What if your home had a spare room you’d never noticed before? Your garage, even if it has one or more cars in it, can pull double-duty as a gym, a crafting room and even a place to socialize.
Designers and architects tell us that gaining more living space without putting an addition on your house can make the effort worthwhile, even if it means investing in things like upgraded lighting, flooring and heating.
We shouldn’t be “treating the garage as a big box,” says Bethesda, Maryland-based architect Jim Rill. “Make it another room. It’s a lost opportunity if you don’t.”
Marina Case, founder of the Warwick, New York-based design firm The Red Shutters, agrees: “A garage,” she says, “can be anything you need it to be.”
We’ve asked Rill, Case and interior designer Anna Maria Mannarino of New Jersey-based Mannarino Designs for advice on creating a well-organized garage that can also function as a flexible spare room.
FLOORS AND WALLS
Upgrading the look and feel of your garage can start at the bottom: Paint the floor, says Case.
Painting a cement floor a dark taupe or gray can have a big impact, she says, or choose an even bolder color. “You’ll feel like you’re in this fresh, fun space,” she says.
But do test the color by painting a piece of foam core that’s at least a few square feet, she says, and leaving it on the garage floor for a few days to make sure you like it.
Another option: Showroom flooring is available for as little as $5 per foot, says Rill. And if you won’t be parking cars in the garage and are instead using it as a “man cave or a she-shed,” Mannarino says, consider upgrading the flooring with something you’d normally use inside the house.
Walls come next: “Why is the garage always just a drywall box?” Rill asks.
If your garage walls aren’t sheet-rocked, Mannarino says you can add that and give it a coat of paint. Or put up paneling, Rill says, making it easier to hang items like rakes or hoses. You can add a flat hanging system that includes space for hanging baskets and brackets for shelves. Many closet-design brands offer flat systems that will hold heavy outdoor items.
If you prefer freestanding storage along the walls, add several tall, sturdy shelving units. You can line them with large, clear bins neatly labeled, or fancier storage bins, Case says.
Or go an extra step and have built-in cabinetry installed.
And if your garage ceiling is high and has ample space away from where the garage door opens, consider adding storage on the ceiling, Mannarino says.
“It gives you that much more real estate,” she says. But don’t cut corners: Have ceiling shelving or storage racks mounted properly by a professional.
If your garage gets cold in the winter, you can add a separate heating system that’s inexpensive to run. These “mini-split” heating systems can be turned on only when you’re spending time in the garage. Adding insulation also helps control the climate, making the garage feel more like an indoor room.
And don’t settle for a bare bulb in the ceiling. Replacing it with a larger, more attractive fixture can dramatically change the way a garage feels.
Although it’s common to have a workshop in a garage, and many people use the space for messy crafting projects or as a home gym, a garage can also become an entertainment space.
If you’re a car enthusiast who works on a vintage car or hotrod, Rill says, why not use part of your garage as a place to hang out with friends talking about cars?
Case suggests adding a bar area with comfortable seating, even if it’s small, to make the garage an inviting place to hang out with guests. You can also hang up a flat-screen TV and add a refrigerator.
Rill has a vintage cooler, reclaimed from a supermarket, in his garage for soft drinks, water and beer. It’s used all summer when the family is outdoors.
Along with year-round entertaining inside a garage, these designers point out that an open garage can be a great place to set up a buffet table during an outdoor summer party.
Case suggests adding ceiling-mounted tracks for curtains in an indoor/outdoor material like Sunbrella, so you can draw them behind a serving table in your open garage.
Barn doors or other types of upgraded garage door can make the space more attractive and accessible during parties.
And upgrading your garage door does more than just add beauty to the exterior of your home, Mannarino says. It also gives you the option of adding more windows, bringing natural light into your garage.
Many detached garages have a tiny second-floor attic or loft space, Rill says. Even if its ceiling is low, that space can become a furnished clubhouse for younger kids, a place to practice musical instruments or even a cozy guest suite.
On one garage project, Rill replaced the solid wooden ceiling in a large detached garage with a perforated metal floor. That gave added natural light to the attic space above, which was then transformed into a kids’ clubhouse.
