Designing Garage Studio Apartment Layout
July 1, 2012
Hi everyone, looking for some help with a garage renovation!

We currently have a small-ish detached garage measuring 13.5 ft wide by 26 ft long. Attached is a (very) rough floorplan. At the bottom of the image is a single-car garage door. On the bottom right side is a door to the backyard patio. On the sides and top are rough estimates of window size and placement. The windows are very nice and large on the top and right side. The ceiling is 8 ft high, but we'll be pitching the roof very soon and would like to keep the interior ceilings vaulted.

We live very close to a college campus, so we would like to turn the garage into a detached studio apartment we could rent out. Our "wish-list" for the interior space are:

1. Kitchenette, with a small fridge, sink, and cookspace
2. Bathroom, with shower, sink, toilet
3. Skylights
4. Gas Fireplace Insert for winter heating
5. Efficient storage spaces throughout
6. Replacing the garage door with a single entry-way door

As it's currently a garage, we will be adding new plumbing and electrical throughout, so the design is very flexible! For plumbing, it would be easiest if the kitchen and bathroom were along the right-side, which is closest to the main house and provides easiest access to utilities. Same goes for the fireplace and the gas-line, however these are again flexible.

We're looking for layout/floorplan ideas, and would love to hear your feedback!
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To give you an idea of what we're looking for... this floorplan has been inverted, but may work... The dimensions are off and I (badly) inverted the picture and text, but the idea is there. Thanks in advance for any ideas!
1 Like    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 8:26PM
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Hi nyira, looks like the inverted plan works well with your garage conversion given you are able to work around the location of the windows in the garage, or are you able to change the window sizes / location as well?
    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 8:47PM
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The windows are basically set where they are - we recently redid all of the windows and siding in the house, so those are brand new! This was before we had thought of renovating the garage...

I suppose the only issue with the floorplan above is that the interior wall of the bathroom would be right in the middle of that top window, and the space is narrow enough that it's difficult to put the bathroom to one side or the other of the window.
    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 9:00PM
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Looks like you plan on having just one student. Would you like two? Plan could be tweaked so each has some private space.
    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 9:31PM
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A number of questions spring to mind: Could the patio door serve as the main entry door? Do any of the windows have nice views? Is there more natural light in one area of garage? Would the vaulted ceiling be high enough for a sleeping loft?

By gas fireplace insert, I think you mean a direct-vent fireplace. Are you in a warm climate such that that will provide enough heating? Many locales have adopted 'stretch' energy codes that may require a serious commitment to insulating and sealing the garage.

Note that the rough plan has little closet/storage space.
    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 9:40PM
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@ pcmom1 - we could have two, if the space was designed correctly. We weren't sure whether or not the space would provide enough living area for two people or not, as the main house is intended to stay completely separate.

@ mjlb - the patio door potentially *could* serve as the main entry door, but it is placed awkwardly and a resident would have to walk around the entire house to access it. We are in a very snowy, cold climate and plan to insulate the walls very well, but some form of heating is still necessary. And the lack of storage and closet space is one of the reasons we're not automatically adopting that floorplan. Hopefully we can find some variation of that which would prove more efficient.

@ all - that floorplan is completely flexible! It was something I had found online after a quick search that seemed to fit within our very rectangular dimensions. We'd welcome any alternatives :)
    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 9:58PM
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If you live in a cold area, do yourself and the tenant a good deed and use some radiant heating on the floor. At the very least, put it in the bathroom - then add the kitchen and bedroom if possible. It will make a world of difference in the comfort level of the space.

Also, do as many built-ins as possible! Good luck!
1 Like    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 10:31PM
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I think you want to avoid placing the entry door in the middle of the wall as you need wall space for furniture placement, fireplace, TV, kitchen cabinetry. Would an entry door where current smaller window on left be convenient? Would converting the garage door into large windows make sense?

Generally, I would use bath to divide the space, with sleeping area and closet on one side, and living/dining/kitchen on the other. You could place closets or kitchen cabinets around two sides of the bath. Roughly, you would have 13.5 x 12 for living/kitchen/dining; 13.5 x 10 for bedroom/closet; and 5 x 8 for bath. Or you could combine the sleeping and living areas, but the space would probably yield more rent with a separate sleeping area.

Due to your cold climate, and plan to heat by fireplace/woodstove, partition walls should not be full-height, i.e. they need to allow heat to circulate. In fact, it would probably better for the heat source to be near the center of the space.
    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 10:48PM
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    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 1:18AM
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Thank you for all of the ideas!

We hadn't considered radiant heating in the floor, though it'd be a good time to install it! The garage floor is currently just cement slab, so we're likely tiling over it for the bathroom and possibly kitchen areas, and using hardwood and/or carpet for the rest.

Hmmm a door in place of the smaller left-side window could work. On that side is basically a small "alley" between the garage and the neighbor's fence and house. The current garage door faces right out towards the street, and seems like a more natural entrance. Since we are redoing the roof, we had considered adding a "covered" porch on that left side leading up to a side entryway.

