Blithedale Canyon Studio

An unconditioned shed below a Mill Valley Craftsman home is transformed into an airy, industrial guest studio and office.

Our clients purchased this home in Blithedale Canyon, a residential neighborhood of Mill Valley, California, from one of our long-term clients with whom we had worked through four distinct phases of construction over the span of nearly 20 years. The new homeowners invited us back to complete the last step of the home’s transformation: the renovation of an unconditioned shed space, located underneath a deck which extends from the home’s main living spaces.

Our clients wished to create an office and guest space that could function independently as an ADU from the rest of the home and meet their desire of adding a personalized pop of industrial aesthetic to contrast – yet harmonize – with the top two more traditionally-styled floors of the home.

Restricted to working within the existing allowable space, about 650 square feet, our design had to be a functional and adaptable space for its day to day use as a home office with occasional guests within tight quarters.

The plan consists of two similarly sized spaces. The entry space on the west side contains the living space and kitchenette and opens up onto the home’s lush gardens by way of an 11-foot wide, floor to ceiling steel sash window that frames an impressive 100-year old coast live oak tree.

The eastern half of the studio houses the home office and “bedroom suite”, which consists of a custom Murphy bed and spa-like bathroom. These two spaces are separated by a steel sash window and folding door partition above the kitchen counter. This glass divider allows continuous visual connection to the outdoors and provides the office with balanced natural light.

The guest studio incorporates a calm and light material palette with over-scaled elements in order to maximize a feeling of brightness and openness. The old shed’s existing Douglas fir wood floors were salvaged, patching where necessary; beadboard wall and ceiling finish lends a comfortable charm. In addition to the west-facing, floor-to-ceiling steel window, smaller steel sash windows on the south side of the studio assist in creating comfortable, natural light balance, as well as cross ventilation. As a group, the windows create a smooth transition between indoor and outdoor.

The space was thoughtfully crafted to incorporate our clients’ sentimental belongings throughout, including a custom-built solid wood desk and glass cabinet in the office, and traditional Hawaiian paintings in the living space that were inherited from one of the homeowner’s grandparents.

Structural Engineer: Gregory Paul Wallace, SE

Photography © Leslie Williamson