When COVID-19 first hit hard locally back in March, interior designer Negar Reihani of Space Harmony found work suddenly stalled, and for her husband, Janusz Muniak, it had stopped completely. Faced with an excess of free time, the two decided to “make something good out of the bad” says Reihani and use this time to renovate an old 400-square-foot workshop/garage on their Vancouver Island property, and turn it into a liveable guest cottage their whole family could enjoy.

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik

Keeping expenses down was paramount, and so the duo worked hard to source only recycled/salvaged materials from second-hand stores, online marketplaces and garage sales for everything, down to the copper kitchen sink.  

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik
Before photo

The garage before the renovation, captured from a video still.

The before and after of their Sooke cottage is quite dramatic, with wall-to-wall cedar and a splash of taupe subway tile replacing white walls of tools and packed hardware shelves (complete with a T-bar roof and garage door). The concrete floors are original but they ground them down to show a natural terrazzo. Reclaimed fir covers the kitchen countertop, and Muniak used a Japanese technique to torch the wood and darken the grain. The vintage black stove was a garage sale find, while the note-perfect industrial-inspired lighting was all sourced from Restore Habitat for Humanity.

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik

Muniak, an optical engineer by profession, handled the construction start to finish and even picked up carpentry along the way, while Reihani was the “minister of art and culture” in charge of the design and aesthetics. After six months, and many pots of coffee, the end result was a beautiful and charming guest space the couple called Dancing Bees Cottage, so named after the honey bees her husband started cultivating (another one of his new hobbies). And now, nearly a year later, it’s almost time for the latest influx of eager family visitors to their small piece of island paradise in Sooke and the couple is back working again, able to enjoy this cottage they built with their own two hands and excited to play host (just as soon as restrictions lift). 

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik
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Credit: Daniel Zemancik
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Credit: Daniel Zemancik

The white coat hanger hutch came from Craigslist and Reihani added a rustic touch with some leftover Schumacher wallpaper. (After applying it herself Reihani says she has a whole new level or respect for her wallpaper installer).

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik

A delicate curtain of Dandelion fabric, another remnant from a past design project, hides the garbage and recycling. And turn-of-the-century accessories like a copper kettle and metal pitcher were rustic pieces Reihani had collected over the years that were just sitting in storage boxes waiting to be put to use.

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik

Reihani chose a light taupe subway tile with rugged edges for the kitchen’s backsplash. Paired with a darker coloured grout, the designer likes how it looks more worn out and unfussy. 

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik

The blue shower door adds a pop of colour against monochromatic starburst tile, the former of which was another crafty DIY. Reihani painted regular blue latex paint over a white door and then used a wire brush when the paint was still wet to create the distressed effect. The door handle for the bathroom’s barn door is actually a piece of driftwood she found on the beach one day.

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik
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Credit: Daniel Zemancik

One of the biggest challenges was vaulting the ceiling to create the loft bedroom and they had to put up a ridge beam to support the structure. It’s one of the Reihani’s favourite spaces though, as it’s calming and cozy year-round and a great spot to look out of the big windows, rain or shine.

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Credit: Daniel Zemancik