Tiny Garage Conversion

This tiny garage conversion by Martin John Brown of Portland, Oregon attracted my attention because of the wonderful styling and details in such a small space. Check out that great purple color!

With architect John Perkins, Martin converted a detached garage into a beautiful 400-square foot house for his mother-in-law to live in. In his blog, bottleworld, John documents the process, including the issues he had with the city codes while trying to create an environmentally friendly tiny dwelling.


The house includes a curved kitchen counter, round windows, a loft and skylight and an alternating tread staircase. The staircase allows comfortable ascents and descents in a considerably steeper pitch than a standard stair. They are straight, making transporting long items (like mattresses) easier than on a small-diameter spiral stair.



It is interesting how Martin talks about how adding one extra foot in such a small space makes such a big difference. In most average sized homes, an extra room is usually needed for more impact on the living space.

The cost for the conversion came to $75,000 including $7000 for permit and $4000 for architect.






By Christina Nellemann

Photos by Martin John Brown

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Christy Z - March 23, 2009 Reply

Talk about a lucky Mother-in-law! What a lovely build!

Manuj - March 23, 2009 Reply

Nice one. This small is well-maintainable too.

hmmm. - March 23, 2009 Reply

75K and no more storage space…small price to pay to keep a Mother-in-law from living in one’s own home.

(oops. Did I just say that?)

amanda - March 23, 2009 Reply

Kent! So glad you posted this. I’ve been trying to find this since I first saw it months and months ago. I think this conversion is absolutely stunning.

martin - March 23, 2009 Reply

@hmmm: it’s no joke! One of the most important decisions I made was to keep the two buildings (the garage and the “big” (800sf) house) apart. Some contractors I talked to just didn’t understand it.

But it’s so important. There’s no clomping around of the MIL upstairs or noise from the other side of walls. It gives each party the privacy (and dare I say it, the dignity??) they need.

Kel - March 24, 2009 Reply

Can you suggest any links about this approach to staircases? I’m curious to learn more… Thanks!

Ava - August 22, 2011 Reply

A very nice job. Great detailing. Does anyone have the brand name of the woodstove? I’ve been looking for a tiny woodstove to warm my farm office and I haven’t had much luck.

Christina Nellemann - August 23, 2011 Reply

Hi Ava. The stove looks to be a gas stove judging from the tube in the back. However, I’m not sure of the brand. If you don’t mind using wood, I saw these Tiny Tot stoves in the Homemade Spaceship video with Kyle and Jeanie and really love them:


Portland Real Estate Guide: Turn that Garage into Usable Real Estate! | Everything. Portland. Real Estate. Blog. - October 6, 2011 Reply

[…] dishes and small appliances, freeing up valuable storage space in the kitchen. Check out this great Garage remodel–a detached garage became a great mother-in-law space in […]

abacas - August 30, 2018 Reply

I think this great to make smallest and fastest building structure.
Technology always helpful for betterment and beautification of society.
Thanks for post

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