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The best residential products exemplify both the latest trends and greatest innovations that a newly constructed home can offer. To help sort through what’s shaping product selection this year, BUILDER asked five residential design experts for their take on the biggest trends facing home builders. The products showcased below reflect their trend forecasts in each of six product categories. The pros interviewed are: –Lee Crowder, model branding manager for Darling Homes and Taylor Morrison –Jay Endelman, president of Maryland-based builder Guild Craft Inc. –Manny Gonzalez, principal of Southern California–based KTGY Architecture + Planning —Washington, D.C.–based developer and builder Sean Ruppert of OPaL –Patti Wynkoop, vice president of product development and purchasing for Mid-Atlantic area home builder Miller & Smith.
Creative Privacy. Dense infill developments mean smaller yards with innovative privacy features for outdoor living. Inventive and customizable screening options include artistic fencing in unusual materials, vertical gardens, all-weather curtains, movable metal or wood panels, shoji screens, trellises, and pergolas. “We use unique design elements … to temper the close proximity of dense site plans,” says Wynkoop.
Modern Appeal. Contemporary designs and materials—larger expanses of glass, smooth surfaces, clean lines, flat or low-sloped rooflines, and commercial finishes—are in demand with buyers across the country. High-contrast color palettes such as white or pale gray with black window and door trim add a stylish touch to any architectural style. “Now we can get more creative with window and balcony placements, exterior skins, and colors,” says Gonzalez.
Al Fresco Spaces. Savvy builders provide buyers with lots of choices for outdoor amenities, including fireplaces or pits, outdoor kitchens and wet bars, entertainment equipment, and natural materials like wood and stone. “Roof decks and balconies are giving way to patios and terraces directly off kitchens and dining and living rooms,” says Ruppert.
INTERIOR PRODUCT TRENDS
Click here for a roundup of the newest products in the Interior category. Healthy Homes. Along with sustainability and energy efficiency, consumers are more educated than ever about products affecting healthy indoor air quality. They demand low- or no-VOC paints and sealants, formaldehyde-free cabinets and adhesives, antimicrobial surfaces, and whole-house water and air purification systems.
Wood Flooring. Hardwood flooring finishes skew lighter with natural, unstained varietals taking center stage. Products mimicking wood are also increasing in popularity, such as porcelain tile and laminate. “People finally warmed up to engineered and vinyl wood floors. Either they warmed up or products got much better—probably both,” says Ruppert.
Open Inside to Out. Open floor plans went from a trend to common practice, but now they extend visually in all directions—even outside—and dominate throughout all house sizes, styles, and types. Interior courtyards, breezeways, and open-air entryways appeal to buyers of all ages, from young families to empty nesters. “Perhaps the biggest trend in interior space is exterior space,” says Gonzalez. “More and more, interior areas open up to exterior areas to create a lively indoor–outdoor experience.”
Artisan Accents. Consumers enjoy expressing their creativity and supporting craftspeople by selecting unique, handmade products. Even big box home furnishing stores like Target and Ikea offer limited-edition artisan collections. “Today’s consumer bypasses anything mass produced in exchange for artisan products, fixtures, and features,” says Wynkoop.
Plumbing Choices. A proliferation of finishes for plumbing fixtures and fittings allows homeowners to show off their personal style. Gold-plated, matte black, copper, brass, nickel, bronze, pewter, and chrome are all available across various price points in styles ranging from elaborate to sleek. “We’re seeing a revival of gold and bronze fixtures as designers mix metals in their palettes, similar to today’s fashion jewelry trends,” says Wynkoop.
Attractive & Accessible. Stylish universal design products are popping up in housing for all ages. Many of these products do double duty, such as towel racks or shower shelves acting as grab bars and spacious, no-threshold showers with built-in bench seats that also serve as shelves.
Island Living. Larger, decked-out kitchen islands continue to trend in most housing types and sizes. Treating the island like a piece of furniture is a new look, however, with islands having legs or even wheels for flexibility and more personalized style.
