“As the years pass, I keep thinking that our greatest lack today is attics. Modern homes never have them, with the result that young people live only in their own generation, feeling no intimate connection with the past. Their roots will go deeper if their homes have attics?”
from “More Than Petticoats” – the chapter on Maude Frazier, an early Nevada educator
When we were house hunting in anticipation of our move from California to Kansas, I made a list of features I wanted in a house. One of those was ample space for a proper library for my husband’s bibliophile habit.
e also wanted a home with some history and character. We were weary of So Cal subdivisions, one story, no basement, no character houses. It was all so, well, boring!
Our time in Europe had awakened my Kansas need for the character and history of an older home. Our Realtor understood, and scoped out homes in the older “classic” neighborhoods of Wichita.
She did find it curious that before the kitchen and bath decor or number of bedrooms we headed for the basement and/or attic. We needed serious space for this library.
Early Attic Dreams
The house I grew up in was a two-story frame with the second story almost attic-like. It had an attic but it was not usable for anything other than getting to the flat part of the roof. I was only up there once or twice since it had to be accessed with a ladder from the upstairs hallway, but sleeping among the gables in my second-story bedroom brings back cozy memories.
The vision of a proper third-floor library, a retreat among books drew us in. When we first looked at the historic home we eventually purchased, it was the attic that clinched the deal.
My husband’s books still rest in boxes up there, patiently waiting for the home they have been promised. We have a vision, and even plans were drawn up, but other necessary steps seem to extend the path as we travel toward that dream library in the sky.
At the moment, we are finishing the attic of the little house, the 1900’s house we purchased next to the “big house”. This one will soon be an interim home in order that the historic restoration of Maison Steinbuchel may proceed unencumbered by our daily routine.
When we began this phase of our plan in earnest, we had the old, very dirty 1940s attic insulation removed. In preparation for that, my husband combed through the mess, literally, looking for hidden treasure. We found some artifacts of previous residents, including a very old partially drunk bottle of vermouth! Nothing of any monetary value (darn!) but interesting nonetheless.
Attics Elevate And Transcend
Neither of the attics we are working on had much left in them when we acquired them. No great Antiques Road Show finds, but we enjoy these spaces. There is something about being “up there” above the rest of the house and the folks at street level. It is quieter, yet there are sounds one misses when on the ground:
- the wind fluttering the slate tiles on the big house,
- birds in the treetops next to the window of the little house,
- noises that travel unhindered and, sometimes a special silence.
Even though neither of the attics has ever been properly finished, they were used to some degree. The little house contained a small finished room under one of the gables that housed the brother-in-law of the owner around the time of WWI It even had its own mailing address: 1915 1/2 Park Place!
In the big house, there are stairs behind a door in the back hallway leading up to the third floor. In both attics, there was a tongue in groove floor installed. Judging from the broken toys left behind, there is no doubt children went up to play when outside was not an option. We know also that “mama” found refuge with her bottle of vermouth she hid under the floorboards in the little house!
Attics connect us to the past, even if not our own, yet have great purpose and inspiration for today. We look forward to the day of curling up with a book and soaking in the upper chambers of our homes.
How does space affect your sense of inspiration and connection? Please comment below.
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2 thoughts on “The Practicality, Mystery and Beauty of An Attic”
My grandparents and parents had earthen cellars. It was space for fruits, vegetables, and home canned goods. Like your attics, we kids found adventure there — and also a few black widow spiders.
yes – I remember cellars as well, very useful but I avoided them!