After a divorce, Michelle de la Vega, a Seattle artist, bought a house, rented it out and moved into its freestanding garage, which she renovated and turned into her dream home. The size of the place-250 square feet-suits her perfectly; she has everything exactly the way she wants it. Now remarried, De la Vega has installed her husband and his daughter in the main house, but she still spends much of her time in the garage. "I love the freedom of not having a lot of things, of realizing that you don’t really need so much. Things can really weigh you down. There’s an emotional reality that comes with all the physical stuff."
The High Way "I have a sleeping loft reached by a metal ladder that was once on a ship. I found it at a marine-salvage outfit. I popped the three small windows into the loft."
Storage Units "I use the tall silver lockers as closets; they are from a United Airlines maintenance building. I love giving things new purpose, new meaning."
What I’ve Given Up "Clutter. I love living simply."
Hands-on "A friend of mine made the daybed that I designed, and I
learned how to weld from him. I made the little shelving unit over the sink. I like to rescue old things. I found a rusty old latch at Habitat for Humanity. I welded a flange onto the back and made a hook to hang my wet towels. I also laid all the brickwork around the stove. The entire garage makeover cost $32,000."
Living the Dream "My house is like my own art installation so that people who visit feel like they are walking into a part of me. It is very personal. Artists generally have an impulse to make a mark on their surroundings. It is a way of life." (You can read more about her life at michelledelavega.com.)
Not Cooking in the Kitchen "I have a passion for raw food. I am an organic gardener; I grow peas, tomatoes, kale, chard, lettuces and lots of other greens and many herbs. When I throw dinner parties, I make salads that are entire meals."
Can’t Live Without "My Champion juicer and Waring Pro blender."
Her Father’s Daughter "My father was my confidant through the entire building process. He used to make elaborate architectural drawings of his dream houses. And then he helped me create my dream house."
Her Mother’s Daughter "My mother has been an amazing female role model for living authentically through passion and conviction. She is also one of my best friends. Because of her, I have no idea what an ambivalent, passive or boring life feels like."