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Rehab Diary: From Garage to Tiny Cottage in LA, on a Budget


Rehab Diary: From Garage to Tiny Cottage in LA, on a Budget

July 3, 2015

Fourteen years ago when Annette Gutierrez and her husband, Gustavo, bought their 1908 Craftsman house in Hollywood, it badly needed repairs. Or more. “Everyone urged us to tear the whole thing down,” remembers Gutierrez, who owns the LA store Potted. Instead, they renovated the house. Next they added a pool and hot tub. And then, finally, their attention turned to . . . the 100-year-old garage.

“We realized the garage would be much better if it were a pool house. Or in-law space,” says Gutierrez.

Despite a tight budget that limited construction costs to about $175 per square foot, they wanted the cottage to be a fully functioning living space, with a kitchen, bedroom, and full bath.  “And we wanted it to be private so that someday–in our golden years–we might use it as our LA pad while we travel the world and rent out the main house,” says Gutierrez.

Exit the garage. Enter the Little House. Built on a budget:

Photography by Bethany Nauert.


Above: Gutierrez and her husband finished the garage’s three-month transformation earlier this year. To preserve the privacy, “we put in a system of fences that channeled the entrance up the driveway, giving the Little House its own patio,” Gutierrez says. “We also decided to leave the garage door opening as it was, but to fill the space with a series of little windows, kind of like Mondrian without color.”


Above: The “before” photo.

“We knew that if we didn’t preserve the wooden vaulted ceiling, the interior would just be a dingy room,” says Gutierrez. “But with the roof, the garage was an inferno in the summer, especially since most of the roof faced south.”


Above: The “after” version.

Gutierrez and her husband insulated the ceiling with high-density foam covered with wood paneling, leaving the beams exposed. “To get the worn look of the hundred-year-old original ceiling, we took a blowtorch and torched every single piece of wood that went up,” says Gutierrez.


Above: On the patio are two Loll Lollygagger Lounger chairs (available in nine colors for $440 each at Potted) and a bistro set from Fermob.


 Above: A white tiled Midge Table (also available in five other colors; $495 from Potted) sits between the chairs.


Above: The interior space is divided into kitchen, living area, and bedroom. “To offset the earthy ceiling, we painted the walls Swiss Coffee and used high-gloss white cabinets from Ikea for the kitchen,” says Gutierrez.

Matte green subway tile was installed above the stove, “with a few extra colors added for interest,” says Gutierrez. “It’s an expensive look that’s not very expensive at all.”

The pot hanger is a heavy-gauge chain purchased from Home Depot, bolted to one of the upper beams; clips were added to hang the pots.


Above: The entire interior floor was covered in two sheets of gray linoleum. Countertops are maple butcher block. The wooden shelf in the kitchen came from an old barn.


Above: In the bathroom, Ikea’s Brviken sink ($250, not including the fixture).


Above: In the bedroom, built-in bookshelves. “I have a lot of air plants,” says Gutierrez. “They’re fun to decorate with and don’t need to be watered as often as other house plants. They’re a good choice for a space where we don’t spend most of our time.”


Above: “I especially love the vintage porcelain baby doll with the air plant on its head,” says Gutierrez.


Above: Wall pegs for coats and a glass-paned door to let in more light.

Love the idea of a garage-turned-cottage? For another favorite grottage, see Outbuilding of the Week: The 186-Square-Foot Guest Cottage. And on Remodelista, see The Studio Apartment, Garage Edition.

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