I like the idea above, smabell! I think I would like to add more storage and closet space in the living/dining area too.

Does anyone have a good idea for a layout that places the kitchen and bathroom together along the right-side or top wall (of the floorplan in the first post)? It would make plumbing much easier to install, due to where the current lines run.

EDIT: Also, we'd be open to having two "bedroom" spaces to accommodate a couple of tenants, as mentioned in pcmom1's post above, though we're not sure how to layout the space so as to give each tenant a large enough bed/closet space.
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 9:25AM
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S. Thomas Kutch
Several things to consider Nyira and the most important one is code issues. First big code issue, you need to confirm that you are allowed to actually add a separate independent rental unit on your property. Many municipalities have local code restrictions concerning multiply kitchen units for the expressed purpose of creating a rental unit. If it is allowed then you are good to go. Secondly, most of the adopted codes require a window OR acceptable CFM mechanical ventilation in the bathroom..... the placement of the windows might just work to your advantage. In addition you have to take into consideration the requirement for egress windows in a sleep area.

Design solution: Although the natural inclination is to minimize your plumbing runs, thus your initial idea to place all the plumbing on the right side of your garage, the windows on the right side will play havoc with the design placement of the spacial elements. I would suggest locating your bathroom and kitchen areas on the left side of your garage. The one window could be located in the bathroom (meeting your ventilation requirements providing it's operable) with the kitchen then located on the backside of your wet wall.
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 9:30AM
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S. Thomas Kutch
Another issues to be considered is the relation of the garage to the property line. You mentioned replacing the window on the left with a close are you to the property line? Within 3' there are restrictions on openings in the wall as in no openings. If your garage is within 3' of property line, I'm doubting the authorities would approve an egress opening there. I would strongly suggest that you meet with the code officials (building permit department) and go over your ideas with them. This will save you much time and effort knowing what they are going to be looking for in a set of drawings and to get a feel for what restrictions will come into play.
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 9:58AM
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We are about 7 feet from the property line on that left side, and we're in the process of obtaining the necessary permits for first the roof, and then all subsequent changes. We live in a neighborhood where almost every house is a student rental property, and several on our street have been modified similarly to what we are trying to do. Of course we'll double check the zoning and code restrictions before we touch any materials, but so far it doesn't sound like it will be an issue.

The one limitation we do have is no more than two tenants, since the occupants (us) still live in the house. If we lived elsewhere, we'd be able to have a maximum of 4 tenants on the property. Given the size of our space, it shouldn't be too much of an issue.

EDIT: Aside from running the plumbing lines, I agree - that small window on the left is a perfect bathroom size, and opens easily. The other two are well within egress size requirements (over 24" height, 20" width, no more than 44" from the ground)
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:20AM
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S. Thomas Kutch
Nyira... here's an idea for you. Running the plumbing laterals wouldn't be that big of an effort....granted it would take cutting some concrete, but if it aids your overall design end product, it could very well be worth the extra sweat.
2 Likes    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:49AM
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Oh that looks very nice, actually! It's strange how closely the exterior of that matches the garage - white trim, gold/brown siding... It looks like the garage door is replaced with a double entry door? (for lack of a better term...) Can I ask what program you used to model that in?
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Glad your area allows for rentals. We found out all kinds of code issues when we added a separate garage/pool house. Such as shower ok, bathtub no. Microwave ok, oven no.

Looks like two ways to go: more space for one student/married student couple or visiting prof. Then you could go more lux. But definite advantage to having two students, as I expect you'd get more income. And, if your local dorms are anything like what my kids lived in, then they would have low expectations for private square footage!

OK, since I can upload my scheme, you have to draw it out!

Kitchen would be along your right hand wall, galley style, starting at garage door and could extend all the way to your large window. That would give you 3 ft. by 11 ft. Turn your door that goes to patio into kitchen window. You mentioned that as being awkward for entry.

"Living room" area would be directly opposite kitchen along left wall. There is room for sofa, coffee table, couple of small chairs (folding butterfly are popular). There is room near kitchen for a kitchen table, this could also be used for prep space.

Current garage door could be large window.

Bathroom: Also on the side with the kitchen, encompassing all of six ft window, walls 6 inches pass window on each side. Size of bath would be a box: 7 by 7. Tub with shower on one side (the solid wall on the kitchen side), toilet and sink on the other.

I would create another "box" area directly opposite the bath area by making that small window on the left side into your entry door. Box is created by the backs of two closets that are in an L shape. This will give a small foyer area that opens into living zone. Place to drip off and hang up coats on wall hooks.

You now have a small hallway that will lead into the back sleeping area. I would put one bed along right wall, one along left. Two desks under the small window. Beds could be captain's beds with storage under. Plus, each student has own closet.

For more light to reach back there, keep closets at 7 ft. You will be vaulting ceiling so there will feel like more space.
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 11:23AM
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Great ideas!

For the interior walls that make up the bathroom, would you guys recommend running them all the way to the top of the ceiling, or stopping them at the 7-8 ft mark? We were thinking the former, even though it may cut down somewhat on the light... We could always add a skylight for that room.

