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Architects, Designers & Home Builders: Design And Furnish The American Garage

Architects, Designers & Home Builders: Design And Furnish The American Garage

The garage is one of the most important spaces in the American home.  But even more important than the kitchen? At first that may sound absurd, but if you listen to homeowners, they will tell you its true.  

When looking to purchase a new home, most homeowners will not even make an offer, regardless of how much they like the home, if the garage cannot accommodate their needs … or be expanded to meet their needs. 

Architects, designers and home builders are beginning to see that the garage is more than just a space in the home, it is a valuable amenity.  Pioneers like Gladiator by WhirpoolPremier GarageGaragetek and VAULT are creating a profound change in the way in which homeowners use and view the garage by transforming them from disorganized spaces into functional, inviting, and fun rooms.  Design companies like Garage Mahals and, the aforementioned, VAULT are changing how the world looks at the garage and what activities occur there by furnishing & accessorizing garages just as is nicely as the rest of the home.  As homeowners look for more usable space in their homes, these companies are leading the way in how this un-tapped space is being utilized.  VAULT’s motto has even become “furnish the garage as nice as every other room in your home”. 

CURB APPEAL

Curb appeal is the first impression people have of a home and the garage is often the largest and visible feature.  It dominates the front façade of most homes, accounting for as much as 30% of a home’s visual impact.  And it’s not up on the roof or somewhere out of sight; it’s at eye level, where everyone immediately sees it.  Ironically, the room that has its door open to the world every day also happens to be the most unsightly.   

People are increasingly realizing that the garage is the one room in the house that their neighbors see on a regular basis and the impression a messy disorganized garage says about the homeowner.  While the rest of the home may be neat and clean, the garage can become a public embarrassment, since it is the only room regularly visible to neighbors. 

The garage has become more prominently featured in home construction.  In older homes, the garage was typically detached from the home and built in the back.  But with the rise of the suburbs, the garage became attached to most homes where it became the prominent feature in the front façade of new home construction, dominating the front landscape of most homes today.  Day-in and day-out, the garage is the main entrance for most home owners. 

Cramped with garden maintenance tools, sporting equipment, and overflow from the rest of the house, there is little room left for even the cars.  The garage functions as America’s junk room, holding all the items the house won’t — or can’t.  For most owners, the garage is the most cluttered and embarrassing part of their homes.  Some homeowners are afraid to even open their garage doors out of fear that neighbors will see all the ugliness inside. 

According to a national survey by Impulse Research, almost one-quarter (24%) of all homeowners are embarrassed to leave their garage doors open. California Closets commissioned a survey which determined that the garage seems to be “the most disorganized room in the home” thus prompted their company to expand their products to serve this market. 

Unlike a dream kitchen or elaborate closet organization system, the garage is the only room regularly visible to neighbors.  Design professional can help clients visualize the potential of the garage by showing them the visual improvements that can be seen from the curb and the functional improvements that can made through organization on this inside, just as the home theater industry has done convincing homeowners of the benefits of this luxury. 

Instead of oil-stained floors, cluttered workbenches and mishmash of shelves, cabinets and hooks that don’t fit or look nice together, professional trade people can fill an unmet need in the marketplace by offering designs solutions to transform ordinary, mundane garages into attractive and useful spaces.   

Making the garage to be both a livable, aesthetic and functional space is not a radical idea. In most homes, the garage is often the starting point for many activities.  Day-in and day-out, it is the main entrance for most home owners.  “As homeowners look for more usable space and value in their home, they tend to overlook the garage,” said Alene Workman, principle of Hollywood, Fla. based Alene Workman Interior Design Inc. and Fellow of American Society of Interior Designers in a press release from Whirlpool. “In most homes, the garage is often the starting point for many activities and it makes sense for homeowners to begin rethinking this untapped space”, said Workman. 

GARAGES ARE VERSATILE

The garage is quickly becoming more than just a place to park a car or stash a lawn mower, it’s become kind of a second patio with a place to kick back in a lawn chair and chat with neighbors passing by the driveway … almost like an outdoor living room for entertaining.  For some of these owners their garage is perfunctorily functional, a place to tool around on their ‘pride-and-joy’ on weekends.  Still to others the garage is a showroom to display their treasures.  But the garage is not restricted to gearheads alone; its appeal stretches broadly to include gardeners, woodworkers and others who simply want a place for everything and everything in its place.  For most homeowners, the garage is one the most versatile rooms in their homes.

GARAGES ARE GETTING RECOGNIZED 

It’s about time that garages are getting recognized.  For too long the garage has functioned as America’s junk room, holding all the items the house won’t — or can’t.  But the times are changing – people are finally realizing just how versatile this space can be and the impact it has upon the architecture of most homes. 

