Looking Up: Building a Sub Loft

One of the best things about our loft is the high ceilings. 

I'm afraid we're both pretty spoiled – if we ever move it would be tough to go back to a typical ceiling height. The high ceilings also help balance the relatively small footprint of our loft, and we're always interested in ways to take advantage of the vertical space.

We've made fun adjustments, but after getting our Studiobricks sound booth, we lost a big chunk of floor space. The booth resides where our bed used to be, and for awhile we just put the mattress on the floor, jammed between the booth and the windows. It was do-able, but every night, staring 13 feet up, my mind would race with possibilities.

I mean dang, right? Those are some tall-ass ceilings. This was taken in the process of clearing the space for what would eventually be...

...a SUB-LOFT.

Yes, in the tradition of Russian nesting dolls, Corey and I decided that the best solution would be to build a loft within our loft, or a sub-loft. 

Now, when I say build, I mean we turned to our talented and intelligent brother-in-law, Domonic, who is an engineering and building genius and just happens to be married to Corey's equally intelligent sister, Kelly. I had gotten a couple bids from contractors and they were all well over what we had budgeted. 

With the combined costs of the materials and flying Kelly and Dom to LA from Ohio, building the sub-loft would be much less AND we'd get to spend time with family. Win-win.

Before I go any further, a disclaimer must be made: Dom is a building MACHINE. This was a project that could have easily taken weeks. And had we chosen to work with a contractor, we were prepared for it to do so. 


Dom took a look at my rudimentary drawing and announced that he could complete the build in a weekend.

I fell over, squinted at my computer screen where he was looking back at me, calmly, and shouted "OKAY!"

Before their arrival, Corey and I had homework. Dom had assembled a list of everything we'd need from Home Depot, and we made multiple trips to gather the supplies. Initially, we thought we'd rent any tools we didn't have (which were most of them) but Dom suggested we purchase what we needed, and I'm so glad we did. We've long wanted to build a set of basic power tools, and now we have them!

Here's what the power tool spread looked like after unboxing and a bit of assembly confusion:

Our goal was for Dom to be able to walk in the door and get started. Again – he is a machine. He works so fast and so well and we lived in a constant state of low-level anxiety about not getting in his way.

In preparation of much sawdust and chaos we made the place Dexter-like ready for Dom's arrival. Poor Corey trying to use the hermetically sealed computer.

Okay, so we did really well. When Kelly and Dom walked in (they didn't even drop off their bags) Dom was well impressed and Corey and I felt very proud.

Oh, and see those impossibly long boards and studs? Those didn't fit on the elevator. Those we had to carry up five (very long) flights of stairs. It was exhausting and borderline traumatic and I've tried to forget about it. At one point, a very kind neighbor, unasked, decided to shoulder a couple boards and I will always think of her as a hero.

Did I mention that Dom works fast?

Corey and I helped wherever we could, and tried to balance helping with learning, which can take time that could be spent doing.

Goals with this sub-loft: 1) Build around the Studiobricks 2) Include a sleeping nook for C jr 3) Create a platform space that could accommodate our Cal King mattress.

One of the first big moves was inserting part of the framing between the Studiobricks and the wall.

Once anchored, we then added more framing.

Hooray! The basic shape is up!

We reinforced like crazy. I had a horror of it being a rickety, dorm room-like structure.

See, I helped!

To keep us from rolling off, we designed a low wall. I wanted the air flow and space to be as open as possible. Here's the first part, built.

Low wall completed! And starting to lay the supports for the bed platform. Can you tell we worked into the night?

I should say here that we decided to go with raw wood as a way to bring a bit of nature into our otherwise urban and concrete loft. I love our polished concrete floor, with it's many imperfections and evidences of history, but am grateful for the white walls and ceiling. So adding the warmth of the unpainted wood really adds another feel. 

As designed (and hoped) our Cal King Casper mattress (which we LOVE) fits perfectly. Yes, that's an AC/heat vent. Something to solve later.

Amazingly, I can stand straight up on this platform. Yes, I'm 5'5", but still. There's a lot of headroom up here, which is great. I think we were both a little worried that we'd feel packed in like sardines. Aaaaaaand....goodnight.

Bright and early the next morning: Stairway to heaven...sorry. : /

Early on, I found inspiration for the stairs, which led to a sort of ship's ladder design. Dom and Corey ended up cutting each stair with the jigsaw, which was time-consuming but, in my opinion, totally worth it. The ship's ladder design is a space-saver, and can take some getting used to, but we love it. 

How many Ohioans does it take to assemble stairs? Kelly is a personal trainer and fitness instructor and she is STRONG.

My contribution: testing the first stair!

Initially, we installed the stairs without supports. But after trying them and hearing the cracks and creaks we decided to add a vertical support under each stair. As with a lot of design choices, sometimes what's necessary results in something unexpectedly cool.

In the interest of giving C jr some privacy while also keeping it streamlined, we opted for a barn door mechanism. The entry to her space is fairly narrow, and we were able to customize the whole thing.

I also thought it might help combat the dorm room feel, and make the sub-loft and Studiobricks feel like a cohesive unit.

Again, me with the testing. The sleeping nook is very cozy. Support local bees!

Drumroll, please.....

TA DA!!! The sub-loft in all its DIY, raw rood, knotty glory! And rest assured, it is SOLID. We used molly bolts to anchor it on the two walls. The thing doesn't budge. 

Thank you, Kelly and Dom, for your tireless efforts, endless good cheer, and sheer physical strength! Thank you C jr for loving your sleeping nook! Thank you Arlo for reminding us to go outside every now and then!

The sub-loft lives.