In its prior condition, a lot of people would have written off this little building as too far gone to save. The 320-square-foot standalone garage was covered in decades’ worth of grease and oil from its past life as an auto body shop—and also it was falling apart. But where others saw a teardown, one architect saw potential.
Approached about remodeling the building, architect Thomas Schaer embarked on a three-year-long design/build project that would transform the falling-apart building into a trim, efficient little studio. He salvaged lots of the materials from local construction sites, finishing the project for an impressively thrifty $35,000 (excluding labor).
Before anything else could be done, the building’s structure had to be completely rebuilt. The old, crumbling wooden posts that (just barely) held up the garage were replaced with earthquake-resistant steel. Schaer also chose to excavate underneath the building, creating a basement level with a workshop, storage and a laundry room. Dirt excavated from underneath the building was used to raise the level of the backyard. It serves as infill for a raised concrete box, forming a terrace from which you can see the neighboring Olympic Mountains.
The transformation inside the building is equally dramatic. No longer dark and greasy, the tiny space is now a trim little studio, with everything you need to stay for a weekend (or much longer). To the south, six large windows face the yard; on the building’s east side, a half-door frames a view of a small garden.
The living room is quite spacious, full of all kinds of shelves and nooks for storing books and other belongings. In the open kitchen, a post that forms part of the building’s structure also serves as a place to hang pots and pans. The beadboard on the walls is original to the building, and much of the woodwork is salvaged from the garage’s original structure.
Up a (very steep) staircase is the sleeping loft. A small window under the eaves channels light into the space, and built-in shelves surrounding the bed provide plenty of storage.
In a time when builders seem more inclined to tear down old buildings and replace them with brand-new ones, this little studio is an inspiring example of the how old buildings can be given new life.
You can see more, and read more about the project, at Dwell.