The garage is the last remaining bastion within a home that has not been remodeled. People are putting so much money into their dream homes today, that they are not ignoring the garage, particularly because it is so visible to neighbors.  So it follows that an increasing number of homeowners are now looking for ways to ‘spruce up’ their garages to make this space more usable and appealing.   

'Before' and 'After' images taken of a disorganized, mundane garage transformed by VAULT into an attractive and useful room.

Look how far the once lowly garage has already come: most were constructed with the studs and insulation exposed, but today finishing a garage wall with drywall and paint is commonplace because homeowners want them to look more appealing visually. 

For builders, designers and architects, the garage has enormous potential as a new category in home design for these reasons: 

1. Market Size – Garage furnishings and organization are a relatively new market and in 2004, Americans spent $2 billion on garage remodels. That market will grow to $2.5 billion in 2005 according to the National Association of Home Builders. There are 69 million garages in the U.S., and demand for bigger ones is growing [In 1992, only 11% of American homes had garages that would hold three or more cars; by 2001, 18% had such jumbo garages (NY Times)

“There are about 69 million garages in the United States. About 90% of new homes have garages, which means that 1.5 million new garages are built every year. Not only are there a lot of garages in America, but they have been getting bigger. Of new one-family homes in 2005, 84% have garages for 2 or more cars; 20% have 3 car garages or larger.” — Garage and Storage Shed Trends in the U.S.

In terms of square footage, the fastest-growing element in new home design is the garage; 91% of new homes constructed include a garage (National Association of Home Builders Housing Facts, Figures and Trends 2004). The garage is the #1 area in the home for storage and organization product spending, larger than closets (Peachtree Consulting Survey). 

2. Curb Appeal – The garage is a prominent architectural feature in home design and can account for up to 40% of a home’s visual impact. It is the largest and most visible space within most homes.  Homeowners willingly pay thousands of dollars for a nice looking front entry, yet the garage door is used more frequently and takes up substantially more of the visual exposure of the home.  More than half (50%) of Americans want garages their neighbors envy (Impulse Research/Rust Oleum). 

3. Disorganized – Garages are often the most cluttered and embarrassing area of a home. If the rest of the home is neat and clean, what impression does a disorganized garage leave as the only space regularly visible to neighbors and passerby’s.  Surveys of the market reveal that:  

  • One-quarter (24%) of all homeowners are embarrassed to leave their garage doors open (Impulse Research/Rust Oleum);
  • One-half (50%) of homeowners said the garage is the messiest room in the homes (Harris Interactive);
  • Twenty-eight percent (28%) of consumers would like their garage to be better organized (Harris Interactive);
  • In a survey of 1,500 recent homebuyers by John Schleimer, a housing-market analyst based in Roseville, Calif., many people cited a cramped garage as one of their previous home’s biggest flaws and said they moved partly to get more garage space.

4. High Use Area – The garage is often the starting and stopping point for many activities and is the main entrance for most homeowners. A functional garage can have a positive impact upon the daily lives of homeowners. 

5. Home Investment – Having fixed every other room in the house, the garage is the final frontier in home re-design.  Homeowners are increasingly learning that an attractive garage can increase a home’s value: 

  • Seventy-four (74%) of homebuyers ranked the garage as the single most important amenity in a home (Century 21);
  • Eighty-two percent (82%) of homebuyers said that the garage would be one of the factors in their decision to move when looking for a new home/Ninety-one percent (91%) of homebuyers say they’re more likely to buy a home if the garage is clean and well maintained (Rust-Oleum).

6. Willingness Among Homeowners to Make an Investment – Surveys of the market reveal that the garage is the area of the home where homeowners need the most help with organization, ranking above the closet and even the kitchen. 

  • More than 50% of consumers plan to reorganize their garage within the next two years (Peachtree Consulting Survey);
  • In a survey conducted by Shugoll Research two out of three homeowners, say their garage needs significant to moderate improvement and twenty-eight% (28%) indicated that they like their garage space to be better organized;
  • A survey by Inspired House Magazine confirmed that the garage is the area of the home where homeowners need the most help.

7. Return on Investment per Square Foot – Builders and architects estimate that remodeling the garage costs between $25 and $100 a square foot (Garage: Reinventing the Place We Park by Kira Obolensky).  Remodeling the inside of a home starts at about $100 a square foot.

Growing consumer interest and demand is creating new companies everyday that are developing new products, services and solutions to help organize and furnish the home garage.  Finally, the garage is getting the respect it deserves.

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