The garage might be the place you park your car and pile cardboard boxes filled with who knows what, or a neglected, messy space that looks more like one big junk drawer than your home's largest room, but for a growing number of Canadians, it's the newest frontier of design.
"It's a huge growth industry," says Brian Plester, owner and founder of Garage Strategies Inc., in Edmonton.
And it's being fuelled by boomers with enough disposable income to finally buy their dream car and design-savvy people who have grown up with the mantra that any space can be beautiful.
Ron Binder, owner of OnWall Solutions, a garage organizational company based in Toronto, says his customers spend an average of $6,000 to get their garages in order.
While garages still might be thought of as guys' territory, large numbers of women are pushing the trend, too. Over the past two years, 70 per cent of residential inquiries at Beyond the Garage Door came from women, says Steve Buccioni, owner of the Toronto-based company. Many of those women are married, but a good chunk are also single homeowners who want to use their garage for storage.
Whether you've got bikes and kids' gear piling up or are simply looking to make the best use of the space, there are new tricks for overcoming the clutter. Four garage design companies offer their advice on how to do it.
Garage cabinets are now indistinguishable in their design quality from what you might find in a kitchen, and for good reason. "People are looking at this room more and more like a part of their house," Binder says. A 10-foot cabinet configuration from OnWall can range from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the material – aluminum is at the high end, with powder coated wood at the low. They also come in a range of shapes and sizes, allowing you to customize your cabinets according to your needs, whether it's smaller sizes for tools or tall cabinets to hang suits. Having recognized the desire for well-designed spaces, many cabinet makers now offer a range of styles and colours – bright blues, oranges, reds and yellows – and even offer custom hues. Diehard Habs fan? It only makes sense that you deck out your garage in the team's colours.
"The slat wall is really today's pegboard," says Terry Tout, president of Ultimate Garage, a Calgary-based garage outfitting company, who installs them in more than half of the garages he does. Why so popular? For one, they are incredibly adaptable: there is now a wide range of customized hooks so that you can hang bikes, skis, snowboards and most other sports equipment, as well as all your gardening tools. To change the configuration, all you have to do is move the hooks. And they hold a ton – well, close to it. Holding 75 lbs. per linear foot, a slat wall can manage more than you'll ever want hang on it, unless you have an anvil collection. "I could physically hang enough on the slat wall to bring the garage wall down," Tout says.
Most professional organizers will tell you that plenty of space goes wasted because it's above your head, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the garage. There could be hundreds of square feet of potential storage room not being used. But it's also easy to use that space poorly: things get stuffed up in the rafters and forgotten about, or becometoo hard to access. The solution: motorized storage platforms that can hold up to 500 lbs. and lower from the ceiling at the push of a button. Such lifts are becoming increasingly popular among boomers, who don't want to be climbing ladders, says Buccioni. The platforms, which range in size from two feet by two feet to eight feet by four feet, are connected by cables to a ceiling mount and run from $299 to $1,800 to have installed. Motorized or not, an overhead storage system fitted to your needs is a garage "essential" Buccioni says.
Car junkies, people looking to maximize space, and those who want to have hard-core bragging rights are driving the growing popularity of automobile lifts, says Plester. It also helps that the hydraulic lifts plug right into an ordinary wall socket and are no longer as expensive as they used to be. "Years ago, anybody who had a four-post car lift had to be super wealthy because they were $10,000. The lifts today, the ones I sell, are about $3,500." And because they are freestanding, it is easy to take them out of your garage to clean up or move as needed. You need a minimum of 10-foot ceilings to stack one car on top of another, Plester says. They are especially popular among boomers who've acquired a third dream car – or, in the case of one customer, six dream cars. For the rest of us, lifts are practical for two-car families looking to maximize their storage space.