Garage to Studio: Modern Apartment Makeover


Faisal Nadeem

We turned our unused garage into a full-functioning studio apartment. Originally, we had a small guest sleeping area in the garage, measuring 20′ x 10′ wide, without a kitchen or bedroom. It was nice to have a separate bathroom and sleeping area near the house. Living here for 3 years made us realize we didn’t need that small garage space. Instead, we wanted a bigger apartment with a kitchen, bedroom, washer, and dryer. 

This new space is great for our big family and frequent visitors, and it can also serve as an office or rental space.

Our new 26′ x 22′ 2-car garage plan includes a spacious studio apartment. This detached design has a practical utility room on the ground floor and a comfortable apartment above, with a living area, bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. Following nationally recognized building codes, this plan offers a solid foundation for your home with great quality and affordability.

Creating a Studio Apartment from a Garage

Creating a studio apartment from a garage is a great project. You can create a cozy living space with simple materials. Think of it like a small farm extension to your house.

Start by planning your project carefully. Measure the square feet of your garage to ensure you have enough space for your studio apartment. Use DIY methods to keep the budget low.

Choose the right materials. Shiplap can add a rustic feel to the exterior. Use metal accents for a modern touch. For a unique touch, you can even incorporate rope elements in your design.

Building the studio apartment may take several weeks, but with careful planning, you can complete it efficiently. Document your progress with a video walk-through, showing the transformation from start to finish.

In the end, you’ll have a beautiful new space in your house that you created from an old garage. This new extension can be a perfect cozy retreat or a practical living area on a budget.

Keeping the Space we Need

When converting our garage into a studio apartment, we had to be strategic. Our mower, kayaks, and bikes still needed a place, so we kept an area of 10′ x 12′ for storage. By taping off the space needed for these items, we ensured the door and opener could still work properly in the existing setup.

Creating a Dedicated Storage Space

Using tape as a guide, we built stud walls with reclaimed 2 x 4’s. The walls were secured to the rafters above and the concrete floor below with screws and adhesive. This kept the apartment side warm and cozy. The space was effectively claimed for our needs.

What does a Garage Apartment look like

Living in a prefab garage apartment offers a unique opportunity to design your space. The garage can store your vehicles and other miscellaneous items at the bottom, while the top portion is an open canvas for a cozy studio apartment or separate rooms like a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom. The key to this setup is that you get to decide the layout. Here’s a great example: a garage apartment built by Sheds Unlimited.

Prefab Garage with Apartment Ideas

A prefab garage can be transformed into a stylish apartment ideal for a granny pod or a dorm for college students. It’s also great for AirBNB customers looking for unique options.

Installing Shiplap, Metal & Rofe Trim

In our garage studio apartment, we used shiplap, metal, and rope trimming. These materials are not only inexpensive but also require little maintenance. We sourced shiplap boards from a sawmill nearby, which cost around 60 cents per board foot. Unlike drywall, shiplap doesn’t need finishing, making it perfect for a home, barn, or tiny cabin. Once the wood boards are nailed up, the walls look complete.

For the painting work, we chose Sherwin Williams Snowbound for a clean look. We debated between Agreeable Gray vs Accessible Beige, but finally settled on Shoji White Sherwin Williams for a warm tone. Painting walls and ceiling same color was our strategy to make the space feel larger. For woodwork painting and painting furniture without sanding, we used paint for painted wood. Painting door knobs was a small detail that added to the overall aesthetic.

Using Existing Materials to keep on Budget

We used leftover metal sheets from our house ceiling as wainscoting in the bedroom. This created a unique industrial look, similar to shiplap, and was easy to install.

By using materials we already had, we achieved significant savings on our budget. To add a unique touch, we used manilla rope for trimming, a technique taught by Amish craftsmen.

Instead of cutting wood at tricky angles, we simply stapled the rope in place. We managed to trim the entire apartment in just an hour without any cutting!

Transform Your Studio Apartment with a Full Kitchen and Bedroom

When we moved into our garage studio apartment, we decided to transform it completely. The old living space had a small sink in a kitchenette area and unpainted stock wood cabinets. We gutted the old room and created a main kitchen with semi-gloss paint for a custom look. Our 10 x 14 bedroom fits a 3 x 6′ washer and dryer hookup, and we added a sliding barn door to the side for the bathroom.

For the kitchen, Mary found the coolest little 21″ mini 4 burner stove and oven, which fit our space perfectly. We added a medium sized refrigerator and painted everything with semi-gloss paint. The backsplash was cut from galvanized metal for an industrial look, creating a unique style. Jim and Mary also made a quick video tour to show off the completed garage studio apartment.

It’s hard to believe how much we managed to fit into this small space. DIY’ing the apartment was challenging, but rewarding. With our combined 15 years of experience writing about gardening, DIY, and recipe articles, and our 46 acre Ohio farm, we brought all our skills to this project. Jim and Mary Competti are known for their gardening, travel talks, and spare time activities, making this transformation both practical and stylish.

Garage Apartment Plan – Exterior

When designing a garage studio apartment, the exterior plays a crucial role in setting the tone. Our garage apartment features a charming design with stained pine siding and a sleek black standing seam roof. The strategic placement of loft area windows allows an abundance of natural light to pour in, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

This garage plan is not only aesthetically pleasing but also compatible with numerous North American house designs, ensuring a seamless integration with your property. The architectural style of the garage blends effortlessly with existing house designs, providing a cohesive look.

Garage Apartment Plan – Car Parking

Creating a garage apartment plan requires careful consideration to accommodate cars and ensure safety. The garage should be designed with dual garage bays to offer ample storage space and a utility room beneath the stairs. Entrances must be incorporated on the opposite side of the building for convenience and safety.

My personal experience in designing garage plans includes positioning the garage on the side with an emergency exit on the other side. This setup aligns with building codes and ensures confidence in the quality of the construction. A detached garage adds safety, and its purchase is a significant step in your home building journey.

Having a well-thought-out garage apartment plan adds ease and utility to your home, making your building process smoother and more efficient.


Can you make a garage into a studio apartment?

Transforming a garage into a living space is a big job that requires raising the floor, insulating the walls, and adding heating, cooling, and ventilation. Additionally, updating the doors and windows is essential. Before starting your DIY garage conversion, carefully think about every aspect of the job.

What is an apartment over a garage called?

A garage studio apartment is a type of accessory dwelling unit (ADU) that serves as a small residential building. This unit occupies the same lot as the primary residence. Examples include a detached garage with a rented apartment above or a guest house.

What is a garage with living quarters called?

A garage studio apartment can also be known as a coach house, garage suite, or Fonzie flat. These living spaces are often built within the walls of a garage or on top of it, making them a cozy apartment connected to your house. My experience transforming our garage into a stylish apartment was both challenging and rewarding, as we seamlessly integrated living quarters on top of the garage space.

Can you have an apartment over a garage?

Yes, you can have an apartment over a garage. This type of home is often called an accessory dwelling unit or ADU. It can also be known as a granny flat. Building an apartment over a garage is a great real estate investment. It can increase your property value and offer extra living space.

In my experience, adding an ADU was a smart move. It provided a cozy space for guests, and our neighbors were impressed with the transformation. It turned out to be a fantastic way to maximize our real estate investment.