A millennial architect and his fiancée turned a triangular car-repair shop into a tiny dream home — take a look

A millennial architect and his fiancée turned a triangular car-repair shop into a tiny dream home — take a look
  • Richard Brown converted a tiny, triangular car-repair shop into a home for himself and his fiancée.

  • The building is 430 square feet, with pointy edges and sharp corners that posed design challenges.

  • But Brown said it's the perfect size and is now set up to be their dream work-from-home space.

Academics spend thousands of pages theorizing why most homes are rectangular. Is it that the tools early humans used were bad at carving out curves? Is it influenced by our understanding of math, space, and gravity?

Whatever the reason, most modern homes are — but, as with most things, there are always outliers.

Case in point: a triangle-shaped former car-repair shop in London that architect Richard Brown and his fiancée bought for over £200,000, or around $250,000. They then converted the 430-square-foot space into a livable home via a $127,000 renovation, creative thinking, and a lot of elbow grease.

The triangular home is in the heart of West Hampstead, a northwest London neighborhood where the average house costs roughly £1 million, or around $1.3 million.

Brown, 37, lives with his fiancée Katrina, who asked that her last name not be used for privacy reasons, in the aptly named Triangle House. The property was recently shortlisted for the 2024 Don't Move, Improve! architectural competition recognizing London's most innovative home redesigns.

Take a look inside, and learn how the car-repair shop went from grittily industrial to a light, plant-filled home for two.

The 430-square-foot triangular property wasn't much to look at until Brown came along.

A bird's-eye view of the Triangle House prior to renovation.
The space was formerly used as a car repair shop.Brown Urbanism

Before they bought the property in 2019, Brown told Business Insider that it was set up as a car mechanic, equipped to service two vehicles.

At the time, Brown said, Katrina was looking to buy a property after inheriting some money.

"You'd normally go and find a flat quite far out of London and get it without a mortgage," Brown said.

However, Katrina, who is a music teacher, thought otherwise when they happened across the 430-square-foot building in West Hampstead.

The car-repair shop cost over $250,000, but Brown said he and Katrina were instantly taken with it.

An interior shot of a car garage in London.
The car-repair shop needed a good amount of work to create the home Brown and his fiancée now live in.Brown Urbanism

Brown said West Hampstead is a "valuable area" in London, but it wasn't the neighborhood that swayed them to buy the property.

"The weird thing is, we weren't that attracted to the area as much as we were to specifically this little project in this little corner," Brown said.

The couple wanted to renovate the space so that they both could work from home.

An interior shot of a home shows a desk with two lamps in front of a window looking out onto green bamboo.
The house is designed to blur the boundaries between a living and a working space.Brown Urbanism

Brown is an architect who focuses on public, commercial, and private buildings, and Katrina is a musician who also runs a course that teaches music instructors how to better impart skills to their students.

Brown loves music and describes himself as an "amateur musician."

The couple wanted their home to be "clean" and "empty enough" for them to focus on their passions and professions, he said.

While the house is "tiny," Brown said it's the perfect size for him and Katrina to live and work in.

Brown also wasn't fazed at the prospect of living in a converted auto-body shop — his last home was a brick shed.

Richard Brown standing in his triangle-shaped home.
Brown is used to unique living spaces, having previously lived in warehouses in Hackney, another part of London.Brown Urbanism

After moving to East London in the early 2010s, Brown became fascinated with industrial spaces, particularly warehouses, that people were using as living and work spaces.

"I got really interested in affordability and interested in the way in which people were converting warehouses for creative uses," he said. The experience shaped his architectural style, which he said focuses on using simple, sustainable materials and techniques.

Prior to the Triangle House, Brown had firsthand experience living and working in an unconventional space. His last home, for example, was a brick shed that he shared with six other people.

It was a pretty "bare construction," Brown added, but he loved it.

It took Brown a year to turn the tiny triangular building into his and Katrina's dream home.

