Lofty Idealism

Wasted space is the cardinal sin of intentional living. In an old farmhouse with upwards of 12 people sleeping over at a time, and with any number of projects in the works on any given day, what might be a "junk drawer" in a New York City apartment becomes a "junk room" or "indefinitely unclaimed section of an entire house."

We've worked in the last year to remedy a lot of the clutter at Better Farm—first with trips to the transfer station, then with a dumpster rental, and finally with a reclamation of unused, wasted space. It's a renaissance of sorts; complete with the sweet addition of cozy sleeping lofts and nooks in places that would otherwise go totally unused and ignored. All it took was a little ingenuity, some high ceilings, and an innate desire to live in something resembling a big treehouse.

Better Farm's office and side entrance were natural choices to add sleeping accommodations, as each room boasts extremely high ceilings. Through some additional research, we discovered a crawl space next to the loft on the third floor that had, in the 1970s, been an actual bedroom (thank you Fred for putting so much work into that room so many years ago!). The entrance to said space was long-since covered up; so we decided to re-reveal the sleeping quarters by punching a hole in the upstairs hallway ceiling, and installing a ladder. Before and after photos following the jump!

Before & After:
The loft series
All carpentry work by Craig Rice

Side entranceway
(yellow paint selection courtesy of Mike Brown; paint job courtesy of Brian Hines)

The Office

Upstairs Crawlspace

Better Renovations: The loft, after

About a year ago we assessed the loft: My favorite room to stay in growing up, and a space with possibly more lore than any other in the house. Sure, the room was excellent no matter its condition—but there were a few sticking points that had to be assessed...
  • Fresh coat of paint
  • Removal of gross old mattresses
  • Deep clean
  • Rip up carpeting
  • Removal of clutter
  • Window treatments
  • A desperately needed new decor
We hauled out the old, musty mattresses, washed the walls, ripped up decades-old carpeting, took down the old mismatched curtains, made some minor repairs, and felt ready to start fresh.

So last summer we picked up a lot of eco-friendly Olympia paint at Lowe's (bright white to accent the wood trim throughout the loft), then worked incrementally. A door in the upstairs part of the loft that led to a crawlspace in the attic was sealed off and turned into a closet (thank you Fred); knobs on built-in drawers were replaced (thank you Butch); and the paint was spread over those old, blue walls (thank you Tracy, Colden, and Chris).

I laid down some recycled cotton insulation to improve on the drafty cold air, hung lace curtains on on all the windows upstairs and down (thank you Mom for holding onto antique lace curtains), and repaired a few screens before turning the space over to Corinne. Check out the results!









Better Renovations: The Loft, Before

First step in beginning any renovation is assessing your space. Tyler and I headed up to Better Farm over the weekend to do just that, walking the house and property with the trusty Josh Babcock, Sadie the dog, notebook, camera, and about a dozen energy-efficient bulbs (will replace the rest over Memorial Day Weekend).

My favorite room of the house growing up, the loft was built in 1970 by a fellah called TJ who was the only member of the original communards with building know-how. He determined it would make sense to take a little bedroom and connect it with one-half the attic by a little staircase and the removal of the ceiling. The top sleeping quarters were infamously known as "TJ's Love Loft."

Ah, to be young.

The loft is still a wonderful space, even without all the attention of its first incarnation. That said, there are several basic improvements to be had...
  • A few of the steps to the Love Loft are loose. They should be replaced.
  • Fresh coat of paint definitely needed!
  • Mattresses are very old and very mushy. We could probably do two singles spaced apart in the love loft, but that almost seems sacrilegious. So maybe a full or queen on a box spring up there and a bunk bed and single down below? We'll have to measure.
  • Some sort of light treatment to deal with the two exposed bulbs at the top of the stairs
  • Deep clean
  • Ripping up the carpeting
  • Perhaps some kind of wood stain?
  • Removal of clutter


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.