After updating their main living spaces and lavishing money on landscaping, homeowners have targeted the garage as the next frontier in remodeling.
As with a lot of homeowners, Nicholas Teetelli’s garage was a disaster, an overstuffed hodgepodge of tools, seasonal supplies and things not yet ready to be tossed out, but no longer essential.
“It looked like I could have been on an episode of ‘Hoarders,’ ” he says. “I kept saying, ‘I need to take care of this.’ ”
But then Teetelli, a fine art photographer, fell for a Tesla, a $120,000 model that, he felt, deserved a home as sleek and up-to-date as the electric vehicle itself. After a weeklong renovation that cost $22,000, his two-car garage is a bright, welcoming paragon of order and efficiency.
“It’s so organized,” he says, beaming. “It’s a breath of fresh air.”
These days, homeowners do not need an excuse like an over-the-top car to redo their garages. After updating kitchens, gilding bathrooms, finishing basements and lavishing money on landscaping, they have targeted the garage as the next frontier in remodeling. Long considered an afterthought — a cold, cluttered point of egress — the garage has emerged as something worthy of turning into a showpiece.
And, increasingly, homeowners willing to spend big are calling in professionals, whether small companies such as Garage Craft Interiors, which renovated Teetelli’s garage, or national franchises such as GarageTek, both part of a thriving industry. Contractors typically install drywall, build custom cabinets, fashion wall-length storage systems and lay down flooring. Some of those floors are even heated and emblazoned with racing stripes or high-end car logos like Porsche’s.
While it’s possible to spruce up a garage for a few thousand dollars, major renovations can exceed $50,000, and a luxe garage, therefore, tends to be the province of the very rich.
Real estate brokers say a finished garage can add value and make an impression on homebuyers. As more garages receive face-lifts, buyers have come to expect a certain level of polish.
“I don’t think you have to take it to the nines, where you have heated floors,” says Libbe Pavony, a real estate agent with Houlihan Lawrence in Briarcliff Manor, New York. “But the garage is a reflection on how you maintain your home in general. Some people take their old kitchen cabinets and attach them to the walls.”
Pavony says heat was increasingly popular. “It’s a nice feature,” she says. “It’s great for hobbyists. If someone does woodworking, the garage isn’t just seasonal, and [a heated garage] can eliminate drafts in your house.”
Some homeowners are making renovations even more ambitious by expanding their garages. As family cars have morphed from station wagons to oversize sport utility vehicles, many garages cannot fit two cars, let alone the other accouterments of suburban living, such as beach chairs and bicycles, snow blowers and sleds. The emergence of shopping clubs like Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club has put still more pressure on garages, with bulk items jockeying for space.
Lauren Hammer, a property manager in New York City, hired a contractor, Peter Glass, to figure out ways to get more space from her tight garage in Briarcliff Manor. He is adding 3 feet of depth and removing the center column, which involved installing a 4,000-pound girder across the ceiling for support.
“My husband and I both drive SUVs, and if you did food shopping, you couldn’t open the trunk and get the groceries out,” Hammer says. “And without the center column, it will be so much easier to open your car door without worrying about nicking it.”
Hammer did not stop there. A marathon runner, she decided to add a “woman cave” along one side of the garage — a fitness room where she can work out and cool down after runs.
“The idea is that I have my own space to stretch and not bring my sweaty things into our house,” she says.
Glass’s company, Meadowbrook Builders, is working on two other home renovations, garages included, within a short walk of the Hammers.
In one project, a couple who recently bought a split-level house wanted a central vacuuming system and a floor sink in the garage so that they could clean out their cars and wash their shoes before entering the house. In the other, a 50-year-old financial adviser doubled the size of his garage and installed two-zone heating for an adjoining work space. He also ordered a hydraulic lift so that he could hoist his prized Porsche and squeeze another car in below. (The lift alone cost $40,000.)
With the ease of keypads to open and close garage doors, homeowners increasingly enter and exit their houses through the garage, Glass said. “Kids don’t carry keys anymore,” he says. “They have the code for the keypad, and if your garage door opens, you know it because you get an alert on your phone. The front door has really become just for guests.”
Glass believes that the constant exposure to the garage has helped propel it to the top of homeowners’ remodeling lists, especially among the affluent, and pushed their investments ever higher.
“The budgets are ridiculous,” he says. “I don’t get it.”