairs

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno

Three reno posts in three days! I can’t believe it either. It’s all I’ve been thinking about lately.

second floor plan The upstairs was the hardest part of re-imagining our living space. I have always had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted the downstairs to look like but my ideas petered out as soon as I reached the bottom riser of the stairs.

The upper floor has challenged us since day one. Our home is not a full two-storey construction; it’s a half-storey up there, with lots of sloped ceilings. They’re pretty and charming – and they add a lot to the cosy feeling of our house – but they also seriously limit the amount usable wall space we have up there. And CHARMING gets tossed out the window once you realize that it’s impossible to put up shelves or hang artwork. (Just kidding. I like the charming. But I also like bookshelves.)

Here’s what the last version of this floorplan looked like. We tussled with it for awhile and eventually realized that we weren’t using the space as efficiently as we should be.

I am much happier with this new version. (Click the floor plan image to view an enlarged version of what we’re currently considering.)

Sidebar: I feel slightly sorry for our architect. He really is a big ol’ sweetie, but I have a tiny feeling that he thinks I’m a wee bit of a nutcase. I’m sure he’s tired of me crowing about the family bathroom already.

Speaking of which, I am really liking the upstairs bathroom now. I’m excited about a walk-in shower that’s tucked away like that, the double vanity, the enclosed toilet… I think it will really work for our family. I envision lots of mirrors and light and white tiles. This space needs to be superbright (but with a dimmer, I love dimmers in bathrooms!). The best thing about this plan is that there can be three (or more) people in there at the same time and they all have a degree of privacy. Yay! Related: we poked our heads into the plumbing and bathroom showroom at Preston Hardware the other day. Oi. Beautiful things in there eh? Sigh.

Master bedroom
It’s a little bigger now, and Mark gets his own li’l closet. Sadly, my dream window seat has been dropped from the plan. Boo.

Bedroom #2 (Emma’s future bedroom)
This is currently our bedroom. It’ll be a perfect size for Emma. She’s hankering for a loft bed but I’m aiming for something that looks like this.

Bedroom #3 (Sarah’s room)
See the tiny nook there, on this side of the wall from the bathtub? Mark wants to round out that corner and create a little reading area under the window. I think this is a sweet little room, but I do have a concern about the closet. It was designed his way to utilize part of the sloped ceiling. It wouldn’t be a floor to ceiling closet exactly. It would be high enough to meet the top of the slope, and it would be deep enough to accommodate shelving in the back of it. I’m still not convinced this will work and/or look good. What do you think? I’d love to hear your ideas. Personally, I’m inclined to keep a bit of the sloped ceiling (it’s a good place to put a bed) and create a different kind of closet for Sarah in that corner, maybe using the space deemed “storage” on the other side of the wall? Ack. Clearly, this is why I’m not an architect.

Anyway, yes! I feel like we’re on our way finally. And it feels pretty darn good.

Tags: , ,

9 Responses to "Reno post #15 – upstairs lairs"

1 | Nadine

September 12th, 2011 at 1:17 pm


Your reno plans look great ! You are right, sloped ceilings are so charming and remind me of those cute houses in the Swiss Alps. We just have a regular slope upstairs and as a result we have so much more sapce on the walls yet I would still prefer to have a very steep slope, just for that cozy feeling.
We also started some renos (downstairs bath, daughter’s den, basement office) but nothing too structural yet so we can manage to do this on our own for the time being . Once we start renos on the kitchen and a new mud room, then we’ll definitely need a designer.
Good luck with the process , I’m sure the final product will be amazing!

2 | coffee with julie

September 12th, 2011 at 5:31 pm


Personally, I’d lose the walk-in closet and opt for a small ensuite for the parents. But that’s just me being bossy and decisive now that it’s someone else’s reno! haha! :)

3 | Charlotte

September 12th, 2011 at 5:42 pm


Oh my gosh … I’m commenting again! You’ll be sick of me.

I grew up in a bedroom that had been converted from an attic so love the aesthetic. I had sloping ceilings (so totally get the artwork comment – they were great for posters though) that went down to walls about a foot and a half high. Major pain when it came to bed shopping!

Right – onto the important stuff. Here’s my feedback / food for thought.