Floating Fixtures. Wall-hung vanities, cabinets, and toilets help the bathroom look larger and generate a sleek, serene atmosphere. Floating cabinetry and wall-hung toilets make spaces look and feel larger as the floor runs under the pieces and gives a more expansive aesthetic.
STRUCTURAL PRODUCT TRENDS
Click here for a roundup of the newest products in the Structural category. Cross-Laminated Timber. Cross-laminated timber is becoming popular as structural material even for taller buildings and large expanses. The product offers the strength of concrete, but it’s more sustainable, lighter, and renewable, makers say. The product also offers fire and seismic resistance and produces minimal construction waste.
Prefab Products. Prefabricated systems allow for faster construction, stronger building envelopes, and reduction of waste. Panelized walls, flooring and roof systems, insulated concrete blocks, modular framing components, and structural insulated panels also provide builders with consistent quality of materials. “Some of the newest structural systems have a huge impact on what can be built cost effectively,” says Gonzalez.
Roof Fasteners. Even with today’s lighter roofing materials, roof fasteners make sense on every house given the increased occurrence of extreme storms. They also improve roof stability and load allowances. “Building a house now requires more wind bracing and stronger framing,” says Ruppert.
Steel Framing. As building codes get stricter, steel is making inroads with single-family construction. The material provides strength; resistance to wind, fire, and floods; quick construction time with less waste; and design creativity. Steel also serves as an environmentally friendly option as it can be recycled after use. “Lateral wind loads have increased across the board, so steel framing in residential makes more sense and allows for more flexibility,” says Endelman.
SYSTEMS PRODUCT TRENDS
Click here for a roundup of the newest products in the Systems category. Long-Distance Control. Consumers want the ability to monitor and manipulate lights, locks, thermostats, audio/visual equipment, water heaters, and appliances when at home or away. Most electronic components are available in smart forms that homeowners can control with their phones and voice-activated devices. “Consumers are hungry to not only integrate their homes but also centralize the process rather than manage several separate apps for everything,” says Wynkoop.
Systems That Save. Resource- and cost-saving products like tankless or solar-powered water heaters and ductless HVAC systems reduce homeowners’ utility bills and make them feel good about preserving resources. “Some residents turn tracking their utilities into something of a ‘utility video game’ where they try to win the month by having the lowest energy usage ‘score,’” says Gonzalez.
Responsive HVAC. Manufacturers are responding to consumers’ desire for indoor comfort with heating and cooling products outfitted with high-tech features like UV air filtration, evaporative cooling, humidifying and dehumidifying, and maintenance alerts.
Home Control. Lights, blinds, and thermostats aren’t the only self-monitoring systems builders can offer as upgrades. Smart water valve controllers detect leaks and alert homeowners, or turn off the water automatically. Manufacturers also make sensors to detect problems throughout the home, from a door that’s been left open to an oven turned on, to provide added safety and peace of mind.
WINDOWS & DOORS PRODUCT TRENDS
Click here for a roundup of the newest products in the Windows & Doors category. Peak Performance. For both windows and doors, savvy consumers demand higher thermal values along with improved impact and wind resistance. Using increased thermal values keeps indoor temperatures more stable, saving on heating and cooling costs, while windows and doors with higher wind resistance can stand up to severe storms.
Door Design. Homeowners want the high-end look of wood and glass on doors for maximum curb appeal, added natural light, and as a personalized look for interior doors. “Wood-style front doors and matching arbors are a new trend even in contemporary homes,” notes Ruppert.
Window Walls. Window walls are becoming more common and less expensive. Many manufacturers offer bifold, accordion, or oversized sliding glass doors to heighten indoor–outdoor connections, frame views, and make spaces feel larger even with the door closed.
Think Big. For a “wow factor” to entice potential home buyers, an oversized window is the way to go. They are available in numerous sizes and options featuring fixed glass combined with a variety of operable panels. “We’re maximizing picture windows at sizes as large as 6×6 or 8×5 for an additional 40 square feet of glass,” says Wynkoop.
Black Trim. Black trim on windows and doors–inside and out—is trending across styles and price points. Darker shades of trim require less maintenance, make the glass look bigger, and provide a luxurious look for both contemporary and traditional designs.