What happens when you have a two-bedroom house and two babies on the way? Well, first thing is you can kiss your sweet home office goodbye in favor of a nursery. Second thing is, you can figure out what the heck to do instead if you are a writer-editor who works from home.
Our solution (after considering other options like buying a new house, for instance) was to go for a detached garage office conversion. At first, I was opposed to this idea (proposed by husband), because I’m not sure you really see ROI from a future sale of a home, unless you add square footage onto the main house. But I really started to warm up to the idea when I began realizing its utility as a major custom feature for a new mom who makes her living as I do; I can be close enough to be accessible, but still two closed doors away from babies and nanny and noise enough to have the reasonable expectation of actual work. That’s a setup that works for me.
Beyond that, we needed to maintain some storage space. Otherwise, what would happen to husband’s 23 crates of ’90s hip-hop records from his DJing days, or my endless hoard of sentimental artifacts (I know, I know, call A&E — but I just love life and people and memories)? So we divided the garage into partial raw storage, and partial office space. That sounds sort of simple, but required hoop jumping to accommodate the movement of the existing garage door, as well as un-motorizing it so the motor didn’t run through the ceiling of our space.
With those considerations all addressed, prospective garage-office converters among my dear readers will be pleased to know the project was a fairly simple one! And the whole thing cost about $15,000 using mainly pre-fab materials (like Lowes windows and doors). And although our contractor made what should have been a two-week project a month-plus one, so we finished at the 31-week mark of my twin pregnancy, I’m happier with it then I might have even imagined — if I do say so myself, if I do say so myself (hold up).
Come along for the tour, won’t you?
We bought three three-drawer file cabinets from Pottery Barn (not exactly cheap, but 15 percent off — always ask for the new movers’ discount!), and made them into a custom-width double desk using two Ikea countertops ($59 each) cut to size and L-bracketed to the wall. We also got a pair of desk chairs from Overstock that are very Pottery Barn-esque if you ask me. So the overall result, IMO, looks much richer than the total cost for everything together (about $1,000).
And yes, that’s a sleeper sofa! So we’re able to offer gracious accommodation to any loved ones who don’t require, you know, plumbing in the building.
And, I love this: One of my favorite things about our 1936 house was the sconces it had when we bought it. They were just such substantial-feeling, pretty details that I assumed were original to the period. But guess what? They’re actually totally new fixtures! And we found them available at 55 Downing Street! Just such a surprising little score to build that continuity into our new detached office space so that it flows and matches the main house so seamlessly.
We’ll also train that jasmine around the windows and it will fill in over the next couple of years, resulting in a more this-was-always-here look to the new office. And! I find the smell of jasmine just intoxicating. Jasmine + bougainvillea = two of infinity reasons I love L.A.
Those street signs are really cool, too: My parents found them under the house in the Bel Air home where I grew up. They were the original signs for our street and the iconic Stone Canyon Road to which it connected, before the city signs replaced them in the… ’20s I think? That’s some Antiques Roadshow stuff — but I’d never sell.
Dude loves some power tools. And he’s gotten very handy!
This is also a great improvement in drainage (which was a problem, like, that one time it rained in L.A. — remember?) and also I like how the greenery seems to add space to the yard. Next up: new outdoor dining set!
Our yard also wraps in an L shape, with the majority of it around back of the garage/office. It’s where we entertain, and I think the office will double as a great place to keep food and drinks out of the sun. (And will be a vehicle for our Sonos speakers!)
Overall, the investment was small enough that I don’t mind if we don’t see every dollar of it back when we sell within five years, because it will allow us to live and work and grow into the house over that same period. It’s just what we needed to scale. And! For the right buyer, perhaps a young family with similar circumstances, I think it will feel like the perfect thing, even a tranquil little retreat.
So there you have it! How’d we do?