clock menu more-arrow no yes

Best Living Space Before and Afters 2013

You showed us your comfortable and chic living rooms, dining room, attics and basements. Now see which ones were finalists in our annual Reader Remodel Contest

New Household Favorites

When you don't want to build out, renovating an existing attic, basement, or family room adds usable square footage without changing your home's footprint. In our annual Reader Remodel Contest, we received hundreds of entries from readers who transformed their dark, drab, and dreary spaces into inviting rooms destined to become household favorites. From wine cellars to libraries, see the most impressive renovations of attics, basements, and family rooms, as chosen by the editors of This Old House.

An Attic Suite in a Nashville Craftsman: Before

Who: John B.

Where: Nashville, TN

I bought the house with an unfinished attic space with a pull-down staircase. The day I first saw the house, I saw the upstairs potential! I am lucky in that I work at home, so when work was slow, I'd head up to the salt mines—I mean the attic—and put in a few hours of work.

An Attic Suite in a Nashville Craftsman: After

Who: John B.

Where: Nashville, TN

I finished out the door and window casings to match the original woodwork in the house. I built my stair railing to match a cast-iron Art Deco design I found online. Building it out of poplar and painting it was one of the worst experiences of my life!

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: $10,000-$25,000

See all the images from this entry.

Budget Chic Dining Room: Before

Who: Jenni D.

Where: Kansas City, MO

My dining room was in major need of a cosmetic update. First, I tore out all the carpet and refinished the red oak hardwood floors. I built a dining table myself from scratch and made a chandelier using PVC pipe from the plumbing aisle at Home Depot.

Budget Chic Dining Room: After

Who: Jenni D.

Where: Kansas City, MO

The walls are painted a light gray and the trim white. I hung breezy white curtains and stenciled the back wall. I used a metallic paint so the color shifts with the light. Building the table turned out to be surprisingly difficult. It was really hard to get it nice and square without a second pair of hands. It was just me—and lots and lots of clamps!

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $500-$1,000

See all the images from this entry.

Attic Artist Studio: Before

Who: Tom and Peggy M.

Where: Stowe, VT

We made up a bid list and got bids from two big-box stores and two local lumberyards. We found our local lumberyard was competitive with the big-box stores if we paid cash. Of course doing all of the work ourselves saved a ton, except for installing the gas line to the "woodstove."

Attic Artist Studio: After

Who: Tom and Peggy M.

Where: Stowe, VT

As we see in TOH every month, a good remodel is more than just adding a new room or fixing up a worn-out space. A good remodel can transform a space, create a place that is a joy to experience, a place that lifts you up every time you walk in. Our new studio space provides a place of comfort, serenity, and inspiration.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $5,000-$10,000

See all the images from this entry.

Major Transformation: Before

Who: Garth W.

Where: Lindsay, ON

I had a strict one-week timeline to complete the project when my wife was on vacation, with orders to confine the mess to that room only. I succeeded, notwithstanding coming down with the flu on the weekend scheduled for floor sanding.

Major Transformation: After

Who: Garth W.

Where: Lindsay, ON

This was the last room in our house to be remodeled and one of the biggest transformations. From the beginning I had a vision of what I hoped to accomplish, and over the years had purchased items for the ultimate day. The house is a Queen Anne with a fair bit of exterior decoration. My goal was to create a dining room that fit with the period and style of the house.

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: $500-$1,000

See all the images from this entry.

A New Attic in a 100-Year-Old Home: Before

Who: Adam M.

Where: Stoughton, WI

We have three little boys (2, 4, and 6 when we started) and my wife was getting her Masters degree in nursing education the first two years of the project. After a while, keeping up the momentum was hard.

A New Attic in a 100-Year-Old Home: After

Who: Adam M.

Where: Stoughton, WI

Every now and then when I'm up here I stop and think about all of the hours I spent planning and working, plus all of things I carried up and down three flights of stairs.

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: $25,000-$50,000

See all the images from this entry.

Covered Porch Revamp: Before

Who: Michelle D.

