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French countryside–meets–California surf shack was the look Costa Mesa watercolor artist Jenna Rainey wanted for her backyard studio. However, the 800-square-foot space, which would also act as a guest suite, was not a picture of tranquility when she and her family bought the property. It had been converted from a garage to “a loosely thrown-together, spooky” flex zone by its previous owners—peeling linoleum flooring, cracking walls, dated blue doors and all.
To make the most of the detached dwelling, Rainey tasked designer Jen Mac Beth with reconfiguring the oddly laid-out floor plan, starting by swapping the location of the bathroom and the kitchenette (the cooking area was originally situated right in front of the entrance and the bathroom was only accessible by random, steep stairs). By cutting into the foundation for new plumbing and electrical, she was able to begin the function-focused transformation.
The Sneaky Murphy Bed
Because the studio would be used to host the occasional overnight visitor, a spot to sleep was essential. Instead of a pull-out couch that would take up floor space, Beth went for a hidden Murphy bed, customized by the designer’s millworker husband. “I wanted it to look like a big wall of built-ins,” she says. You’d almost never know there’s a mattress in the middle of the unit, thanks to the chunky handles and faux drawers they added to the facade. Beth also didn’t want to give away the fact that there is a heating and air vent located directly above the bed, so she covered it with a custom panel that blends right into the design.
The Curbless Shower
Less is more, especially in small bathrooms. With just 60 square feet to work with, Beth created an airy, luxurious space with a seamless shower entry and French drain, meaning guests don’t have to lift a foot to step underneath the water. The floating vanity also gives the illusion of more space for the simple fact that you can see the Zia tile span all the way to the edge and up the wall.
The Blasts From the Past
For that French countryside touch, the designer replaced the old turquoise-hued entrance with large bifold doors from Europe, sourced from an architectural salvage in Texas. She modified the circa-1930 panels to open out so they don’t soak up any previous floor space and added antique hardware from France for a perfectly imperfect look. “It was serendipitous, because Jenna had just gotten back from an art retreat in Paris when we started the project,” recalls Beth.
While a majority of the studio’s woodwork is new white oak, a vintage cabinet crafted out of heavily distressed white oak that holds Rainey’s brushes and paints adds charm without “being matchy-matchy with the adjacent Murphy bed,” says the designer.
The Streamlined Kitchenette
Like the rest of the space, the kitchen plays double duty as a spot to display art, plants, ceramics, and more. “Instead of just having the top of the fridge open, we wanted it to be framed with a cubby for more storage and cookbooks,” says Beth. By enveloping the appliance with oak, it reads more like a striking furniture piece than a refrigerator.
The Creative HQ
What’s an art studio without a place to paint? Instead of a static island, Beth designed a rolling cart on casters, topped with quartz. “When they want to host or entertain, they can roll it toward the center of the space, but most often it’s used as a painting desk or for editing Jenna’s YouTube videos,” says Beth. If only the converted space tripled as an Airbnb—we’d book it stat.
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