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More than just a parking spot, garage gets a new purpose

The Weists of Calgary opted to install a clear, weather-proof covering on their garage. It proved much less costly, while opening up the space for greenhouse potential, as well as for hanging out in the summer.

Mieka West

Not every project needs to be an exercise in high design that stretches on for months and drains your bank account. A weekend and a few hundred dollars can transform your living quarters.

Mieka West was stuck with the job of fixing the tar-and-gravel roof on her garage.

She and her husband had been putting off fixing it since they bought their house in Calgary a decade ago. But then, last fall, with contractors' estimates way too high – $8,000 for fresh tar and gravel – inspiration struck. Why not completely transform the space, and do it cheaply, no less?

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West found a clear roofing material strong enough to withstand hail and snow. Over the course of a weekend, with help from her sister, the old roof was ripped off, and the bright sun shone in, with the roof beams casting their shadows.

"It was just gorgeous," says West, a public art consultant. Thanks to a bit more spit and polish, the cinder-block garage from 1959 that West and her husband never liked became a greenhouse and home to their barbecue.

"It's like the most perfect greenhouse, and I didn't have to get any more space for a greenhouse by building a new one," West says.

"We have this whole new living space."

The entire project was done on a budget of $1,200.

Many people are doing something similar, especially now that car ownership is declining.

Look on Pinterest, Houzz or other sites where homeowners go looking for design inspiration and you'll find a wide range of garages that have been converted in to living spaces. Man caves are often a popular option, as are home offices and gyms.

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West still parks her car in the garage sometimes, and she's the first to admit the space is hardly all that glamorous. But sitting out there on a summer evening after work to have a drink with friends or water her plants, West and her husband are so happy they say they'd now be hard-pressed to ever sell the house.

"It's still a bit of a bunker. But we're totally in love with our garage now," West says.

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