Where: Manchester, MI

We ripped up carpet and had the cement floors sanded and finished with epoxy covering and poured a cement overlay that looks like tile on the basement stairs. We replaced old awning windows with six sets of sliding glass doors and installed new lighting and ceiling fans.

Covered Porch Revamp: After

Who: Michelle D.

Where: Manchester, MI

My well-to-do sister hated this house when we bought it and said it had no character! Now she has said she is not cool enough to have a drink with us on our new porch! I think we have won her over.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $10,000-$25,000

See all the images from this entry.

Charming Basement Suite in a 1930s Craftsman: Before

Who: Frank P.

Where: Seattle, WA

The basement was actually a garage space that became a small basement apartment. We updated the washer and dryer connections in the bathroom, and kept the kitchen sink/counter and moved the refrigerator outlet so that in the future it could become a mother-in-law apartment or a rental.

Charming Basement Suite in a 1930s Craftsman: After

Who: Frank P.

Where: Seattle, WA

I like that the space gives us everything we need: an extra bathroom (we now have two in the house), an extra bedroom, a dedicated TV space so we don't take up valuable living room space upstairs.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $10,000-$25,000

See all the images from this entry.

A Neoclassical Basement Transformation: Before

Who: John W.

Where: Albemarle, NC

The hardest part was paying for things that would not show in the final project, like asbestos removal and reworking the HVAC system that was just added 8 years before. Other things that made the project hard was the time frame.

A Neoclassical Basement Transformation: After

Who: John W.

Where: Albemarle, NC

The overall project added about 1,500 square feet of living space to our 1923 Neoclassical home. It was planned for our two teenage boys to have their own space and in the future it would be used by our parents or used as income space.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $50,000-$100,000

See all the images from this entry.

The Dining Room Get Its Turn: Before

Who: Chris and Kathy P.

Where: Gastonia, NC

The dining room has been used as a storage area for every other room we have remodeled to date. After the bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, and more, it was finally its turn. The northwest corner of room was removed due to water damage and rebuilt. All windows were removed, some rebuilt, restrung, stripped to bare wood and painted. We had a deadline for this project because we were on a historic-homes tour in December 2012. Being under the gun did help to get it done a lot quicker than other rooms in the house.

The Dining Room Get Its Turn: After

Who: Chris and Kathy P.

Where: Gastonia, NC

Being able to actually eat a Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room after living in the house for eight years was fantastic. The paint color we chose took a bit of getting used to after having all-white walls for so long. But with the "Cherry Truffle" curtains and the soft light from the new chandelier and wall sconces, it now has a really comfortable, warm glow.

Who did the work: We did most of the work ourselves.

Cost: $5,000-$10,000

See all the images from this entry.

Attic Conversion in a 1940s Cape: Before

Who: Dominic G.

Where: Louisville, KY

Our remodel involved converting what had been the roughly finished, uninsulated attic space of our 1941 Cape Cod into a full-blown master bedroom and bathroom.

Attic Conversion in a 1940s Cape: After

Who: Dominic G.

Where: Louisville, KY

Our favorite part about the remodel is that we designed it completely on our own and did all of the work ourselves (apart from the drywall and insulation). In the end, we got exactly what we wanted out of the space.

Who did the work: We did most of the work ourselves.

Cost: $5,000-$10,000

See all the images from this entry.

An Attic Renovation Decades in The Making: Before

Who: Terence H.

Where: Oconomowoc, WI

This attic was originally finished in the 1960s to be a master bedroom. This room also served as my bedroom in high school—my parents bought the house in 1983, and my wife and I bought the house from my mom in 2002.

An Attic Renovation Decades in The Making: After

Who: Terence H.

Where: Oconomowoc, WI

We now have a true guest room that can be used in all seasons (given the air conditioning) and also serves as a mini getaway for our kids.

Who did the work: A contractor did all the work.

Cost: $10,000-$25,000

See all the images from this entry.

Dramatic Dining Room: Before

Who: Michael G.

