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Living in a Mini House

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When San Francisco–based architect Christi Azevedo and her partner bought an investment property in Oakland, what was billed in real estate listings as a 'detached garage' turned out to be a carriage house that dated from 1908. After purchasing the house, Azevedo did some basic weatherproofing in the unit, planning to one day convert it into a rental. That day arrived a year later, when her good friend, the metal fabricator Henry Defauw, found himself single and offered to help renovate the 360-square-foot carriage house in exchange for six months of free rent. Says Azevedo, "With the added help of my electrician brother, Craig—and many beers and Saturdays—we tricked this former pigeon roost into a modern loft."

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  In 2008, when Azevedo arrived on the scene, the carriage house "was a shell with a holy roof, no gutters, and a partly rotted floor. The house was pretty leaky but because there was no insulation or plaster all the water just kind of ran through." Beneath all the peeling paint, the 7/8-inch redwood shiplap siding was actually in pretty good shape.
    In 2008, when Azevedo arrived on the scene, the carriage house "was a shell with a holy roof, no gutters, and a partly rotted floor. The house was pretty leaky but because there was no insulation or plaster all the water just kind of ran through." Beneath all the peeling paint, the 7/8-inch redwood shiplap siding was actually in pretty good shape.
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  Inside they discovered an abandoned pigeon coop and a trapdoor to the downstairs workshop and garage. On the to-do list: rip off and replace the old roof, install new gutters, spray foam insulation between the rafters and studs, and install knotty pine cladding for the interior walls.
    Inside they discovered an abandoned pigeon coop and a trapdoor to the downstairs workshop and garage. On the to-do list: rip off and replace the old roof, install new gutters, spray foam insulation between the rafters and studs, and install knotty pine cladding for the interior walls.
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  After a coat of 'ruskin bronze' Kelly Moore paint and the addition of a copper downspout, the house was completely transformed. If you look closely, the outline of the former horse-and-carriage plaque remains on the hayloft door. Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
    After a coat of 'ruskin bronze' Kelly Moore paint and the addition of a copper downspout, the house was completely transformed. If you look closely, the outline of the former horse-and-carriage plaque remains on the hayloft door. Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
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  Defauw stands at the front door to his humble abode, accessible via a flight of galvanized steel stairs that Azevedo fabricated. The redwood treads are recycled, snagged from another staircase on the property.
    Defauw stands at the front door to his humble abode, accessible via a flight of galvanized steel stairs that Azevedo fabricated. The redwood treads are recycled, snagged from another staircase on the property.
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  Here's Defauw in his living room. He and the rest of the renovation team patched and refinished the original fir floors. The walls are inexpensive pine siding sprayed with white oil paint. The shelves above are 1/4-inch plywood perched on makeshift rods made from 1/2-inch conduit stuck into the studs. "It's all very low-tech and kind of hilarious," says Azevedo. "We were kind of winging it because there wasn't a client per se." Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
    Here's Defauw in his living room. He and the rest of the renovation team patched and refinished the original fir floors. The walls are inexpensive pine siding sprayed with white oil paint. The shelves above are 1/4-inch plywood perched on makeshift rods made from 1/2-inch conduit stuck into the studs. "It's all very low-tech and kind of hilarious," says Azevedo. "We were kind of winging it because there wasn't a client per se." Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
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  A wider view reveals the saving grace in the tiny unit: the "dynamic roofline and a few large openings make the floor plan seem generous," says Azevado. She cut into the roof along the west side of the house and popped a dormer on top, to create more head room and make space for the kitchen, bathroom, entrance, and closet.
    A wider view reveals the saving grace in the tiny unit: the "dynamic roofline and a few large openings make the floor plan seem generous," says Azevado. She cut into the roof along the west side of the house and popped a dormer on top, to create more head room and make space for the kitchen, bathroom, entrance, and closet.
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  The dining area anchors the center of the house, bridging the kitchen and living room. The IKEA table acts as a dining table, an all-purpose worktop, and an extra countertop for food prep. Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
    The dining area anchors the center of the house, bridging the kitchen and living room. The IKEA table acts as a dining table, an all-purpose worktop, and an extra countertop for food prep. Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
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  Azevedo shoehorned a small bathroom next to the kitchen, under the dormer. The etched translucent glass lets light into the main living area and serves as one side of the shower. Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
    Azevedo shoehorned a small bathroom next to the kitchen, under the dormer. The etched translucent glass lets light into the main living area and serves as one side of the shower. Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
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  The bathroom was a "total scavenger project," says Azevedo. The flooring is a scrap of linoleum left over from another project, and the wall is clad in colorful strips of tongue-and-groove wood salvaged from the basement of the main house. "But we didn't cheap out: the toilet is a dual-flush Toto Aquia." Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
    The bathroom was a "total scavenger project," says Azevedo. The flooring is a scrap of linoleum left over from another project, and the wall is clad in colorful strips of tongue-and-groove wood salvaged from the basement of the main house. "But we didn't cheap out: the toilet is a dual-flush Toto Aquia." Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
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  With two sides made of etched glass, the shower enclosure is "a cool green lantern when lit from within," says Azevedo. The recessed stainless steel shower pan is a custom design made by a Bay Area fabrication shop that's no longer in business. Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
    With two sides made of etched glass, the shower enclosure is "a cool green lantern when lit from within," says Azevedo. The recessed stainless steel shower pan is a custom design made by a Bay Area fabrication shop that's no longer in business. Photo by Susanne Friedrich.
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  Here's the pint-size kitchen on a clean day. The three-foot-deep stainless steel counter was made by Standard Sheet Metal in San Francisco. The under-counter fridge is by Avanti.
    Here's the pint-size kitchen on a clean day. The three-foot-deep stainless steel counter was made by Standard Sheet Metal in San Francisco. The under-counter fridge is by Avanti.
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  And here's the kitchen on a typical day. Clutter is practically unavoidable when your kitchen is a Lilliputian nook.
    And here's the kitchen on a typical day. Clutter is practically unavoidable when your kitchen is a Lilliputian nook.

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