A Couple Convert Their Parents’ Garage Into a Transforming ADU

Flexibility rules in an airy Southern California garage-turned-ADU that gives two professionals the chance to ride the wave of the future.

Like many adults with aging parents, Jorge Cuevas Antillón thinks a lot about the future. But the professor and educator believes he and his partner, Ruben Martínez, have found the perfect solution. "We’re 50-something-year-old professionals, and we live in my parents’ garage," he says with a smile.

Anchoring a multi-family property in Chula Vista is a 1,200-square-foot garage that Ramiro Losada-Amor of Modern Granny Flat transformed into an ADU for Jorge Cuevas Antillón and Ruben Martínez. The garage door is from Coastal Garage Doors. 

It’s not just any garage. Set off a quiet street in suburban Chula Vista, just south of San Diego, the 1,200-square-foot space has been completely overhauled by architect Ramiro Losada-Amor into a clean-lined accessory dwelling unit (ADU) that’s all about flexibility, with moving elements that enable the interior to be quickly configured and reconfigured.

Jorge’s parents’ house is across the patio. "We believe we’re onto something here in terms of a societal shift," says Jorge. "Not everyone wants to live in an apartment or condo. They can live in a home that’s part of a family compound." 

The original space was an unfinished expanse with concrete floors. With Treadlight Construction, Losada-Amor replaced the concrete with cement, installed plumbing, and updated the electrical system for residential use. 

The project came about when Jorge and his brothers urged their parents to move to something more age-friendly. They agreed on the condition that it become part of a family compound. After zeroing in on the San Diego area, where Jorge and Ruben had been living, they spent more than a year searching for properties. Finally they found a large lot that seemed to have everything: a renovated single-story home for Jorge’s parents, a four-car garage that could be revamped for Jorge and Ruben, and a large garden with room for a ceramics studio for Ruben. And it was close to shops and medical services.

Working with Prismática Architects, Losada-Amor designed the main space to serve multiple functions. In the kitchen, a table drops down for dining or work, and a rolling island can be moved as needed.

Shelving in the living area holds storage as well as a Murphy bed for guests. "It’s like a Swiss Army knife," says Losada-Amor. "Everything is a tool that you can fold or slice." 

The storage boxes can be pulled out and used as stools.

Their next call was to Losada-Amor, a principal at Losada Garcia Architects who launched Modern Granny Flat in 2017 after moving to Southern California from Spain. "ADUs are a win-win for everyone," he says. "The owner can generate passive income, and the city can provide affordable housing for people that need it."

"It doesn’t feel like a garage because Ramiro cut away the boxiness, but we could still roll a car in here," says Jorge. The refrigerator is by Haier; the range is by KitchenAid. 

Three-ply birch from Th&h Hardwoods keeps the cabinetry streamlined throughout.

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To break up the garage’s rectangular expanse, Losada-Amor set an A-framed structure at the center to hold the kitchen, a skylighted bathroom, and ample storage. Keeping clutter to a minimum was high on Jorge and Ruben’s list, so Losada-Amor—working with Prismática Architects—devised features that do double duty, like a Murphy bed in the living area, kitchen cabinets that conceal a folding table, and panels that slide closed to divide the bedroom into two rooms.

The master bedroom, which opens to the rear garden, is outfitted with a pull-out rack and sliding panels that can separate the room into two spaces. The windows are from Dixieline Lumber & Home Centers. 

Skylights illuminate the bathroom, which sits in the center of the unit and is elevated slightly to accommodate the plumbing below. "It’s a wood box on the exterior and glass on the interior," says Ruben. "It feels open and serene." The glass tile is from Arizona Tile. The sink is from Toto. 

"The space can adapt for how they’ll be living over the next 20 years," says Losada-Amor. Adds Jorge, "It’s perfect. My parents have a traditional house and we have a modern space." 

Related Reading: 29 Granny Flats That Put Guests Up in Style

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Modern Granny Flat with Ramiro Losada-Amor and Prismatica / @moderngrannyflat, @prismatica_architects

Builder: Treadlight Construction

Structural Engineer: Jerry Dodd


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