Where: Carthage, MO

We are restoring our 1893 Victorian to a period-appropriate design. We started with stripping several layers of paint off the woodwork, which turned out to be quartersawn oak. We had to open up one wall to add some support between the front parlor and the dining room. We also stripped three layers of wallpaper that had been painted, repaired the old lath-and-plaster walls, and hung plywood sheets on the old ceiling before we could hang tin ceiling tiles.

Dramatic Dining room: After

Who: Michael G.

Where: Carthage, MO

Because we planned our design for several years before actually beginning the work, we were able to complete it in about 6 weeks. We are quite happy with the tin ceiling, and have been asked several times if it is original to the house. We shopped around for the tin, and ended up buying it unfinished and painting it ourselves. We did almost all the work ourselves, with the generous help of family members.

Who did the work: We did most of the work ourselves.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

See all the images from this entry.

An Attic Master-Suite Conversion: Before

Who: Laura W.

Where: Waukesha, WI

We live in a 1928 bungalow that had a completely unfinished walk-up attic space that we converted into a master suite.

An Attic Master-Suite Conversion: After

Who: Laura W.

Where: Waukesha, WI

This renovation has been such a wonderful addition for us! It turned our 2 bed, 1 bath home into a 3 bed, 2 bath, and as a family of four, that's been fantastic.

Who did the work: A contractor did all the work.

Cost: $50,000-$100,000

See all the images from this entry.

A Family Space with a Stone Fireplace: Before

Who: Jeff Z.

Where: Perkasie, PA

The family room restoration was a complete project. We completely gutted the room from the dirt sub-floor to the rafted peak.

A Family Space with a Stone Fireplace: After

Who: Jeff Z.

Where: Perkasie, PA

Wintering in our cozy family room is no longer dark and drafty. Now, thanks to our trusty Vermont Castings woodstove and cheery lighting, our family toasts marshmallows and toasts wine glasses from November through March.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

See all the images from this entry.

A Craftsman-Inspired Basement Shop: Before

Who: William S.

Where: Canton, OH

I tried to find creative ways to conceal ductwork, pipes, and wires. I attempted to camouflage them behind moldings, a unique ceiling design, and in cabinets that look like they are design elements rather than covers for unsightly utility items.

A Craftsman-Inspired Basement Shop: After

Who: William S.

Where: Canton, OH

With all the wood that was used, the rooms are warm, comfortable, and have a lot of character. We live on a lake and designed the room to feel like it was the inside of a wooden yacht.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

See all the images from this entry.

Coffered Ceiling for a Grand Family Room: Before

Who: Jennifer M.

Where: Fair Oaks, CA

The coffered ceiling was created from scratch. The new cabinets and bookcases were installed. Wood paneling was added to all the walls. New windows and interior doors were added. The existing fireplace and hearth were retiled, and a new mantel and fireplace facade were created.

Coffered Ceiling for a Grand Family Room: After

Who: Jennifer M.

Where: Fair Oaks, CA

I like the new cozy appeal of the room. We turn the lights down low in the evening and feel like we are in a library of the 1920s.

Who did the work: We did most of the work ourselves.

Cost: $10,000-$25,000

See all the images from this entry.

Distinctive Curved Ceiling: Before

Who: Jennifer D.

Where: Liberty Township, OH

Our home is 130 years old. We loved its character, but wanted to make it our own and bring it up to date. The dining room has a curved ceiling, common to the time period in which it was built.

Distinctive Curved Ceiling: After

Who: Jennifer D.

Where: Liberty Township, OH

My husband resurfaced the entire fireplace, added a granite hearth, and did an amazing job creating a copper ceiling. He also removed the carpet and laid a hardwood floor with a cherry border. The room now feels very classic while still up-to-date in terms of design.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

See all the images from this entry.

Building a Stone Wine Cellar: Before

Who: Joe L.

Where: Denver, CO

There was a closet with shelves beyond our basement kitchen/bar area. We wanted a wine cellar!

Building a Stone Wine Cellar: After

Who: Joe L.

Where: Denver, CO

We chose a dramatic chandelier and track lighting to feature all the bottles and stone. Hung double-bottle wine racks on one side and glass shelving on the other side.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

See all the images from this entry.