Location: Portland, OR
Homeowner: Bryan Scott
Designer: Zenbox Design
My wife and I quit our jobs 2 years ago in search of a happier way of life and more connection to the outdoors. We purged all of our belongings and loaded what was left along with us and our dog into our 1967 VW bus and drove south to Mexico and Central America looking for a simpler life.
A funny thing happened along the way. We missed home. We started longing for place to call home and a place to nest in between travels. Something that would still allow us to live simply and that wouldn’t worry us when we catch the travel bug and take off for weeks or months at a time. We also started longing for easy and frequent showers...but that's another story.
"The two car garage that had never been used for more than storage and a makeshift rock climbing wall could actually be our perfect home!"
We moved back to our hometown of Portland, OR and hopped from home to home. We housesat as friends needed and tried a few rentals. Most were too big for our current needs and none felt like home. Nothing fit our lifestyle and nothing came close to providing the connection to the outdoors we had grown used to. For the past year when we wanted to let the outdoors in all we had to do was swing open the cargo doors on our van and it seemed we were both outside and in. We missed that connection.
We considered moving back into the house we lived in before leaving (still own it as the market wouldn’t allow us to sell it before our trip). It was in our perfect neighborhood but we couldn’t afford the mortgage and certainly didn’t need the 3 bedrooms it offered. We also didn’t want to give up the rent we had been receiving from tenants that allowed us to make our mortgage payment each month.
Finally it hit us. The perfect solution had been right in front of us (or rather, in front of the house). The two car garage that had never been used for more than storage and a makeshift rock climbing wall could actually be our perfect home! We set about sketching up plans and trying to figure out how to maximize the space into a home that we not only felt comfortable in, but that would allow us to entertain guests. From the first sketch we knew we wanted to leave the large 16’ opening currently covered by a dilapidated garage door. Connection between indoors and out was our highest priority, and since we plan to be in Portland during it’s picture perfect summers the ability to simply leave our doors open to nature was key. We wanted our cargo doors back! Lucky for us, as we got deeper into the permitting process it became clear that our clunky garage door was nowhere near meeting Portland’s strict environmental building code. Our Nanawall system more than met both needs and became the one sure thing in our remodel.
The rest took more time to develop. While 480sqft is certainly no tiny/micro home it was important to us to feel open and free...this may well be our home for the next 30 years. We still wanted to throw big parties like we did back when we had a huge house and yard. We still wanted room to roll out paper or canvas and make art. We still wanted to cook and dine in style. We needed to maximize space and everything needs to have more than one use.
Time being the one commodity we have, we decided to design and build everything inside of our garage turned “nest” by hand. We designed and welded a set of cabinets that would serve as both kitchen and storage. The steel frames doors constructed of horizontal wooden slats we’ve been saving from the scrap bin at our community wood shop since we first envisioned our project.
Our island range is backed by a large bar made of reclaimed fir that transforms into a dining table when needed. The bar/table is set on a large pair of industrial casters that allow us spin the table out to dine in front of the fire, or in the center of our open doorway to enjoy sunset and interact with neighbors as they walk by. We live on a major pedestrian corridor and made a decision not to tuck ourselves away behind fences and retreat to the back yard. We want to engage our neighbors as they walk by and hopefully to hear their stories as they tell us theirs.
The rest slowly took shape. A large bathroom became our second luxury item and while it seemed ludicrous for such a tiny home dual shower heads found their way into our sexy walk in shower...apparently we still haven’t fully recovered from living on the road. A sectional will convert to a guest bed when someone passing through town decides to stay with us and a lofted bed over the laundry/utility space will provide the birds-eye view over our new nest when we head for bed each night. All centered on the one thing we weren’t willing to give up...a wall that slides open to transform our tiny 480 sq/ft into simply backdrop for what lays beyond.