From garage to laneway dwelling

Words: Ashleigh McMillan Photography: Ben Clement/Assemble Papers

Inner city living space might be sparse, but architect Murray Barker has crafted a diminutive laneway abode brimming with sustainable touches. Ashleigh McMIllan takes a look inside.

Local design blog Assemble Papers has profiled Murray’s garage conversion as part of their Backyard Bungalow series on small footprint living.

The 18sqm garage conversion takes full advantage of a bright north-facing outlook, created using timbers salvaged from a demolition site. But the airy bungalow started from humble beginnings.

After five years of European apartment living, Murray moved in behind an inner-North terrace “excited by the sensory experience of the place – in the backyard, under the bottle brush”.

“It was also the cheap option, out the back, right on the rear lane. The bathroom, kitchen and living areas are located in the main house, but the old garage was the perfect size for a bedroom,” he said.

Without much money to spend on the build, Murray began piecing together found materials in order to insulate and seal the corrugated iron shed.

The statement recycled plywood walls were found cheaply online but were originally destined to be lining the walls of Mitsubishi caravans across Australia.

Inspired by row houses in Vietnam, a wall of solid black timber opens directly onto a sunny back lane way, allowing Murray to “mediate that public edge within the limited space and with limited means”.

“I clad the panels in timber and translucent polycarbonate, which lets in light but obscures the view. You can open up the space for a party or on a sunny day, or close it off to gain complete enclosure.”

The tiny retreat was crafted from its inception on the basis of sustainability and frugal resource use. The environmental footprint will continue to be slight, regardless of what the flexible space may become in the future.

Murray ultimately sees the potential for more of these types of dwellings as “densities increase and demographics fluctuate in the city” creating a lack of functional space.

“This was a bit of a backyard job, purely done to squeeze a bit more habitable space out of what was there already,” he said. “The way a small house can maintain private space but still connect to the outdoors and the street is really worth exploring.”

Read more about the garage conversion in Assemble Papers, an online publication exploring small footprint living across art, design, architecture, urbanism, the environment & finance. Visit

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Up to 60 per cent of the water used in an average home is used outside.

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