James van der Velden wanted something out of the ordinary in a home. But not in the conventional sense. He wasn’t interested, for example, in any of the beautiful 17th-century townhouses this city is known for.
“I had been looking for an extraordinary property for quite some time,” said Mr. Van der Velden, 29, “when I came across this garage.”
An abandoned commercial building from the 1950s, it wasn’t what most people would consider special, or even particularly interesting. And it needed a lot of work. But Mr. Van der Velden is an architect and interior designer, so that was fine with him.
“The moment I walked into the garage for the first time, I had an idea of what I wanted to do,” he said. “So the design process went quite quickly.”
After buying the building in late 2012 for a little over $600,000, he set about turning the 1,450-square-foot space into his idea of a home. And nearly a year later, with the $200,000 renovation complete, he moved in.
It still looks more or less the same from the outside. But behind the roll-down garage door, and past a small parking space, there is now a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass and steel. Step through the double doors and you’ll find a modern, black-and-white kitchen. A rustic wood table that Mr. Van der Velden designed runs along the center of the room, with two huge industrial lights suspended over it — a homage, he said, to the history of the space.
The living area beyond is double-height, with a glass atrium that brings light into the space. More glass-and-steel walls surround a central courtyard open to the elements, where there is a garden with potted plants. (When it rains, water flows to a central drainage system.)
“The garage was one big, open space, so we had to make all the walls to create the rooms,” Mr. Van der Velden said.
Even so, he added: “The biggest job was taking a part out of the roof to create the But this was a very important feature for me: to have this open interior space.”
On the other side of the garden are two bedrooms: a guest room with a small bathroom and the master bedroom suite, which is dominated by a motorcycle perched on top of the shelves opposite the bed.
The motorcycle, like many of the furnishings here, is vintage. “Nearly everything in my home is bought at Parisian flea markets or through online auctions,” he said. “I wanted a place where I could showcase my collections. Like a museum, but where people aren’t afraid to touch things.”
Unlike a museum, however, the space that Mr. Van der Velden calls his “little oasis” doesn’t advertise its presence from the street. And visitors, he said, are often visibly taken aback.
“I never get bored by the look of surprise I see on the faces of guests when I open the garage door.”