A Dilapidated Detached Garage Is Now a Light, Bright and Modern 400-Square-Foot Apartment

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Credit: Evan Koester

Name: Hannah Hamilton
Location: Santa Monica, California
Size: 400 square feet (300 downstairs, 100 square foot loft)
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

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Credit: Evan Koester
In the living room, the Urban Sofa is from West Elm, the linen pillow from Parachute, the coffee table from Urban Outfitters, and the red rug is vintage found on Chairish. The mobile chandelier is from West Elm.

After graduating from art school in Chicago and returning to her hometown of Santa Monica, designer and artist Hannah was faced with the perennial dilemma for graduates returning home from college: Crash at dad’s or find a place of her own.  Hannah opted for the latter.

Credit: Evan Koester

Struggling to find an affordable and comfortable single occupant apartment on the West Side, Hannah found the ideal solution when her brother Peter Hamilton–architect and co-founder of Studio Hamilton Tyni in Santa Monica–offered to redesign and rehab a dilapidated detached garage that sat tucked away at the back of their sister’s Santa Monica bungalow property.  The construction budget was sparse, at best, but after Studio HT agreed to a “case-of-wine” fee for the project, Peter and Hannah got to work.

Credit: Evan Koester

The double-height garage–originally built in 1930, blanketed in trumpet vine and bougainvillea–had become a storage unit for forgotten files and old Christmas decorations. Once gutted and stripped to the original stud framing, the space was transformed into a dreamy light-filled escape with the addition of skylights and reclaimed windows throughout. Complete with a full kitchen, bath, and lofted bedroom, the open floor plan and oversized French doors allow the kitchen area to spill into a shared garden and patio.

Credit: Evan Koester

Inspired by the openness that Southern California architecture boasts, the strong indoor/outdoor cohesive nature of the small loft makes it feel spacious enough to enjoy and entertain comfortably the whole year long.

Credit: Evan Koester
Dunn Edwards "Whisper White" is the paint color in the home.

“The home is unique in that it was designed for me by my brother of Studio Hamilton Tyni architecture. A converted garage, it sits in the middle of a garden–special for the very dense Santa Monica neighborhood. Although the actual apartment is small, it feels spacious due to the generous outdoor space and French doors opening from the kitchenette into the garden, making entertaining easy and fun. I love to throw dinner parties all year long as well as enjoy quiet time in the light-filled space reading and just hanging out. It’s so peaceful and the best place to retreat on a Sunday afternoon,” says Hannah.

Credit: Evan Koester

Apartment Therapy House Tour Survey:

My Style/ Inspiration: A mix of Scandinavian minimalism with Santa Monica beach shack vibes.

Favorite Element: The trumpet vine creeping in through the ceiling feels very romantic and whimsical  and I love the character it gives to the space. A fun take on a house plant.

Credit: Evan Koester

Biggest Challenge: The closet space is super limited but it was nice to purge and be forced to keep a very Marie Kondo sensibility when it comes to my wardrobe. The flip side is that I have a surprisingly spacious bathroom, which feels like a big luxury.

Credit: Evan Koester

Proudest DIY: Not my DIY, but all of the art in the apartment is (almost) exclusively painted by my brother who also designed the home renovation itself. It is meaningful to have his art on the wall while adding dimension and color to my vast white walls.

Credit: Evan Koester
The faucet is from IKEA. The apron sink is also from IKEA.

Biggest Indulgence:  The solid oak loft ladder.  One of the biggest design opportunities was to figure out how to allow access to the loft without crowding the tiny ground floor. We looked at a handful of different stair options, but landed on the pull-out ladder.  It’s a fun (and apparently very expensive) detail in the loft.

Credit: Evan Koester

Best Advice: Take your time to really refine the design before construction and then again to furnish it afterward–it took me about 6-8 months to fully furnish (for budget reasons and wanting to find the perfect pieces for the space).

Credit: Evan Koester
The chair was found in an alley, and the rug is from Urban Outfitters.

If you rush the creative process, you end up bulk buying from the same 2-3 stores and your space ends up looking generic.

Credit: Evan Koester

What’s your best home secret? My best kept home secret is to minimize the stuff and maximize the light! When my brother and I started this whole thing, he refused to allow me to cut windows and openings to save money.  He told me to take the money out of the furniture and furnishings before the windows. Thanks to the incredible amount of natural light and the minimal furnishings, the space feels deceptively open and gracious.  Don’t tell anyone how small is actually is :).

Credit: Evan Koester

Thank you Hannah and Patrick!

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