Bedroom 3 storage. While the storage shown will work, it does seem disproportionate to the other bedrooms. I think that like you said, you would be better to use the storage cupboard currently shown for Bedroom 2. I would square it up (push it into Bed 2 like on the previous plan) to make it more usable …. I know it then sticks out in Bed 2 but I’m sure you could live with it. I would ask if you could push Bed 2 down to be in line with Bed 3 but assume those exterior walls are existing?
I like the “nook” at the other end of the room and also wonder if this is existing? If not… is it an expensive detail? and could the same be done in Bed 2? I’m all about symmetry and cute :-)

Master Bath – I know you say you like it and I know there are already a lot of doors off the hallway, but if it were me I would be putting a door from the hall into the “bathroom” and closing the wall between the “bathroom” and “shower-room”. I like the idea of you having a private room so that you can have a bath while someone else is in the shower. But what if you want to use the toilet while someone is in the shower? I know there will be two other toilets downstairs, but I’m thinking of busy mornings? If you had a door swinging into the room against the bath, there’d be enough space on the wall to hang a basin for hand-washing. It could even give an alternative tooth brushing place?

Finally – I’m looking at the Master bed wardrobe and the end of the shower and wondering if they should be pushed out onto the same line as the Master bedroom wall. I’m assuming that’s all new and I know that builders like straight lines and minimal junctions so I’m wondering if it might be more cost effective to have a single wall line?

It’s hard not knowing your space / having an existing plan or section to go off so I hope that my comments are helpful and not impossible. I’m really enjoying following your process and want to say thanks for sharing and letting us get involved.

4 | A-k Tabunar

September 12th, 2011 at 9:21 pm


I am so envious of your bathroom reno. Our small, single, upstairs bathroom gets a good workout in the mornings with the five of us. We’re all too lazy to use any of the other 2 full bathrooms on the lower levels. If I were not so reno-fatigued, I’d put in a small en suite off our master bedroom.

Have you considered the Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore for your finishings? I found some great high-end tile there, as well some pre-cut granite. Had I done my research before diving into my kitchen reno, I’d have shopped there for flooring and tiles.

Good luck with your big project. I wish you sanity and patience!


5 | andrea

September 13th, 2011 at 8:27 am


Nadine – thank you! I’m so excited. We’ll have a brand new house by the end of this.

julie – storage is premium for us! And I can’t see us having four bathrooms in our little house. :)

Charlotte – WOW. Thank you! Much food for thought here. Thank you for your input. I need to read it while looking at the plan.

A-k – I love the ReStore! I’ve heard of some good scores there. We will be visiting for sure.

6 | Charlotte

September 13th, 2011 at 5:24 pm


I can’t stay away!! I had another cunning plan (getting into the realms of fantasy here) :-)

If you aligned the wall behind the master bad wardrobe and shower … you could decrease the size of the shower … maybe pull it into the bathroom a bit more AND THEN have a hidden reading nook that you have to enter through the wardrobe. How cool would it be to have a hidden corner with a tiny door and dormer window??

PS does your architect read your blog??

7 | Dee

September 15th, 2011 at 9:01 pm


What about maintaining the walls of the storage space in bed 2 but making an angled entrance into a semi-walk-in closet for bedroom 3? You could add built in shelving across the back wall or leave it open as a potential bed location.

Another thought based on the closets of old Ontario farm houses would be to create the angled space described above and keep doors accessing both bedrooms. You could still keep the closet across the back for use by bedroom 3. But this would give your kids a “secret route” to each others rooms and provide an emergency exit.

Maybe you can put the window seat under the bathroom window in the sink/shower portion of the room? And hide extra toilet paper etc in it of course! Think open basket drawers in individual compartments…

8 | Anu

September 19th, 2011 at 12:18 pm


I love the upstairs plan!
And agree with you on not having the closet as planned in room 3 and instead using that storage room as the closet (maybe with some of the suggestions to square it off in the comments, double doors would be pretty cool too).
Nice job! It’s come a long way!

9 | Marla Good

October 2nd, 2011 at 11:25 pm


#3 – Do you want to walk into the bedroom and see a wall of closet? Or, a bed and side table vignette?

How about small cheerfully painted vintage wardrobe placed on the bathtub wall; and maybe drawers built along either side of a bed with its head against the sloping ceiling wall will take care of clothing needs?

Imagine something like this, with the bed coming out of the middle?

comment form:


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


E-book alert!

Shopping Embargo e-book promo

My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

Piper is on Instagram

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter