Transforming problem houses into Dream Homes

Project Complete: Garage Conversion to Cottage

This week I visited this project in Oakland which converted an existing detached garage into a studio cottage. We started this project a little more than a year ago and now it is very near complete. The owners are waiting on the Murphy bed to arrive, and they want to get new furniture for the cottage. But they have already hosted their parents in the cottage and their folks loved it.

A 3-D massing model of the two existing structures. the smaller building on the left is the existing garage.

I can see why they loved it. It is a big, bright room that opens out onto a shared deck and garden. It has all the modern conveniences and more than enough room to hang out, watch TV, cook, entertain, and generally enjoy life.


View of the cottage from the shared deck. The sliding glass door is an 8 foot door.

For those interested, converting the garage, which was built with permits in 1993, cost about $210/square foot. Converting existing built space usually costs about $175/sf. There were a couple of reasons this one cost more. Primarily, when you convert a garage into a dwelling, in California, you have to upgrade the earthquake resistance. That meant more work. We also had to upgrade the electrical and replace the roofing.

A view of the main room looking toward the kitchen. The owners opted not to install upper cabinets, as they have plans to install open shelves. They installed a two burner, invection stove top and no oven. This is a kitchen designed with the idea that the parents will eat most meals with their kids.

The owners sourced all of the finishes and cabinets as well as the doors and windows. I think they’ve done a terrific job.

I love how this bathroom turned out. With only a glass partition to separate the shower, and with no curb between the shower and the room, it feels quite large. We installed backing for future grab bars by the toilet and in the shower.

Once the Murphy bed is installed and they’ve furnished it, I hope to go back and get more pictures. The owners are very happy and that makes me very happy.

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