David’s Warm and Modern Studio in a Former Garage

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)

Name: David Brown
Location: Lower Eastside — Santa Barbara, California
Size: 900 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years; Owned

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The concrete floor—now honed to perfection—and the roll-up door are the only indications that David’s light and bright studio was formerly a garage. With the help of a skillful design team and an able contractor, David transformed the garage into a studio that epitomizes simple indoor/outdoor living. Capitalizing on Santa Barbara’s Mediterranean climate, he’s created an energized home infused with natural light that connects to a carefully considered private patio garden. Inside, lofty ceilings, abundant skylights, and a sparse utilitarian design strategy add to the airy feel of the space, while the pine-paneled walls and the bedroom’s wood floors lend warmth and beauty to the space.

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David in his garage-turned-studio. (Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)
(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)

A massive clear-windowed garage door that rolls up and away with the click of a remote blurs the lines between inside and out. David says he often raises it from his bed first thing in the morning, letting the new day flood in. His shower is outside, housed in a claw-foot tub scored on Craigslist, making sunny showers and starry soaks enviably possible. Even better, the bathwater drains to the landscape, making the whole setup drought-friendly. Time spent in Mexico instilled in David a deep appreciation for the benefits of the backyard hammock—so much so, that he sunk a post in the garden and installed enough hardware to accommodate the hanging of not just one, but a trio of hammocks over his patio. He brought the richly-colored and generously-sized ones back from Oaxaca. The familia hammock is the biggest he knows of, reportedly accommodating as many as six people. It’s woven in the ROYGBIV rainbow pattern, and it’s quite a thing of beauty. The rest of the patio is outfitted with a fire pit and a table and chairs for al fresco dining. A grape stake fence and gate create privacy and complete the supremely retreat-like feel of the outdoor space, despite the urban setting.

In addition to being a nurse at a local hospital, David is also a metal-head with an impressive cassette tape collection and a frequent traveler of the adventure/backpacking/off-the-beaten path variety; he has some amazing photographs of his own—displayed above his desk—to show for it. Travel books and maps on the wall further hint at his passion for wandering. He often rents out his studio when he’s away and gleans a lot of satisfaction from being able to share the place not only with family and friends, but with other travelers.

Reflecting on his style and design influences, David shared that his travels, time spent visiting other cultures, and living out of a backpack have all greatly contributed to his streamlined approach to design and living. The feel is minimalist but not stark and appears as simple as it is carefully-thought-out. A large walk-in closet houses his wardrobe, personal effects, and computer. He doesn’t have a dedicated television and even prefers to have the computer away from the main living space. With much of the furniture on casters, the space remains versatile and capable of transforming from dining room to dance floor with ease. Guests on that dance floor are more likely to be grooving to the sounds of one of David’s custom mixtapes from back in the day than a digitized playlist. Apparently you can still purchase a cassette player, as he’s got a newish-looking set up. The secret to keeping those cassette tapes in good shape all these years? Always rewind all the way when storing. At a time when a vinyl collection and vintage record player in the living room have become synonymous with the hip life, seeing a mixtape collection prominently displayed was as refreshing as it was surprising. When I asked about the cool wooden wall-mounted display boxes, he told me he thinks he got them at the Wherehouse… as in the music store of the ’80s and ’90s. The Wherehouse!

David’s place and approach call to mind the William Morris quote about having “nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” The utilitarianism in the furnishings, lamps, and other tools for living, the beauty found in the artful display of his tape collection, along with his personal photographs and maps on the wall—it’s truly a conscious space designed for living, and living well at that.

(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Modern, with a little retro…wide open spaciousness, creating good energy flow.

Inspiration: Travels, living like a backpacker, simplicity.

Favorite Element: Indoor/Outdoor aspect… being able to open up a whole wall with the click of the remote by raising the roll-up door.

Biggest Challenge: Creating the privacy needed with the outdoor shower and exposed living area while being situated in close proximity to neighboring homes.

What Friends Say: They are blown away…they love it.

Biggest Embarrassment: Maybe the rampant gopher holes springing up in the garden everywhere…

Proudest DIY: Pulling together the whole design of the place.

Biggest Indulgence: The AC/heat unit.

Best Advice: Less is more… do what feels good to you, design for what makes you happy.

Dream Sources: Design Within Reach


(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)


  • Daybed: CB2
  • Yellow bench on casters: CB2
(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)


  • Dining table: custom-made by Josh Morlan with reclaimed wood from an old cottage in Santa Barbara
  • Chairs: Amazon
(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)


  • Bedding: IKEA
  • Dutch Delft Blauw cardboard side table: brought back flat-pack from Holland
(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)


  • Claw-foot tub: Craigslist
  • Hammocks: Oaxaca
  • Patio table and chairs: Anthropologie
(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)


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Thanks, David!