In 1999, architect George Garcia created a blueprint and a simple model for a San Luis Obispo homeowner contemplating an above-garage studio addition.
Fast-forward seven years and two homeowners later when local corporate attorney Steve Norris purchased the 1971-built home. Along with the house, he was presented with the model, which he saw as an opportunity for rental income.
“They never got around to building it — and it took me two years to get around to calling George,” said Norris, who finally asked Garcia of San Luis Obispo’s garcia architecture + design to flesh out the basic plans rendered nearly 10 years earlier.
Their goal was to make the addition meld with the 40-year-old home.
“Even though it was built in the 70s, the house is kind of modern,” said Norris. “We wanted something that would fit in with the house, but be even more modern inside.”
They designed windows and trim to match that of the old house, and repainted the entire exterior to make new elements blend with the old.
Inside, every inch of the 690-square-foot studio was carefully thought out.
“We’re seeing more small spaces these days, where more attention is paid to details and design,” noted Garcia.
Whereas the main house was not built to take advantage of views, a floor-to-ceiling window in the studio’s dining alcove frames a panoramic vista of Cerro San Luis and Bishop’s Peak. With the addition of two skylights, the space is flooded with natural light. A private balcony with a custom spiral staircase made by Coastal Ironworks allows access to the rear pool area, further connecting the space with its surroundings.
Aside from a small galley-style kitchen and a bathroom, the studio is essentially one open space. To create some separation between public and private areas, Garcia designed an oversized headboard for a modern platform bed, based on a photo Norris found in Architectural Digest. Garcia’s version, built by woodworker Larry Allen, is given an ultra-modern twist with an asymmetrical design. Tucked behind the headboard, out of sight, is a closet and dressing area, as well as cabinet space to conceal audio and video equipment.
Built-ins make the most of limited square footage. Modular shelving and cabinets hold everything from linens to books. A built-in desk is tucked inside a windowed alcove. Floating nightstands offer a visually lighter alternative to freestanding furniture.
The design of the space is spare and clean, focusing on the quality of materials. Norris chose surfaces that create interest through contrast. For instance, un-stained sugar maple floors are the perfect foil for the deeper hue of the walnut built-ins. The bathroom is clad in traditional subway tile, laid in a non-traditional vertical pattern.
“It’s a blend of old-fashioned and modern,” said Norris.
The studio incorporates modern comforts such as radiant heat in the bathroom floors and a rain head shower. Garcia was even able to find room for a small gas fireplace, which separates the kitchen from the main living area.
When the addition was completed last March, Norris was so enamored with it, he decided to claim it as his own and rent out the three-bedroom house.
“I’ve lived in Europe, so I appreciate small spaces,” he said.
He was pleased to discover that the studio lives larger than he anticipated.
“It’s a small house within a big house,” he observed. “It’s very open, but intimate. I like the coziness of it.”