Budget Breakdown: An Architect Turns Her Parents’ Garage Into a Tiny Home for $2,695

Moving home to Torrance, California, to take care of her dad, Monica Chang makes clever use of 170 square feet.

Unsure of how to light under the loft, Monica turned to a friend from the gym who works in lighting design. He helped her with the design, the installation, and even gifted her materials.

With the pandemic raging and her father’s health worsening, architect Monica Chang decided to move closer to home—much closer. She and her partner, Antony Tran, left their apartment in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles for her parents’ garage in Torrance, California. Enlisting the help of friends and making creative use of materials, she converted it into a live/work space for $2,695—all in less than two months.

Misc. Landscaping
Cabinet Paint & Stain
Birch Plywood
Cabinet Hardware
Loft Lumber
Ladder & Track
Loft Hardware
Grand Total: $2,695
Considering that much of their Los Angeles neighborhood was closed due to Covid-19, Monica’s partner agreed to move with her to residential Torrance. A lover of sports and physical activity, Antony has embraced the move and even gotten involved in motivating Monica’s father to do his physical therapy.

With Monica’s father ailing and much of the neighborhood shuttered due to COVID-19, Antony moved to Torrance as well. A sports lover with an active lifestyle, he’s embraced the changes and has helped motivate Monica’s father to complete his physical therapy.

Photo by Madeline Tolle, Styled by Abby Pendergrast

The move wasn’t the easiest decision, but it’s allowed Monica to accompany her father on most of his doctor’s appointments and help with cooking, cleaning, and other errands. Their daily conversations help with his memory loss, and have proved an invaluable part of living so close to home.

Custom shelving built from old furniture and purchased plywood grace the back wall.

Custom shelves built from pieces of old furniture and new plywood outfit the back wall.

Shot by Madeline Tolle, Styled by Abby Pendergrast

The initial challenge was transitioning from a 650-square-foot apartment to a 170-square-foot garage. Monica, who runs the architecture practice Antonym, and Antony, whose job is in tech, both work from home, so she lofted their bed to separate business from leisure. A sliding ladder leads to the upper level. 

"At first, we thought it was the greatest thing because it would keep the cat from going upstairs," says Monica. "A few months ago, she learned how to climb it, and now she sleeps with us—it turned out to be really cute, so we actually love it now."

Ikea bed slats line the lofted bed.

Repurposed IKEA bed slats form the guardrail for the lofted bed.

Shot by Madeline Tolle, Styled by Abby Pendergrast

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