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Grandma’s ‘Glam Garage’ Provided the Perfect Place to Age

A backyard renovation creates a family compound

Karin Notbom-Healey lived in New York City for decades. But after her husband died, the 84-year-old started looking west to California, where her daughter’s family lives.

The idea of living near family was enticing for everyone, but how to make it work? Notbom-Healey’s daughter, Monique Marshall, 55, and her husband, DeMille Halliburton, 59, had a small, 1,200-square-foot house in Los Angeles but a big backyard, which included a garage.

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Over time, the family transformed the garage into an airy space for Notbom-Healey, where she can entertain, listen to music and connect with her grandchildren. Here’s how the project played out:

Why: “It was a no-brainer,” says Marshall, an education consultant. “After my stepdad died in 2021 and Mom’s rent skyrocketed, we knew she needed to leave the New York City apartment where she’d lived almost 60 years.”

How: Notbom-Healey, a retired legal secretary, flew west with 10 boxes and a couple of bags and moved into her granddaughters’ bedroom — the young adults camped in the living room — as the garage reno took flight. “We got pizza and beer and invited 15 neighbors to help clear out the junk and get it to the Salvation Army,” says Halliburton, an insurance executive.

Architect friends drafted plans for a 295-square-foot studio with a bedroom nook, kitchenette, no-step walk-in shower and tiled skylight. DeMille and Monique financed the construction, but Notbom-Healey insists on paying $1,000 a month in rent.

Whoa: Building everything to code meant a new roof and new foundation — “more money and more time,” DeMille says. The overhaul took nearly a year.

Approximate cost: $120,000

Wow: Proudly independent, Notbom-Healey now spends her days listening to her beloved Chuck Mangione and John Coltrane records on vinyl and tending to an olive tree outside her accessory dwelling unit (ADU), where the ashes of her husband, Billy, are scattered.

There’s daily family time, too, whether that’s a morning walk to coffee or dinner together. “Before the ADU, we’d visit mom on summer vacations or quick holiday trips, but now she’s an everyday part of the family, and that means everything,” Marshall says. Notbom-Healey agrees: “I’ve never been happier in all my life.”​​​

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