Kirsten Jaglo will never forget the night her garage experienced an electrical short and quickly burned down — or the fire that reignited the next morning.

“It was a giant inferno,” the biologist and climate change consultant remembers. “It was amazing how fast it happened.” In a matter of minutes, the structure was completely ruined and the second blaze destroyed anything that was left.

Instead of trying to deal with the perpetual smoke smell that experts predicted would linger, Jaglo and her husband Michael Graven decided to start from scratch. And in order to make the best of an unfortunate situation, the couple opted to build an apartment on top of a brand new garage.

With the help of Christopher Strom Architects, a modern, 650-square-foot ADU rose from the ashes of tragedy. The result is a flexible, eco-friendly space for Jaglo to host her parents, practice yoga, watch family movies, and perhaps rent out one day.

White living room with red sofa

Going Green

Jaglo’s scientific background inspired sustainable choices throughout the project. Solar panels on the roof provide nearly all the power the ADU needs, while thick zip-insulation, double-glazed windows, and remote-controlled shades work to conserve energy. “We insulated the bejeebers out of it because we live in Minnesota, where it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer,” Jaglo explains.

Marmoleum flooring, which is linseed oil-based and petroleum-free, is outfitted with an extremely efficient radiant heating system. Low VOC paint coats the walls for a non-toxic finish and the deck is made of a durable bamboo and recycled plastic composite. Set amongst leafy mature trees, the forest-hued metal cladding on the exterior helps the home blend in with the surroundings it’s trying to protect.

Blue and white wood kitchen cabinets

Accessible bathroom with bench and bar

Adding Accessibility

Jaglo also optimized the ADU for her father, who has Parkinson’s disease. An elevator offers accessibility, while tall quartz countertops and grabbable chrome handles make the kitchen user-friendly. In the bathroom, high-grip tile prevents slipping and a shower bench is crafted from leftover deck material. “We picked everything with Parkinson’s in mind,” Jaglo describes.

Navy lower cabinets and white wood uppers

Infusing Style

The decor is where Jaglo’s personality comes through. Her vision of dark blue cabinets led her to Semihandmade’s Supermatte Night Sky Slab doors on the lowers paired with Impression Beach fronts on the uppers. “We were originally going to have white on top, but I thought it was too cold,” she details. “I really liked the Beach, which has a bit of texture and an organic feel.”

The warm yet contemporary look continues in the living area, which is anchored by a Benchmade Modern Skinny Fat Sofa, a gifted cowhide rug, and an Expand Furniture coffee table that magically rises and folds out to accommodate eight people. Jaglo probably never imagined she’d have her own dinner party venue when her garage was engulfed in flames, but that is now her reality. “At the time, it was so traumatic,” she reflects. “Looking back, it’s funny.”

Green ADU exterior

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