Photos by Janis Nicolay. 

The good news: when Todd Talbot and his family moved into a 1,200-square-foot East Vancouver home, it came with a freestanding one-car garage off the back alley.

The bad news? “It was gnarly,” laughs Talbot. But despite the fact it was leaning to one side, and that “anything you put in there came out moldy or mildew-y,” the realtor and host of HGTV’s Love It or List It saw potential in the little shack out back. With a little TLC, it might even go from wasted space to downright functional.

He started the garage makeover before the pandemic hit, with plans to create an office for himself.”We could’ve knocked it down and built something bigger, but for the cost and time, it was way more effective to breathe new life into something that was already there,” says Talbot. But when the lockdown came into play, and the realities of homeschooling his two kids hit, the extra space suddenly was useful for a whole new reason.

That being said: even without shelter-in-place restrictions, it’s easy to see why the garage would become the place to hang. After straightening the walls and pouring an epoxy floor (“It’s bulletproof,” says Talbot), Talbot installed skylights to let the natural light pour in and added a tongue-and-groove ceiling and French doors that open right onto the lawn. To finish it all off, they gave the walls and ceiling a fresh coat of white paint and brought in homey furnishings from CF Interiors. Farmhouse pendant lights from Barn Light Electric hang inside; a gooseneck fixture from the same brand lights the “porch.” A new BC Brick brick pathway (“Landscaping was the ideal COVID project,” Talbot laughs) leads past garden beds and lightweight fibreglass Green Theory planters to the main house. 

To give the kids a place to do their schoolwork, the Talbots added two little desks from Wayfair and vintage chairs, spray-painted white. A white Ikea bookshelf and a nook atop the drywall provides a little bit of storage. (On the other side of the garage, there’s a small storage room as well that takes up about a third of the building.)

That once-grungy garage is now the place to read, play the ukulele, or watch cartoons in peace… though, funnily enough, not the place for Talbot to get any work done. “It was designed to be my office but everyone was like, hey, this is a fun spot to be,” says Talbot. “As you'll notice, there'svery little of my office in there.”