By Janet Paik, Houzz

Lesley and Mike Vaux quickly realized that they needed to create an outdoor entertaining space after moving into their 930-square-foot home in San Jose, California. “The house filled up quickly with guests,” Lesley says. Their 1949 cottage came with a detached garage, but it was in what Lesley describes as a “semi-falling down state.” The couple lived with their dilapidated garage for six months, then got to work converting it into an entertaining space with a home office. “We sketched up an idea of what we wanted, and called in connections we knew to take out the old concrete and demo,” she says. “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we learned a ton, and it got us hooked on renovating.”


 Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

Garage at a Glance
Who lives here: Mike and Lesley Vaux and their 4-year-old daughter, Charlotte
Location: Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, California
Size: 360 square feet (33 square meters)
Year built: 1949

BEFORE: The couple created a Houzz ideabook to help them collaborate and communicate their design preferences since Mike was working out of town during most of the process. Lesley, a home stylist and contractor at Houzz, handled the design and project management.

The couple started their project in the summer of 2011 and finished in October the same year. As for their remodeling budget, Lesley says, “We went in blind to be honest, trying to make frugal decisions along the way.”

The couple hired out some of the work, and had family and friends help them with the demo and construction. The total cost of the renovation was about $20,000.


 Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

AFTER: The original 1949 framing and wood-plank tongue-and-groove siding was updated with a fresh coat of paint. They demolished the crumbling brick patio and updated the landscape in the backyard.

The couple also removed the old roll-up door. “We knew we wanted the carriage door effect, to take advantage of the beautiful framing of the pitched roof,” Lesley says.

Inside, they gutted the interior, reinforced the beams and interior walls, and poured new concrete. “On the studio office side, we added a window and created an actual door, as what we were dealing with originally was a cutout section of wall secured with a rusty lock,” Lesley adds.

Garage paint: Gray Matters, Sherwin-Williams; trim paint: Swiss Coffee, Benjamin Moore; fence stain: Graphite, Benjamin Moore; outdoor light: Barn Light Electric

Related: Hire a Licensed Painter for Your New Project


Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz  

A large patio now extends to the side of the garage, with plenty of room for entertaining.

The Vauxes have been growing corn, tomatoes, basil, lemon thyme and figs in their L-shaped raised bed, which juts into the patio. “We change it seasonally, and it’s one of our favorite and most used elements of the outdoor design now,” Lesley says.

An outdoor shed in the back corner under the orange tree blends in with the fence. It houses gardening tools and “garage” items.

The vintage wagon came from Lesley’s parents, and the couple upgraded it with Radio Flyer wheels to cart around daughter Charlotte and her friends.

Table: Cost Plus World Market; bench: Ikea

“We’re huge Bay Area sports fans and have a fun-loving group of friends in our neighborhood — where, if the bar doors are open and the game is on, adults and kids fill the bar and cheer on our local teams,” Lesley says.


 Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

This space inside the renovated garage is primarily used for entertaining. The stainless steel countertop is custom.

Bar stools: California Stools Bars Dinettes; Acqua dual-head rotational ceiling fan: Lamps Plus; black pendant lights: Rejuvenation, with chrome lightbulbs

A wall with clerestory windows allows shared light between the bar space and what was originally a home office (now a playspace). The wall between the two spaces was intentionally placed to allow for one side to be converted into a one-car garage, suitable for a large car, in case future owners want to use it that way. “Mild weather in Northern California allows us to park in the long driveway instead of needing the garage,” Lesley says.

Built-in shelving on the home office side created a ledge along the clerestory windows for displaying bar decor in the entertainment area, including growlers from Mike’s favorite breweries. The couple like to watch and cheer on the San Francisco Giants, San Jose Sharks and Golden State Warriors. The top shelf is filled with treasures Mike has collected through the years, including autographed baseballs.

The couple share their last name, Vaux (which they pronounce in the British manner to rhyme with fox), with the Vaux Brewery, which existed in the U.K. from 1806 to 2000. They have a collection of vintage toys, trays and barware from the brewery, which they add to yearly thanks to eBay scouring and connections made in the U.K.

Displayed on the corner shelving are books on beer brewing and cocktail recipes.

“The best Vaux drink is the one in my hand,” Mike says. “I’m perfecting Old-Fashioneds and Manhattans right now, but nothing beats a good glass of Scotch on the rocks.”

Mike custom-built the shelving unit himself with wood and pipes purchased at Home Depot. He stained the 1-by-6-inch planks with Varathane Provincial wood stain. The 1-inch black steel pipes and elbows are bolted to the studs and secured to the planks with 1½-inch two-hole rigid conduit straps.


Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

Mike also custom-built this unit behind the bar from a 7-cubic-foot chest freezer. It’s designed to keep two 5-gallon kegs of cold beer on tap at all times. The 2-by-6-inch wood collar, painted black to match the bar, was essential so that the faucets and tubing could be drilled in through the wood. The drip tray is mounted with 16-pound chains to enable it to hold a full pint of the perfect pour. It’s regulated by a Ranco thermostat to keep the internal temperature between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 3 degrees Celsius).

“We needed a place to store the ‘garage stuff,’ so when designing the renovated space, we allowed room for a 4-foot-deep storage closet on each side to keep those necessary, but not always tidy, items required to keep a house running,” Lesley says. “Each space can be closed off when entertaining.”

Mike’s side of the storage closet is what the couple calls “the workshop.” Inside is a pegboard, workbench and table. Power tools are tucked away on built-in shelves.

The San Francisco Giants memorabilia is just part of Mike’s collection. The World Series-winning baseball team is his favorite childhood Bay Area sports team.


Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

This space was originally designed to be a home office but is now a play, art and music space for Charlotte.

Lesley has played piano since she was 6, and it has always been a part of her life to have music in the house. The 1950s Lester piano is a $300 Craigslist find.

Behind the closet door is what Lesley calls her “studio.” Because she’s an avid crafter and home stylist, the 4-foot-deep closet space is filled with specialty papers for DIY decor, tile samples and plans for her design clients.

Displayed on the shelves are some of Lesley’s and Charlotte’s favorite books, framed quotes and art. The bright and colorful Kate Spade boxes on the bottom right house a quickly growing Lego collection. Books and inspirational art transition in and out based on the season and Charlotte’s changing interests.

A chalkboard encourages doodling and is used to leave personalized messages. The chalkboard wall was a DIY project framed with molding, and painted with magnetic and chalkboard paint.


 Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

The awning above the small window was original to the 1949 home. When the couple renovated their home, they saved it and attached it above what was then the door into the garage. Now it provides shade on hot days that’s perfect for playtime, lemonade stands and tea parties.

Carriage doors: Evergreen Carriage Doors

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