HOME TOUR: From damp garage to a beautiful, 750-square foot North Side garden cottage

INDIANAPOLIS -- Claudia Appel turned a 750-square foot garage into a beautiful garden cottage on Indy's north side. 

Appel, her husband Steve and two school-aged children moved from Southern California to Indianapolis to follow the next step in Steve's career.

Claudia used to be a criminal defense attorney, but traded the courtroom for fabric swatches and started her business, Pink Elephant Home, in 2016. She was her first client and the cottage was her first project.

The cottage was originally built in 2005 for the family's California grandparents to stay during their visits. The inspiration for the cottage was their main house on the property. They wanted the cottage to feel like a scaled down model of the main house so that it fit into the landscape without feeling out-sized.

Claudia designed the new floor plan out of the former dark garage, selected the materials and managed the renovation. 

The cottage has one master suite with a bath, a great room, kitchen and living room, complete with a private patio. 

The priority was to find a balance between comfort and functionality, meaning it had to be much more than just a styled guest room - organization was key.

Claudia’s favorite design element is the stained concrete floors. It was a way to incorporate existing materials (they were the garage floors) but elevate the style by staining and polishing them.

She loves the symmetry and scale of the exterior. It's exactly the right proportion - the cottage fits into the gardens without seeming too imposing, but yet still has a presence. It's a thing of beauty.



Her biggest design challenge was creating a master suite in what was a damp workshop. It was completely unfinished and filled with debris, cobwebs and mice droppings.

Another challenge was the mechanicals: Installing heating and air conditioning was tricky because there was no attic or crawl space to run duct work, nor was there plumbing. Much of the budget went toward Ms. Function - have you met her? She's the non-sexy step-sister of design.

Her proudest DIY project was the Cottage was completely furnished on a dime. She didn't want to sacrifice style but had eaten away at much of the budget with construction costs.

The master suite.

Part of the business model for Pink Elephant Home developed from this project; the Hi/Lo philosophy is one of her benchmarks: She allocated the most money on quality furniture (especially the beds) but everything is from local shops, seconds, and online resources. 

The biggest indulgence was the sofa bed from Houseworks. They didn't want guests to fight over the master bedroom so they spent the money to purchase a Tempurpedic sofa bed with no crossbars. They have repeat guests who actually request the sofa bed.

Her best designs advice is to go slow, design over time and resist the urge to end up a brand ambassador for a particular retailer. Layer your rooms with Hi/Lo resources. It's more interesting that way, she says.

Claudia is addicted to Homegoods but also loves Midland and Chatham Home downtown, and a few local gems like Kitchens by Design for accessories, Surroundings for lighting and pillows and Hauslove for insporation and amazing sales. 

Pink Elephant Cottage is a available to rent on VRBO and on Pink Elephant Home's website www.thepinkelephanthome.com.

"We love welcoming guests to our cottage and making stays in Indy memorable," Claudia said. 

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