The garage has long been considered the last frontier of the home with homeowners looking to add functionality and storage options as well as extending design elements from the interior of the home to this often forgotten space.
From man caves to craft areas and workbenches, garages also offer homeowners an opportunity to escape and entertain and to indulge in their favorite hobbies from gardening to woodworking and more.
A garage can also increase a home’s salability and curb appeal by adding a garage door that blends aesthetically with the rest of the home’s exterior and adding organization solutions from cabinets, shelving, flooring, and storage racks that help potential homeowners view what’s possible in that space.
According to Closets & Organized Storage magazine's 2020 State of the Industry research study, garage organization was one of the top design project requests, and cabinets, workbenches, shelving, slot wall, and countertops were some of the top named upgrades.
Closets & Organized Storage spoke with several designers to get their thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 and the latest trends in the garage.
Impact of COVID-19
There is no denying that the pandemic has had an impact on remodeling and design. Closet and cabinet firms across the country report an increase in business as homeowners, who have spent an extensive amount of time at home, are discovering the need for more functionality and organization in every aspect of their living space.
And to accommodate those needs, all eyes are turning to the garage as demand grows for multi-functional rooms.
“Garage space for me has been more of a flex space,” said Wendy Scott, ACSP president and co-founder of Boutique Closets and Cabinetry in New Jersey. “In addition to using cabinetry and slat wall, we have also been using ceiling racks to free up wall space. Current requests for making the garage more functional include gym space, bulk pantry storage, refrigerator and freezer, and file storage. Our latest Glam garage has also become a space where the homeowner has hosted intimate poker parties. It’s no longer ‘just a garage’.”
Bill Curran, president, Closet Organizing Systems, Bartlett, Illinois, also noted a pick-up in garage projects, even during the winter months.
“The interesting part about it is normally the garage activity slows down during winter and with these cold months, it seems like we’ve been doing a lot of garage projects in the cold as of recent with these temperature changes,” he said. “Which makes it harder because you’re going into a garage space and some people don’t even have them heated. So, we’ve had to bring our own heaters. You typically see the garage stuff taper off between December and March, April kind of in that time frame. And then you get to the spring cleaning and then the garage stuff typically takes off - at least here in the Midwest. But we’ve seen it pretty steady through the last couple of months. And again, I think a lot of it has to do with people working from home.”
Types of garage projects
As can be expected, pantries and home offices are projects that are in high demand, even for the garage, especially in warmer parts of the country and areas that don’t normally have basements.
“There is an increased interest in updating and reallocating the storage and functionality of a home garage,” said Cynthia Padden, designer, Valet Custom Cabinets & Closets, Campbell, California. “Some people really need the extra room while other people are tired of continuously looking at their current set up and would like a new usable, functional and stylish space.
“Unlike other parts of the country, California typically does not have basements and therefore our garages store everything from sports equipment, holiday decorations, luggage, outdoor gardening tools, pantry items, furniture, keepsakes, files, and in the intended purpose, cars. In these Covid times, every inch of space is valuable, and garages are morphing into overflow living areas, work, and gym space.”
When it comes to garages, it’s a little bit of a mix in terms of the types of designs that are mainly functional with basic materials, and designs that are flashier, more exotic using metallics, reflective materials, like a gloss material, Curran said. “We’re seeing some of that. There are some nice gloss products that have come out like Reflekt from Premier Eurocase.”
The garages that are more functional and conservative will typically have standard colors. With garages that are more exotic, you’re going to see bolder colors, he added. “Everything depends on the customer. The customer is the one, if they’ve got a little bit bigger budget, or are making this garage, wanting it real fancy, then you’re seeing a little bit more invested in the garage design from metallic countertops to LED lighting.”
Shaun Oriold, owner Closet Envy, Burlington, Ontario, Canada, also shared his thoughts on trending materials for the garage, specifically garage flooring. “Some different things [we’re seeing] are more decorative coatings for the garage floor. Metallic epoxy, overlays (wood plank flooring look is a neat idea), or solid epoxy with glitter. As long as we can suggest cool, unique features [the customers are] happy. We’ve been lucky, in that customers are willing to try different things. I’ve been working on one which should be happening late summer, where I want to put recess lighting into the floor shining upwards. Not sure if I’ll be perimeter puck lights or strip lighting, or maybe just underneath where the car site - so it looks angelic and glowing.”
When it comes to the future of the garage and new opportunities within that space, Oriold said that he believes “garages are heading into a more interesting space, long term. Self-driving cars are going to change the way we look at garages. I suspect it’s going to segregate the customer base into two categories. The first will be people to want to store fancy cars and want more of a show garage for their collection. The second will be the electric car users, who won’t drive their car into the garage - it drives itself in, or elsewhere to be parked. I then think the change will happen to convert garages to living space, as it’s a way to add a renovation onto their house of about 400 to 600 square feet, and just some interior finishing is needed to remove the garage look.”
Iron Gate Motors, a car condo complex located in Aurora, Illinois, has a unique approach to the garage and it’s one place where we’re seeing innovation and some of those emerging trends and opportunities. “Units are set up for entertaining and spending time with family and friends,” said Jana Hester, build out manager. “Owners are installing custom metal railings, diamond plate treads and risers, beverage centers, full appliance packages, luxury vinyl tile on the mezzanines and epoxy flooring on the concrete floor”
Owner and developer Tom Burgess said that Iron Gate is expanding the concept and “building residential condos that will all have a ‘big garage small house’ concept, and one of the buildings will be zoned for ‘live/work’ for those that have a home type business but want a retail face. Both concepts are relevant especially at a time when Boomers want to right-size and the population is fleeing cities for the suburban lifestyle.”