When Jonathan Boyd began converting his workshop garage into a residence, it wasn’t supposed to be for him. Originally, he envisioned the 800-square-foot garage—which he used for several years as a furniture-making workshop—as an Airbnb property he could rent out for extra income. But as the renovation progressed, it dawned on him that he was building a house completely customized to his tastes.
“All of a sudden I was building every door, because it was cheaper; I was laying a herringbone floor, because I always wanted one; I was building claro walnut cabinets,” he says. “By the time it was done, I realized nobody was ever going to live in here but me.”
A decade ago, Boyd moved to Santa Fe, took a one-off job helping to build an adobe restaurant, and “just fell in love with it.” He joined the project builder on a trip around New Mexico, battling the heat to learn adobe, rammed earth, and timber-style construction. From there, he transitioned into real estate investment, which he hated—but which brought in enough money for him to thoughtfully consider his next move. “I wanted to work with my hands, but not outside, and I didn’t want to go to other people’s houses,” he recalls. “I settled on [becoming] a furniture maker.”
Though Boyd took one furniture-making class at community college to learn sharpening and maintenance of hand tools, he’s mostly taught himself through books, YouTube videos, and practice. He began working out of a garage on his girlfriend’s property, in the Baca Railyard District—it already held woodworking benches, left behind by the prior owner. For three years this served as his studio, until an auto garage around the corner went up for rent, offering more space to expand the business.
He moved his workshop to expand his furniture-making company, Boyd & Allister, while also getting a nonprofit called Vital Spaces off the ground. Vital Spaces, which officially launched in February of 2019, connects local artists to underutilized Santa Fe real estate for performances, gallery showings, and education. The scrappy, budget-minded creativity Boyd channeled into the nonprofit is the same energy directed at his home. “It all ties together in my mind,” he says.
That left Boyd’s original studio empty, prompting him to convert it into a vacation rental on a $200,000 budget. In pricing out materials he envisioned for the home, he realized his vision was too expensive. “Anything I wanted was out of my budget,” he says. “So pretty much everything is handbuilt.”
The herringbone floors epitomize Boyd’s approach. He grew up on the East Coast, where the zig-zagged pattern is more common than in New Mexico. He recalls receiving a $35,000 quote from an Albuquerque-based flooring company, which sent him to YouTube to search tutorials on how to build the floor himself. He couldn’t afford precut herringbone pieces, either, so he bought random-length white oak and cut pieces with his girlfriend on a crosscut sled. “You have to cut the groove on the end [of the wood], and make tongues for it,” he explains. “It was a week of work in the shop, nights and weekends, just to make the pieces.” He laid the floor himself.
The herringbone project spurred others, from large overhauls (blowing out the top of the garage to build a pitched roof lined with beams made from New Mexico lumber) to small, personalized details (building a plant shelf for his “weird, esoteric cactus collection.”) The garage’s footprint was ultimately maintained, but now holds an open living and dining area, one bathroom, and one bedroom.
Boyd’s goal was to juxtapose an intimate, homey bedroom with a bright, expansive living space. He clad windows in a white oak inside and aluminum outside, to withstand the high-altitude sun. Sun streams into a living room anchored by a fireplace Boyd made from a slab of French blue limestone a client of his didn’t need. “I think that slab of stone must have been $15,000—again, I could have never afforded that,” he laughs.
The furniture was an opportunity for Boyd to riff on designers he admires. “I’m inspired by the shapes and got a chance to make things for myself to live with,” he says. Jean Prouvé’s midcentury stools inspired Boyd’s own, perched in front of the walnut-topped kitchen island he also built. Charlotte Perriand’s low coffee table inspired his design, made of a solid bleached white oak. Finally, Boyd based the couch design—solid walnut with bridle joints, custom linen upholstery, and an alpaca blanket he wove—on a pullout sofa designed by Jens Risom.
At the dining room table, which expands to seat four when Boyd has guests, he keeps two chairs of his own design that he sells through his company. (He occasionally uses the home to entertain clients and show his work—“I would make any furniture in the house for sale,” he says.)
There was only one expensive purchase: two midcentury slipper chairs he purchased from an online antiques collector. “Within two seconds I knew that was the big splurge for me,” he says. “They came with the Danish ambassador to America before [the dealer] ended up with them.”
Though Boyd showed restraint with his choices in wood, there were a few places he wanted to get creative. “I have a whole shed in the back of my shop full of the craziest pieces of wood that are always cut-offs,” he notes. “You always want to use them for projects.” He selected two “crazy wood” projects: the front of the bathroom vanity, a four-way bookmatched design of claro walnut burl, and a built-in bedroom dresser made of a “weird, marbled, claro walnut grain.”
In the bedroom, Boyd admits to even weaving the throw on his bed. “It’s a showcase of my neurosis,” he jokes. He also added touches for his cat, like a small walnut-frame door between the bedroom and the closet and cabinetry.
He maintains a level of disbelief that he accomplished the project—which wrapped at the end of 2018—in a year. The nights and weekends dedicated to transforming the garage were “not easy,” he says simply. Boyd has another busy year ahead, operating a larger studio that now includes a homegoods store as well as maintaining the work of Vital Spaces. But at least he’s got a painstakingly customized place to call home.
“It’s a kitchen, with a small living room and a bedroom—there’s no wasted space,” he says. “It’s exactly what I wanted.”