Before + After: A Dingy Garage Becomes a Bright Guest House

Interior designer Kimberlee Gorsline had a dream to transform her 300 foot square (27 metre square) two-car garage behind their house into a cheery Airbnb guest house for the "adventure seeker, the savvy traveler and those who appreciate little design details". In the fourth installment of the mini make-over series in association with Builders Bay (a little black book for all things needed to renovate your home) we take a virtual look at the incredible transformation from dingy garage, to a beautiful, independent living space that helps Kimberlee and her family offset the rising cost of living in Seattle. 

The garage was technically an empty one-room shell - talk about working from scratch! Kimberlee thought hard about who was most likely to stay there and settled on "the millennial crowd looking for a boutique hotel-like experience without the boutique price tag."

The goal: "To make a warm and inviting space that our guests would look forward to coming back to after a full day of exploring the city or gorgeous mountains and trails that define the Pacific Northwest." 

© John Granen
The exterior cladding was painted in fresh white with black details and the sliding garage door was replaced with double glass doors that slip in light. From the outside, it's hard to imagine that this clean, Scandi-style cabin was ever a garage at all!

© John Granen
The interior has been completely transformed into a bright, predominantly white living space with touches of blue, green, pale grey, light wood, and brass details. The studio has been divided up into zones and features a queen sized bed, a charming kitchenette and dining area and a small, spa-like bathroom.

"From a design standpoint, I wanted it to feel light and airy, yet have some really big statements throughout. To achieve this I maximized the floor plan and made the most of every square inch, and selected really unique and fun finishes that really create that wow factor."

© John Granen
A Flanged Edge Upholstered bed and bright cushions from West Elm add a cosy touch to the narrow yet practical bedroom area.

© John Granen

© John Granen

I'm a big fan of shiplap walls, they really add something to the bedroom area of this studio. Not only does a shiplap wall have a clean and classic look, it's also great for adding architectural interest and bringing a space to life without adding clutter. For anyone that's tempted - there's a great DIY tutorial here!

The little wall mounted bed side tables from Etsy were custom made to fit the narrow space between the bed and wall. They even come with a drawer!

© John Granen

Mirror vignettes are a great design trick for small studios: they look pretty (these ones are available here), bounce light around and create the illusion of space. Think about placing mirrors somewhere they will reflect the items you like to look at - like a fiddle-leaf fig!

© John Granen
The fabulous kitchenette was fitted with cabinets painted in Dard Hunter Green by Sherwin Williams and VZAG White Gold tiles from Tile Bar. In a larger kitchen this could start to feel over the top, but the beauty of a tiny kitchen is you can totally get away with a bold style statement - and since it's a small area you'll keep the cost down too.

"I wanted to make a few bold choices, like the hunter green kitchen cabinets or patterned tile, because while a lot of people might be too timid to make those choice for their own home, who doesn't love trying it on for a few days? At the end of the day I am so happy with how it all turned out!"

© John Granen

© John Granen

The mid-century dining space is also gorgeous! The laquer table and Lena chairs are both West Elm and make a perfect setting for tea for two after a day on the trails (OK, who am I kidding... an ice-cool G+T!). 

© John Granen

The Sherwin Williams Naval sink cabinet combined with the Tulum gray and white cement tile from The Cement Tile Shop create a great style statement in the bathroom. I also love the combination of the IKEA Stockholm mirror and metal globe sconce  from Shades of light.  You can source a similar custom-made shower curtain here.

© John Granen

Wow! Isn't this such an incredible transformation? Am I the only one wishing I had a garden shed or dis-used garage in need of some TLC? Or perhaps you have just the spot? Needless to say Kimberlee was thrilled with the results: 

"Seeing it transform from such a utilitarian, dingy garage to a bright and cheery little retreat was so much fun and so rewarding!"

If you're loving the look of this studio and would like to stay, you can check out the listing here.

Thank you so much to Kimberlee for inviting us into her guest house - and also to Apartment Therapy where I first spotted this studio. 

Or if you're already on Builders Bay looking for items for your renovation (who needs a garage anyway?!) you might also feel inspired by a garden shed on a shoestring budget,  a dreamy little place in the garden to call home and although not a tour, Carrie the caravan!

Have a wonderful weekend!

PS Thank you so much for your amazing survey feedback - both positive and 'constructive' - so grateful! I'll be stopping by tomorrow to share the results and announce the winners of the three signed copies of my lagom book.


  1. Beautiful, love the tiling.

    I don't need extra space, but this makes me want to convert my garage into a little escape pod!

  2. Great transformation. I love it!

  3. It's a beautiful transformation. Lots of really great details and tile.

    I also saw this on AT and I commented on there as well that I would worry about how their bathtub was installed. Your tile should be installed over over top of the tile flange (that 1-2" vertical lip you see at the top of the tub) to prevent water from getting behind the tub. Be prepared for eventual mold and water damage. I saw this from experience since the house we bought had the tile installed like this int he main bathroom when it was renovated in the late 80's early 90's and we have bad mold/water issues.

    1. Great comment, thank you for pointing this out. Definitely something to think about for a bathroom renovation.

  4. I love it! Is a beautiful renovation!

  5. Very beautiful! Thanks for sharing this useful info. Keep updating same way.

  6. So lovely! I often use airbnb when travelling, and always look for those special places, this would def be on my list if ever going to Seattle. I just wonder why they didn't include an outdoor seating area. Just two chairs and a table outside would be great. I see in their ad that guests can use the communal spaces, but a small area just outside would still have been great, somewhere to bring the morning cup of coffee, or a glass of wine at night.

  7. I'd quite happily stay here too - I love finding these little golden nuggets! I wondered about the outdoor space myself Rita, so thank you for pointing it out. It looks like it's not quite finished around the exterior so perhaps this is the next step?


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