Does anyone know if a skylight capable of being manually opened would satisfy the bathroom ventilation requirements? It may solve the issue of aligning the bathroom with one of the windows...
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 11:57AM
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We had three of the Solatubes to bring light into our dark hallway and they work great. Pretty sure they do the venting kind also.
1 Like    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 12:23PM
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Chroma Design
I have more code concerns. I have not heard you mention heating other than a fireplace. You are open to radiant heat flooring, which I think you'll need to do. I can not imagine any community in a cold climate allowing just a fireplace as the only source of heat. No one will leave a fireplace on all daywhen they're at work, it's not safe or sensible. And let's hope your pipes never burst!
Second is the egress requirements. You are correct, sills no higher than 44" from the floor. But you are off on size opening. Size opening is smaller then the actual size of the window. It must be larger than 5.7 square feet. An openning of 24" by 20" (3.33 sq. ft.) is nowhere close to the requirement.
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 12:27PM
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Chroma Design
To explain egress further. When you read that height can be no less then 24" and width no less then 20" it does not mean those dimensions together make a compliant window. Those are the minimum standards of just one dimension, and multiplied by the other dimension must be more than 5.7 square feet.
So a window 20" wide does not become compliant until its height is 40"
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Thanks, we will absolutely look into the heating requirements! We don't want to overly splurge on this project, but we do want it built right.

The windows in the garage are much larger than 24" x 20", and are around the same size as our bedroom windows in the main house. Just guessing, I'd say the windows are about 36" (h) x 52" (w) and 36" (h) x 72" (w), or at least 10-12 square feet apiece.

I'll have to look into the Solatubes! They sound interesting. Worst case scenario, we install a fan in the bathroom and find some good lighting.

EDIT: Correction... the top and right side window are both pretty large... the smaller left side window would not meet the egress reqs.
1 Like    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 12:44PM
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Chroma Design
Good about the windows, I just wanted to be absolutely clear. I think I interpreted your response too literally, thinking you were doing a 24" by 20" window. Sorry for the confusion.
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 12:50PM
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Not a problem, much appreciate the input :)
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 12:51PM
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S. Thomas Kutch
Nyira, the program I use for quck 3-d sketches is called SketchUp....I think now it's google sketchup and the best part it's free.....just google sketchup and proceed from there. It's pretty easy to use.
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 1:11PM
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Great, thanks! I used it for a project a couple of years ago and had completely forgotten about it until now!
    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 1:14PM
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With many of my garage studio plans, (started with sims 2), I would isolate the kitchen along with its noises away from everything else with the intent to also soundproof that area, making sleep much better for the rest of the home; yet in one I recall keeping the dining as part of the living space and was also steadfast at making areas multi-functional. Dining area would usually be a place to study or work. Sleeper sofa, daybed, futon, shibuton, mattress hung from a ceiling are some options for sleep, maybe a built in piece, or a cavity or nook. You don't want to overdo it with the small stuff because it is overwhelming in a small space or really any space for that matter. Even still, I would recommend a few personal touches that you like in homes, to be a part or at least a consideration.

You could consult Flying Star feng shui available free for this period (8) at World of Feng Shui's website. This will take some serious patience and if you don't have it at this time, maybe go by instinct. For example, if you like sunset or sunrise maybe you want that area part of the isolated kitchen if you appreciate cooking and privacy in a small corner of the home. Sunsets are very warm with plentiful exposure, so you might prefer the main room to have one or the other. In feng shui, people are categorized as west or east types, which to some degree might show you prefer sunrise as an east type, or vise versa, if that is any indication.

Flying Star feng shui is a school of thought that measures karmic energies of a space and people with numbers that depict their yin and yang qualities. If you find yourself blundering about through life, it could be a maladjusted body's reaction to its space and the body's needs. (My interpretation anyway). So health is a good thing for the long run. I had a great disadvantage by starting out with a bad back and past drug use in high school during a developing stage for my mind, also a car accident that may have been worse than I thought at the time.

Also by instinct you should navigate the room and get a perspective by first placing items then looking from one direction through the plan, and change up the direction you face to get a better feel of everything (if you work with floor plans, you might already be doing this).

Garage plans can be a good productive use of time. I recently was browsing them on houzz and found one that had been partially buried on three sides with the garage facing out of the landscaping, stairs meandering the sides to a door in back to an apartment above the garage, so besides being productive there is a lot of inspiration to keep busy on even the smallest plan.

There is a lot to say about these topics that I find myself a little caught off guard by the project, I am sorry about that and not keeping to the subject. I find that feng shui has helped more than harmed and I can only recommend it in small bites. There are nice books on the subject that keep things short and sweet, and that's where a beginner usually should start. For me, I think I took one big bite out of a big subject, and in some ways that doesn't work to a person's advantage. Kind of like filling a sponge. It has to breathe, and if it doesn't, it just doesn't feel right.

So, isolating noise, making areas within the main room multi-functional, yet simple to comprehend, maybe an addition like a built in or bay window for peace's sake.
    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 8:52PM
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