A Couple & Three Dogs Share a 200-Square-Foot "Bitty Berkeley Bungalow"

A Couple & Three Dogs Share a 200-Square-Foot "Bitty Berkeley Bungalow"

Esteban Cortez
Jan 10, 2018

Name: Rebekah Carey, husband Alex, and 3 pups!
Location: Berkeley, California
Size: 200 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5 years, owned

Rebekah and Alex (plus their three dogs!) share a 200-square-foot converted 1905 garage they've lived in for nearly two and a half years. Though they're both native to Oregon state, they've lived in the Bay Area at different points in their lives and always felt a connection to Berkeley. When they realized the garage in Rebekah's grandma's backyard wasn't being put to much use, they asked themselves (and grandma, of course) if it had the potential to become a home. Months later, they embarked on their most laborious DIY project ever, but as Rebekah says, "The best things come to those who wait."

Six months after they first started cleaning the garage out, the space was officially converted to a cozy and bright space they now affectionately call the Bitty Berkeley Bungalow. It has everything they need, including a kitchen nook, sleeping area, and seating for guests (both indoors and out). Most impressively, the renovation was done using mostly recycled or second-hand building materials. To the Rebekah and Alex, however, the best thing is being so close to family. "It's right behind my grandma's house, so we feel incredibly fortunate to be building a home with her and having each other so close," describes Rebekah.

Rebekah is a Stylist + Creative Director + Designer and runs A & B Creative. She and Alex specialize in wedding and event design as well as rentals.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Vintage-inspired, eclectic, and efficient

Inspiration: Houses! I [Rebekah] really wanted to do my best to make this little space feel like a real home, especially one that could be the era of the main house and garage itself. So, we added reclaimed vintage floors, walls, and the comforts of a "real" house. I also designed everything with leading lines so that the space feels longer than it actually is. I like to pretend it's a little cottage in the woods instead of in a city. I can't wait until our yard grows more and we can feel even more tucked away.

Favorite Element: The wood flooring. While it was utter hell installing it (picture Alex practically in a fugue state removing hundreds of original rusty nails, then being under a deadline and not being able to rent a nail gun), it really does make the space feel more like a true home and helps elongate the petite space.

Biggest Challenge: Nothing in the structure (or the main house, for that matter) was straight. Everything had a slope, so that meant a lot of custom cuts, adding backing strips to be able to nail the walls onto so that they could be as even as possible, building a frame for the floor to be attached to, etc. We did almost everything by ourselves, but Alex's dad was able to come and help install the walls and ceilings and to frame out the double doors for a day. A friend also helped make sure we installed our little window properly.

What Friends Say: "We can't believe how quiet it is!" or "It's so peaceful back here!"

Alex puts up the DIY Murphy bed to allow for more space in the day time.
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Biggest Embarrassment: We don't really have any embarrassments, although our driveway often resembles a junkyard as we're always in the middle of some project for the house or yard. We wish we had a bathroom in the space, but that's on our list for adding in the near future. Having to go the three feet into the house isn't too big of a deal, but there have been a few mornings my neighbors have probably seen me looking less than fresh as I stumble inside.

Proudest DIY: All of it? The whole house was DIY (except for the electrical work). It's amazing to look around and know that we created this home together. It's really inspiring to have created a project for ourselves that we dreamed up from a cluttered and dusty garage to a finished home that we can stay in and that our family could stay in when they visit.

Biggest Indulgence: Probably not parting with our king sized Tempur-Pedic mattress. It's really heavy, so when I was working on designs with my dad for our Murphy bed, we used car trunk struts so that it would slowly lift and lower a bit more easily.

Best Advice: "The best things come to those who wait." During construction (which started with cleaning out the garage in August and ended with our first night in the space in February), I was recovering from two different shoulder surgeries, and working with a limited budget. We were paying rent on our Oakland cottage while we were building, which meant I wasn't able to go as fast as I would have liked and I didn't have the funds to just buy what I wanted. So, I had to wait patiently while I obsessively checked Craigslist for things we needed for construction and furnishing the space.

Dream Sources: I mean, I would be remiss to not stress how incredible of a source Craigslist was! Locally, we went to (and still go to) Urban Ore constantly, and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore was also a great source for reclaimed items.


Benjamin Moore — White Diamond (Interior)
Behr — Linen White (Exterior)

Double-drop leaf table — Craigslist
Sink/fridge/stove combo — Craigslist
Utensil holder — Vintage from a trip to France
Art — Vintage sourced from thrift stores
Kitchen island — Vintage from Urban Ore
Pantry — Vintage metal locker from garage sale
Tea kettle — Le Creuset
Woven purse on top of pantry — Vintage
Murphy bed — Custom made by my dad
Bedside table/desk — Maven Collective
Blue linen pillow cases — Crate & Barrel
Linen bedding — Rough Linen
Overhead lamp, kitchen island, closet cabinet — Vintage from Urban Ore
Custom pillows — Mignonne Décor
Kilim pillow and small desk mirror — Mignonne Décor
Makeshift couch — DIY

Vintage settee — Free find on Next Door
Farm table — Made by Alex and his dad

Thanks, Rebekah and Alex!

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