This Ballard Garage Is Transformed Into a Studio That Invites the Outdoors In

The multipurpose space can serve as a home gym, play space, planting area or entertaining venue

By Chelsea Lin

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July 22, 2019

This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the July 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

When Ballard resident Ella Dillon started planning an overhaul of the 360-square-foot detached garage located behind her 1940s two-story Craftsman duplex, she had big goals. She yearned for a versatile space where she could host neighbors for a glass of wine or summer dinner; where her 10-year-old daughter, Isabelle, could read quietly or bounce around without bothering the tenants who occupy the lower level of the duplex; and that could also function as a home gym and an area for potting plants for her garden.


LIGHT IN THE ATTIC: Homeowner Ella Dillon’s daughter Isabelle climbs up to her hidden reading nook, a charming detail added by designers Jim Friesz and Kristen Becker

Dillon calls herself a perennial do-it-yourselfer, but when she got ready to remodel the small space, she decided—because of her demanding work schedule and her daughter, with whom she would rather invest her time—to hire someone to help her vision become a reality.


Fenceboards cover the walls, further bringing the outside in

Enter design team Jim Friesz and Kristen Becker of Mutuus Studio. “Our approach to design is to work with what we’ve got,” Friesz says. “The first thing we saw was this great little garden that [Dillon] had already put a lot of time into.”

Friesz says they decided to remove the existing interior walls, which divided the space into rooms. The resulting single room maximizes light and flexibility of use. A NanaWall (a foldable custom glass wall) faces west toward the garden, allowing Dillon to open that entire side of the building for outdoor parties. Storage options like built-in cabinets were essential; a secret reading nook for Isabelle, above the built-in daybed, was a bonus.

The project was finished in August 2017, and Dillon says she’s already maximizing the use of the space. “We live outside a lot,” she says. Her new space serves all the functions she’d hoped for. “[The former garage] is fun for entertaining, it’s fun for playing. I can get my fingers dirty gardening and feel like I’m really connected to the outdoors.” 


Bookshelves function as both storage and design element


A foldable wall opens to connect the studio to a garden patio, perfect for entertaining

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