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In These Garages, Designers Dare to Think Beyond the Car

In These Garages, Designers Dare to Think Beyond the Car

American garages have come a long way since the early 20th century, when automobiles first hit the streets. Before cars became transportation for the masses, they were status symbols for the wealthy, and the first garages were usually repurposed from carriage houses, only later evolving into receptacles for tools, lawn mowers, and gear for everyday, middle-class living.

But today’s garages go far beyond harboring rusty equipment and shielding autos from the elements. Reenergized by the at-home revolution of the last few years, garages have gone multifunctional. Now, they’re sporting high tech car lifts, acting as recharge stations for electric vehicles, and playing classroom, office, fitness area, or art gallery. And more.

“Homeowners now see the garage as an extension of the home, rather than just as the utility space that it was once thought to be,” says Virginia-based designer DuVäl Reynolds. They are also more aware of the importance of first and last impressions, he explains, pointing out that the garage is often the first and last room someone sees when entering or leaving their house. Last fall, Reynolds worked with Garage Living, a garage makeover company, to design a virtual carport for Architectural Digest’s second annual Iconic Home. Featuring a wet bar, bench seating, and storage organized by season, the space is lit like a nightclub and bears an earthy palette. As Reynolds points out, a garage remodel is one of the best ways to expand the square footage of a home without breaking ground or building an addition. “You can maximize what you have with beautiful products and satisfying storage solutions,” he says.

DuVäl Reynolds’s concept for the garage of the Iconic Home last year.

Rendered by The Boundary 

Revamping a garage can also kickstart a professional and lifestyle change. When the pandemic struck, Katie Hammond, founder of Last Layer PR, closed her physical offices in L.A. and NYC when the leases ran out. When she renovated her home in Old Torrance, California, three years ago, she hadn’t touched her classic two-car garage. Now the timing was perfect to turn the entire space into an office with its own mini gym. She amped up the interior with hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, Circa sconces, and to increase light, a Dutch door and windows. Farrow & Ball’s Card Room Green covers the walls, as does floral wallpaper from Anthropologie.

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Elsewhere, during the pandemic, two parents who worked from home got creative about homeschooling, adopting their garage as a classroom. “Learning in the kitchen, living room, and dining room was too distracting,” says the couple, which is based in King City, Ontario (and requested anonymity in this story). A bedroom desk wasn’t ideal either, since a lack of separation between work and home life could lead to poor sleep habits and reduced productivity. Their garage renovation included proper lighting, storage, a finished floor, areas to display their kids’ artwork, and a TV mounted into the cabinet system, which allowed them to join Zoom calls with teachers and other students, too.

Some high-end homeowners are decking out garages with heavy-duty outlets, solar panels, and battery walls for their Teslas and other electric vehicles, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story. Garage Living has seen the trend in action, and recently pulled off a multipurpose makeover of a Palm Springs garage. To meet the owner’s needs, they installed an electric charger for his car, a TV so that the room could host Sunday football watch parties, a flip-up desk so the garage could act as a workstation, and ample storage for sports equipment, from golf clubs to a motorized scooter.