Real-Life Redo: Garage to Guest House

Architect Anna Evans transformed her dilapidated garage into a creative outlet for work and play.
Article: Beaty Coleman

When Anna and Luke Evans bought their Birmingham cottage six years ago, the detached garage/guest house sealed the deal. At the time, the Evanses had future plans of starting a family, and Anna, an architect, wanted to work from home one day. “But not in my home,” she says. Naturally, a separate structure that was only steps away from her back door would be ideal.

The Challenge
There was one obvious problem: The future home office was falling down. “That’s putting it nicely,” Anna adds. A major renovation soon ensued. The couple wanted the garage space to function not only as a home office but also as a spot for weekend guests and entertaining. The layout was dictated largely by the local building codes. “The original structure was 550 square feet, and the building code limited the square footage to 800,” says Anna. “So we bumped out the front of the building for an additional 250 square feet. Because of space constraints, they got creative on maximizing the potential of each room.

The Solution
Anna’s new floor plan repurposed the existing rooms, creating a workspace, a kitchenette, a seating area, and a guest bedroom and bath. Custom, oversize front doors open wide into the office space, and the guest bedroom is directly behind that where there’s less coming and going. “It was most cost-effective to put the kitchenette and bath in back because that’s where the original plumbing was,” says Anna. She made a simple change to the roofline that drastically changed the appearance. The gables, which once faced the front of the building, now face the sides for a more pleasing look that shows off a new wood-shingled roof. “An asphalt roof just wouldn’t do,” she says.

Anna insists it’s splurges such as the roof and custom molding throughout that give the renovated garage its charm. She did, however, keep costs in check by choosing stock-size windows (custom ones, not surprisingly, cost more), using salvaged filing cabinets from an office-supply store, and installing inexpensive wall-to-wall sisal for most of the flooring. In fact, throughout the project Anna played a game of give and take—spending a little more here, saving a little there—to get the exact look she wanted without blowing her budget.