Alex’s Stylish Small Home in a Converted Garage

updated Oct 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

Name: Alex Kennedy
Location: Carlton North; Melbourne, Australia
Size: 380 square feet
Years lived in: Owned for one year

Alex’s modern, bright, open plan studio is proof that you can achieve harmonious, functional design in even the smallest spaces. Situated at the back of her Mom’s house, Alex lives in a converted double garage, which takes up no more than 380 feet! Influenced by Japanese design philosophy and a desire to use recycled materials, this little place might have a small footprint, but it makes a big impression.

(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

Without a huge budget to work with, Alex had her talented friend Sarah Trotter of Hearth Studio design the interior of her space, while local Melbourne builder Scott McCormack oversaw the construction. Wanting to save pennies, Alex even pitched in as a labourer on weekends, doing all the tiling herself. A keen supporter of local design and products, many of the details and items around her home have been sourced locally.

One of Alex’s favourite aspects to the design is the way the space leads outdoors. The effect is realised by having glass walls along the back of the garage, creating a light, open and integrated space which invites you to gaze out on the Japanese-inspired garden outside.

But the big talking point in this space is the strikingly beautiful (and exposed!) bathroom. Located on the right hand wall of the studio space, the bath/shower is essentially in the living room, but lush indoor plants create a kind of porous boundary between the two. There’s certainly no doubt about the aesthetic appeal of the grand old clawfoot bath and bare concrete walls.

A creative multi-tasker, Alex currently sub edits an art and fashion magazine called Doingbird alongside her regular day job. Thanks Alex for inviting us into your space!

(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Mixture of 70s, Japanese influences and a bit of Mid Century Modern.

Inspiration: After spending some time in a commune in New Zealand where I was introduced to the handmade houses movement of the 1970s, I was keen to build something that utilised space and recycled materials. My family have always been interested in Japanese and Swedish design, and after traveling to Japan I knew I could create a home that connected the garden with light and texture in a small space.

Favorite Element: The light and the way it connects to the garden.

Biggest Challenge: The entrance wall— to get the really nice 45 by 45 angle in the wood is quite tricky. You would think it would just require cutting the wood on two 45 degree angles. We had to work out the exact ratio and build an extra angle for the miter saw.

What Friends Say: They seem to really like it. Everyone seems to like the bath and use of wood. One friend described it as an Aesop shop made by a kid in wood workshop. I like that description, it made me laugh.

Biggest Embarrassment: That it’s not finished!! I have sooo much more to do!

Proudest DIY: The tiling, I did it all myself and I have never tiled a thing before.

Biggest Indulgence: The tiles in the kitchen and the gas stovetop. There was no gas connection and the only gas appliance is the stovetop but I refuse to cook on an electric stovetop.

Best Advice: It takes longer and will cost more than you think, so don’t stress about it! Work with the people who are involved and you will enjoy it no matter how hard it gets.

Dream Sources: Anything Mid-Century Modern

(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

Resources of Note:


• Paint by Porters Paints


• Moroccan rug, from
Milton Caters Rugs


• Day bed, featuring
Beneath The Sun patchwork cushion and large gem vessel

• Coffee table featuring
Beneath The Sun stripes plate,

Connor O’Brien print

• Boucherouite rug and vintage moon lights, from ebay


• Danish dining table and chairs, from ebay

• Woven rug, from the Oxfam shop

• Screwless shelf by
Tressel Table Co.,


• Japanese tiled splash back from
Classic Ceramics

Marloe Morgan ceramics

• Kitchen bench made of recycled hardwood featuring recycled science lab sink and tap, from eBay

• Handmade leather tabs from
Leffler Leather

• Recycled work bench



• Claw foot bath and exposed showerhead, from eBay, featuring
Muji soap dispensers

(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

Thanks, Alex!

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