Garage To Living Space: Before and After


Note: I originally wrote about our house’s transformation from a 1980′s ranch to a “what-year-was-this-built?” cottagey-farmhouse in a multi-part remodeling series during the first year of AOC. I am updating these posts by showcasing new “before and after” shots of each room and going into more details (want to make sure you don’t miss anything? Subscribe by email here or RSS here).

We bought our home when there weren’t a lot of choices in the area we wanted to live, so we knew we’d probably need to do some remodeling to any house we found that fit our criteria – which was mainly what we could afford.

The ranch house we ended up buying was 16oo square feet – not terribly small for a family of four – there were three bedrooms and two baths, after all. But the rest of the house consisted of one large room that housed the living, dining, and kitchen. There was no room for Brian’s office (as an independent contractor, a necessity) or any extras like workout equipment or a sewing area.

So shortly after moving in (and setting our offices up in the living room…), we hired a contractor friend to convert our attached garage into three rooms with a porch to connect it to the house’s original porch. We worked with him on some of the building, but we did all the electrical and finishing – trim, flooring, wall texture, doors, etc. when the shell was completed.


The before picture shows a typical ranch house garage. You actually entered our house from this area though, taking a narrow walkway to the left in front of the living room window to get to the front door (see the whole house before here – we couldn’t even see the front door when we first drove up!).

The after photo shows how we replaced the garage doors with a double French door and a set of windows that we moved from the side of the garage so that they would match the other windows on the front of the house.
new porch-2012

In order to help the new living space blend with the rest of the house, we added a long porch by building a raised deck across the whole front of the house, adding rails and steps at each end.

To save money, we built a pergola that attaches to the original porch (and roof with “L” brackets), which we later covered with clear panels to help protect against the weather.

new garage-2012

Of course, we knew we were going to need a new garage, which we had built a few years later. In the interim, we stored all our “garage items” (tools, paint, etc.) in a leaky shed that was full of mice.

Needless to say, the day we were finished with the new garage was a good day indeed.

We were able to reuse the old garage doors (we had stored them in another shed) after purchasing a new section to make them work for the 8-foot doors we needed in order to park our vintage trailer in the garage.

new garage-walkway

Between the house and the new, free-standing garage we added a covered walkway so we could at least attempt to stay dry in Oregon’s rain when unloading groceries.

garage inside before

Garage inside before: I don’t know why I’m showing this photo – yes it’s a “before” shot, but it pretty much just looks like every garage interior you’ve ever seen.

Well, those that aren’t organized or anything. Though in our defense, we were painting, ripping off wallpaper, and doing repairs in the rest of the house, so this was the staging area.


The original garage footprint measured 24×28, so it was a good sized space. From that we created three rooms:

  1. A laundry/mud room. With a French door, hidden washer and dryer, and space for our extra freezer and gardening supplies, this is one of my favorite rooms in the new space. Especially since I hated going out to the cold, dirty garage to do laundry.
  2. A large multipurpose room we use for storage, guests, and exercise equipment. But mainly it’s my workroom where I blog from, sew and create.
  3. Brian’s much-needed office. With a door to close. Very important for talking with clients when you need to sound professional and hearing kids arguing in the kitchen wouldn’t be the best thing. And no, Brian will not let me organize, style his shelves, or do much decorating here. Harrumph.

When we converted the garage into living space, we deliberately tried to blend the remodeled areas into the original living areas. If you have a garage conversion, or any area really, that you’d like to look like it’s original to your house, here’s a list of some things we did that might be helpful:

Ways to avoid the dreaded “driveway to the door” garage-conversion look outside and the “step down into the old garage” look inside
  • Raise the floor new floor to meet the rest of the house. It cost a bit extra, but it was key to making the new floor seamlessly blend with the old flooring.
  • Match the new flooring that connects to the old. The kitchen floor is oak so we just purchased a bit of oak and continued it through the new hallway. The rooms, however, we covered with plywood which we either painted (laundry) or stained for significant savings (read about how we floored the rooms here).
  • Use any original doors or hardware that’s available. We used doors for the new office and workroom from our bathroom remodel. These matched the other six-panel doors in the rest of the house – and they are solid, quality doors.
  • Create a porch or some exterior continuation of an original element. Our porch helps the old garage look like it’s always been part of the house – plus it gives me the front porch I always dreamed about!
  • Move original windows from the side to the front to match other windows. Again using anything original where people will see it creates continuity.
  • Jackhammer the existing concrete driveway. If you don’t have room to remove it entirely, at least remove six feet or so in front of the new area. We kept all the concrete pieces and used them for walkways and garden edgings.
  • Replace the concrete drive with a garden bed. Ours continues the bed that was already in front of the house. Plantings that repeat across the whole space also work to make the new space look like it’s always been there.
  • Re-route the driveway. I’m so glad we had the room to move our gravel drive to the right side of the old driveway.

How has this space worked for us? Well, it changed the way we lived and used the house, for sure. It gave us 2200 square feet and enough room to not feel cramped and be able to host gatherings. It was totally worth it.

But the best compliment has to be when new guests can’t believe this part of the house used to be a garage.

Goal achieved.





Want more inspiration for your garage or storage spaces? Today I’m teaming up with these talented bloggers to help you tackle your own projects, learn some new tips, organize and be inspired:

Taylor from Stain Removal 101 shares tips to Clean Your Garage Floors – including the dreaded oil spills.

Nony from A Slob Comes Clean talks all about Utilizing Wall Storage in the Garage: Pegboards.

Christine from I Dream of Clean is sharing a post of  Garage Inspiration – you know, when you need to figure out what to do with all that stuff…

Lauren from Mama’s Laundry Talk tells us How To Have A Laundry Room In Your Garage {And Not Lose Your Mind}


  1. Kerry says

    Ok, when Nathan said the workrooms used to be the garage, I thought I was just misunderstanding him. It connects so naturally! I seriously never would have guessed. Excellent work! :)

  2. says

    I love your ideas about making the new space not look like it used to be a garage. I never would have thought of moving the drive way or windows. I need an office/studio for my music studio and have thought of using the garage. This gives me more food for thought……..


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