After a tree falls in Santa Monica, a garage is reborn as a 600-square-foot family gathering spot.
May, a freelance book editor, and Mahony, a television writer, called on architect Emily Jagoda, who had designed an addition to their previous home. After sizing up the two-car garage and the dark, low-ceilinged workshop alongside it—about 600 square feet in all—Jagoda came up with a design for an informal retreat that would accommodate a comfortable family room, a pair of workspaces, and a bathroom.
Sliding glass doors extend 16 feet across the front of the family room, opening it to the patio. Jagoda retained the original concrete floors throughout—a detail the couple appreciate. “Emily was really keen to keep what was there,” May says. “She loves the archaeology of a place.”
Jagoda also has a fondness for plywood, and, working with cabinetmaker Victor Cejeda and contractor Forrest Poorman, she used it liberally for bookcases, ceilings, and cabinets. “Many people love plywood for its association with the Eameses’ World War II–era wood splints,” she says, “but I like it because of the early work of Frank Gehry. I love the pattern of the Douglas fir grain, as well as the color and texture. It’s great to work with such a seemingly humble material and treat it like something special.”
A five-by-ten-foot door separates Mahony’s office from the family room; when open, it fits neatly into a pocket where a custom cabinet meets one of the bookshelves. “It’s really low-tech—just a big hinge and a wheel,” Jagoda explains. Mahony adds, “I love that my office can either be hidden from the main room or become an extension of it.”
Whether they’re hanging out with friends or playing ping-pong outside, Wes and Duncan are in and out all day long, while May and Mahony retire to their offices as needed. And if that tree hadn’t fallen? May laughs. “This would still be full of boxes.”