More than a Parking Spot
There is no reason you can’t transform your garage into a hybrid space you can use for other purposes
Now that the home is everything — headquarters, office, school and recreation centre all rolled into one — the recent spate of home upgrade pictures we’re seeing on social media is a no-brainer. People have become incredibly creative in making the space they have function as best as possible for their needs.
If there is one room in your home that maybe isn’t pulling its weight right now, but could, it is your garage. This relatively blank canvas can easily transform into a much-needed home gym, hobby studio or indoor-outdoor entertaining space – and still allow you to park your vehicle when needed.
Toronto interior designer Suzanne Dimma is no stranger to garage makeovers. This spring, she will be converting a free-standing backyard garage in Burlington, Ont., into a pool house and lounge and extending a Toronto garage by adding a year-round home office in the back.
“For double-duty space, the first thing you need to consider is flooring that accommodates the weight of your car and is relatively easy to clean,” said Dimma. “Polished concrete or interlocking brick work best—materials designed to handle a car that you can hose and mop. You can’t use any typical flooring like wood or tile because anything with grout will just crack. You need durability and cleanability.”
If you want to use your garage as an indoor-outdoor living space, one with some protection from the elements, Dimma said you should find furniture that you can leave outside and then bring into the garage when your car is parked on the street or driveway. “There is so much amazing outdoor furniture right now. You don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort,” she said.
Because of gasoline fumes and dirt coming into the space with your vehicle, materials need to be hard-wearing, such as powder-coated metal furniture you can easily wipe clean, with removable and washable cushion covers. Look to heavy-duty performance fabrics from brands such as Kravet and Sunbrella. “Go with whatever you feel confident moving outside when your car is in the garage,” Dimma said.
While the garage ceiling height will inform your lighting decisions, use the same approach as you would indoors and add lighting at multiple levels, “something on the celling, something on the walls and something at table-top level,” Dimma said. “Tuck a dramatic ceiling fixture into a peaked ceiling if your garage has one. And if not, think about wall sconces just above eye level to wash the walls with light. If you include a few portable solar-powered or USB-charged lamps in your garden design, it’s a snap to pull those into your garage set-up, too.”
On the fancier end of the garage-makeover scale, there’s Garage Living, a Vaughan-based company turning out stunning custom-designed garages. The company has 30 franchised locations across Canada and the United States.
“The garage doesn’t have to be a space that is unfinished or dirty or disorganized. It can be an extension of the interior of your home and your lifestyle,” said Aaron Cash, one of the company’s cofounders. “It’s about having the ability to make the garage a multipurpose space. It can still be the garage—we just increase the functionality, useability and organization so you can use it in a different way than before.”
Garage Living has put together garages that are also office spaces, gyms, yoga studios, entertaining areas and even complete classrooms. Cash said your first step is to get rid of any the clutter and garage garbage.
“March is very much about spring cleaning, so this is the time when people are considering changes,” he said, adding that if you don’t have a deck or a patio, the garage can be a great indoor-outdoor place to hang out in with a roof over your head.
“Another impact can be made by working on the floor,” said Cash. “We use a coating called Floortex that can easily be cleaned. Bare concrete is always going to be dusty.”
The company completes its makeovers with cabinetry and storage solutions best suited to the garage and how it’s going to be used — work benches, wall organizers, overhead storage, whatever the case. When it comes to materials, Cash advised against using things that aren’t practical.
“Mats and carpets trap dirt, and fabrics absorb smells,” he said. “As well, you don’t want to use materials like melamine or particle board that absorb moisture.”
And, if you need any more inspiration, just think about how having that extra-few metres of liveable and useable space will go a long way in the months ahead as you wait to be vaccinated and the pandemic to end.
If you are using your garage as a hybrid space, be careful about vehicle exhaust. Do not start your vehicle with the garage door down or if people are in the space. Ensure a carbon monoxide detector is installed and working.
Doug Wallace Special to Wheels