Richard Brown's fiancé Katrina sitting in their triangle-shaped home.
Brown said he and Katrina drew up a contract when they decided to renovate the car-repair shop.Brown Urbanism

Because Katrina bought the property with her inheritance money and Brown was the architect behind the renovation, they decided to draw up a formal contract on paper in case things went, as Brown said, "awry."

"It was really her money and everything on the line," he added. "It was definitely a client-architect relationship because the project could have obviously defeated us, and we'd still have to deliver."

Brown also carried out most of the renovations to keep costs down. In total, he said the project cost less than £100,000, or around $128,000.

"It was under £100,000, mainly because, as a laborer, I wasn't paid," he joked.

The renovation included putting in a new roof with a skylight and carving out an open-air courtyard.

A photograph of a triangle-shaped house in London surrounded by a red brick wall.
A skylight and courtyard allow light to pour into the home.Brown Urbanism

Brown and Katrina were willing to move into the car-repair shop in its unrenovated state.

"We actually just thought we could just come in here and put some windows in and pretty much just occupy it," he said.

But to get a mortgage on the property as a residential space, he added, they had to make several changes for it to be deemed "properly habitable."

"That was when we realized, 'Wow, we have to do a lot more work than we thought,'" he recalled. Upgrades included revising the internal layout of the car-repair shop and installing new drainage, windows, and roof.

To let more light into the home, Brown designed roof skylights over the bathroom and main living space.

The two doors that rolled up to allow cars to drive into the shop also got makeovers. One became an entrance to the courtyard and the home. The other got transformed into a large bay window facing the street that is also covered in plants.

One of the biggest challenges was figuring out what to do with the former repair shop's pointy corners.

A couch, plants, and a bookshelf in a triangle-shaped house.
Brown's favorite spot in the Triangle House is a corner where he and Katrina take naps and watch TV.Brown Urbanism

Designing a home with pointy corners — one of which is at a 40-degree acute angle — is tough, Brown said.

In fact, he added, he and Katrina went through around 10 design concepts before landing on one in which they planned "something interesting" for each corner of the house.

One corner holds their small courtyard, full of lush green plants; another houses the only bathroom. The third one, which is also the tightest corner of the property, has an upholstered daybed.

Brown and Katrina have nicknamed it the "cozy corner."

"We snuggle up in there, the two of us with the laptop watching Netflix all the time," he said. "It's the place to go at the end of the day and just fall asleep."

Brown designed a bed that slides into the bedroom wall, creating more floor space.

the bedroom and bathroom within a triangle-shaped house.
The couple's bed can be rolled away into the wall of the bedroom.Brown Urbanism

Although the couple initially considered designing the house as a studio, Brown said they ultimately decided to create a separate bedroom and bathroom.

But he had to get creative to maximize each space.

They dug down to lower the floor in the bedroom, which was "easy enough to do," he added. "And we were like, 'How do we use that extra space? How do we create storage?'"

The answer, he said, was a slide-away bed. Unlike a Murphy bed, which usually flips into a cabinet, Brown designed the bed to slide underneath an empty cubbyhole beneath the floor of the adjacent room — the bathroom — whenever it isn't being used.

A motorized system — to simply push a button and send the bed away into the wall — would have been great but costly, Brown added. So instead, he attached wheels to the frame. The couple just has to give it a quick push when they want more floor space in the bedroom.

"It's never going to go wrong," he said.

The couple has turned an industrial space into a home suited to both their work and personal lives.

A bird's-eye view of a triangle-shaped house.
Converting the car-repair shop cost Brown and his fiancée less than $130,000.Brown Urbanism

Brown said his and Katrina's home exemplifies the ethos of most of his architectural projects, which blur the boundaries between living and working spaces.

Their triangular abode has homey and cozy features, but when needed, it can also be quite a "formal space," he added.

"When you take away the dining table, fold everything away, and clean it up," he said, it transforms into a triangular space that feels "industrial."

And even though it's small, Brown said there's plenty of room for the couple to host guests.

"Two weeks ago, we had seven people over rehearsing for a musical performance for someone's wedding — seven people with instruments in a space that's only 40 square meters," he said. "It worked quite well."

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