Small-Space Living: An Inspired Garage Conversion that Prioritizes Smart Storage

Christine Lennon Guest Barn Exterior, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson

We at The Organized Home are no strangers to the concept of small-space living. We’ve seen many a cleverly designed, space-challenged apartment, but this considered L.A. garage conversion had us scratching our heads and examining the images to figure out just how architect Christopher Cahill (formerly of Commune, now the principal at Frame Design/Build) managed to pack so much into a 900-square-foot garage conversion.

The homeowner, Christine Lennon, decided to turn her ramshackle garage into a barn-like structure after a stay at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Farm reignited an old obsession with barns (see her story on the project on Hunker.) She tapped Cahill to lead the rehab and gave him an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink (more on that later) wish list, one that included an outdoor shower, a guest room, a place for her kids to hang out, an office, a changing area for the pool, a functional garage space with a woodworking bench and storage for bikes and seasonal boxes, and lots and lots of places to store things like suitcases, kids’ mementos, and so forth. Oh, and it also had to have enough space to park at least one car (in order to comply with building code requirement in Los Angeles).

“I wanted to use every inch of it in a meaningful way,” says Lennon, a magazine journalist and former Manhattanite. And that meant an emphasis on smart storage, “turning dead space, like the area under the stairs, for example, into shelving or building a secret cabinet.”

Cahill was more than up to the task. “I appreciate that New York mentality of conceptually trying to squeeze as much out of every space as possible,” he told Hunker. “It’s not just storage, it’s a collection of decisions that help to contribute to a room, rather than just building a closet big enough for suitcases. It is truly a spatial puzzle.” One that he solved brilliantly.

Have a look.

Photography by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson, courtesy of Hunker.

Christine Lennon Guest Barn Outdoor Shower, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson
Above: The project started out as a renovation but quickly turned into a tear-down after they discovered major structural issues in the old clapboard siding garage. The new construction, stylistically, “has a lot of Shaker references, specifically with the simplicity of the materials and how it interacts with the space,” Cahill told Hunker. Here, you can see the guest room, at left, and the barn-door entrance to a changing area. In between is an outdoor shower.
Christine Lennon Guest Barn Living Room, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson
Above: Inside the guest room/poolhouse hangout. Lennon found the Turkish cotton rug, two chairs, and stump side table on Chairish, and the wicker ottoman on Overstock.
Christine Lennon Guest Barn Guest Room, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson
Above: Across from the Murphy bed is a mini-fridge. Says Lennon: “My only regret is that we didn’t splurge for a sink in the guest room and make it a little kitchenette. It just wasn’t in the budget. But I have a hunch that the real reason my husband vetoed it is because if that space back there was any more comfortable, our guests would never leave!”
Christine Lennon Guest Barn Murphy Bed, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson
Above: “Built ins are key! Whenever and wherever you can build a bench that has drawers underneath it, do it. It’s great to have a window seat and a place to stash everything,” says Lennon.
Christine Lennon Guest Barn Bathroom, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson
Above: The floors on this level are polished concrete; to liven things up, Lennon chose colorful hexagonal tiles by Clé for the bathroom. The bathroom has two doors, one that leads to the guest studio, one that leads to the garage and changing area.
Christine Lennon Guest Barn Garage, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson
Above: The brass meshing used for the guard rail along the lofted writing space is one of Lennon’s favorite features in this space: “The brass mesh along the guard rail is so chic. It’s just a little touch of glamour in an otherwise very utilitarian space.” This home office area overlooks the garage portion of the building.
Christine Lennon Guest Barn Home Office, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson
Above: “I also love being able to look out onto the back yard and all of that green when I’m writing,” says Lennon.
Christine Lennon Guest Barn Home Office, Image by Stephen Paul and Paul Anderson
Above: The minimalist style of the guest room and writing loft is a radical departure from the main house. There, “we easily have over a thousand books, and my husband has a huge vinyl collection, so it’s hard to live in a spare, minimal way. And did I mention we have kids? There are days when there are socks on the floor and backpacks everywhere, and I make threats that I’m going to move out back forever.”

Searching for more small space inspiration? See:

N.B.: This post was first published Dec. 2019.

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