Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio

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By Laura C. Mallonee / Published by Dwell
A dilapidated auto shop in Seattle is reborn as an efficient studio rental.

A few years ago, SHED Architecture & Design was approached to remodel a decrepit, standalone garage in Seattle that seemed beyond salvation. Built in the 1920s, the 320-square-foot space was coated in decades of grease and oil from serving as an auto repair shop. Even worse, it sagged and leaned on rotted wooden posts. "It had a dark and creepy vibe," principal architect Thomas Schaer recalls. "A northwest tremor could have easily toppled it."

Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio - Photo 1 of 8 - Schaer replaced the garage’s crumbling wooden posts with an earthquake-resistant steel frame. He also excavated beneath the building, establishing a basement level for a workshop, storage, laundry, and water heater. The earth removed in the process was shoveled into concrete "boxes" in the yard. These form a raised terrace from which you can see the Olympic mountains.

Schaer replaced the garage’s crumbling wooden posts with an earthquake-resistant steel frame. He also excavated beneath the building, establishing a basement level for a workshop, storage, laundry, and water heater. The earth removed in the process was shoveled into concrete "boxes" in the yard. These form a raised terrace from which you can see the Olympic mountains.

But Schaer saw potential. Beneath the grime laid attractive beadboard walls. Recognizing its promise, the architect embarked on an ambitious design-build project. He reclaimed materials from local construction sites over the next three summers to minimize costs, and installed old-fashioned woodwork to preserve the garage’s nostalgic feel. "We sought to interweave new and old so that one wouldn’t quite know where the old stopped and the new began," the architect explains. At a rough cost of $35,000 (excluding labor), the owners now possess a charming, energy-efficient rental that can stand on its own two feet. 

Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio - Photo 2 of 8 - BEFORE<br><br>A view of the crumbling garage before renovation.

BEFORE

A view of the crumbling garage before renovation.

Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio - Photo 3 of 8 - Light cascades into the living room through a row of six insulated timber windows on the south wall. The north wall flares out to create what Schaer calls a sunset scoop. "It grabs the late afternoon and evening sun and brings it deep into the space," he explains.

Light cascades into the living room through a row of six insulated timber windows on the south wall. The north wall flares out to create what Schaer calls a sunset scoop. "It grabs the late afternoon and evening sun and brings it deep into the space," he explains.

Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio - Photo 4 of 8 - BEFORE<br><br>After being used as an auto repair shop, the garage had been subdivided to include a dark storage area with an unsettingly low ceiling. Schaer opened up the space, replacing the collar ties in the rafters with a sloping triangular plane that Schaer says "draws the eye from one end of the space to the other, increasing its perceived size." It’s also utilitarian, providing natural ventilation by funneling hot air up through a triangular vent window.

BEFORE

After being used as an auto repair shop, the garage had been subdivided to include a dark storage area with an unsettingly low ceiling. Schaer opened up the space, replacing the collar ties in the rafters with a sloping triangular plane that Schaer says "draws the eye from one end of the space to the other, increasing its perceived size." It’s also utilitarian, providing natural ventilation by funneling hot air up through a triangular vent window.

Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio - Photo 5 of 8 - The compact rental features plenty of wooden ledges, nooks, and shelves for keeping belongings organized. In the living room, a low white wall is capped with fir wood salvaged from the garage’s former posts. On the east wall, a half-door made of reclaimed cedar looks out on a garden.  "It looks and lives a lot bigger than it is," Schaer says.

The compact rental features plenty of wooden ledges, nooks, and shelves for keeping belongings organized. In the living room, a low white wall is capped with fir wood salvaged from the garage’s former posts. On the east wall, a half-door made of reclaimed cedar looks out on a garden. "It looks and lives a lot bigger than it is," Schaer says.

Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio - Photo 6 of 8 - A utilitarian core contains the kitchen, bathroom, closet, and loft ladder. The kitchen’s walls are clad with recycled wooden boards trimmed with horizontal battens that hide the oven and refrigerator from view.

A utilitarian core contains the kitchen, bathroom, closet, and loft ladder. The kitchen’s walls are clad with recycled wooden boards trimmed with horizontal battens that hide the oven and refrigerator from view.

Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio - Photo 7 of 8 - At left, steps lead up to a sleeping loft. In the bathroom, Schaer installed a salvaged clawfoot bath and toilet and marmoleum click floorboards. Wainscoting on the walls adds a delicate touch.

At left, steps lead up to a sleeping loft. In the bathroom, Schaer installed a salvaged clawfoot bath and toilet and marmoleum click floorboards. Wainscoting on the walls adds a delicate touch.

Tiny 1920s Garage Transformed Into a Charming Studio - Photo 8 of 8 - A triangular, open room beneath the gable roof provides a cozy space for sleeping. "The loft’s continuity increases the perceived size of the interior," Shaer says.

A triangular, open room beneath the gable roof provides a cozy space for sleeping. "The loft’s continuity increases the perceived size of the interior," Shaer says.

For Sale: Monogram Modern Home 2016
For Sale: Monogram Modern Home 2016
This year, Dwell and Monogram teamed up again for a cross-country road trip, stopping in six cities to invite local design communities into the Monogram Modern Home. On the heels of the tour, the 600-square-foot prefab designed by Chris Pardo Design: Elemental Architecture and built by Method Homes is ready for its next adventure as an office, club house, or guest home. Asking $100,000, the aluminum-clad structure boasts an open living space with floor-to-ceiling windows by Western Window Systems and a kitchen outfitted with high-end appliances by Monogram:  36" Induction Cooktop 36" Custom Hood Insert 30" French-Door Electronic Convection Single Wall Oven 30" Built-In Oven With Advantium® Speedcook Technology 30" Stainless Steel Warming Drawer 30" Fully Integrated Double-Drawer Refrigerator 24" Fully Integrated Dishwasher 42" Outdoor Cooking Center Indoor/Outdoor Beverage Center Other features include Marazzi tiles, Smith & Vallee Woodworks cabinets, Cosentino countertops, Kentwood hardwood floors, North Coast Lighting, Kohler plumbing, AL13 metal siding, and an AGS Stainless, Inc. railing system. A versatile structure with a distinct gable roof, the prefab marries form and functionality as an apt setting for a modern lifestyle. The home is being offered at $100,000.
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