A Smart Garage Conversion

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By Mar Jennings

I'm a master at maximizing space potential. Whether it  be a closet, family room or garage I'll come up with resourceful ways to make the space functional and beautiful while being smart about the plan.

If you're interested in renovating your garage into a space for other uses, you're well on your way to spending big bucks. Just remember that once you convert your garage to a non-car-storage space you've lost some value to your home. Unless you plan on building another garage, you might want to talk to a realtor about your choice.

My garage conversion allowed the space to be used for a car by a future owner. My original design several years ago turned the garage into storage space for my car and garden tools. This dual-purpose functionality served a short yet meaningful life as I quickly learned I had bigger, better plans for the space.

My “garden studio,” with its original design as a garage, has become a four-season space. In the spring it’s a work place to plan out and log the latest additions to the garden. During the summer, it becomes a bar for my garden parties. In the fall it’s the perfect place to read or write in an open, yet sheltered outdoorsy space. Come winter, it protects my large containers from the frost.

Regardless of what time of year it is, the garden studio serves as a place to create something fabulous. Once I'm in this space I feel inspired to create something special, enjoying my alternative to a man cave.

Why should you consider something similar? Today a garage transformation can be an easy, affordable project that will add much needed workspace to a home. With the foundation, walls and roof already in place, the garage is quickly becoming the "bonus" room.

A well-planned garage conversion should begin with a careful assessment of the space. A budget should be outlined. During construction I had mine insulated, wired for TV, cable, Internet and a phone. It was
finished with drywall, base molding and a Dutch door.

But if all you have is a dry garage, you’re already in good shape.

I began by removing everything inside. Now I had an open 10-foot by 16-foot space that I could paint. I chose cool green for the walls. Choosing a color is a personal choice, but I defer to a natural, less shocking color that embraces the outdoors. It creates a more cohesive flow with nature; after all, that garage door will be open most of the time, so it shouldn't be a stark contrast to the colors of the garden.

Most typical garages sit on a poured concrete slab that slopes toward the door. To counteract that, my local Ace hardware store provided me with floor protectors that I put on two of the four legs of the butcher block island so it was level. I did this with the desk as well.  Regardless of level or unlevel flooring, the look of plain concrete cannot be endured. Paint once again comes in handy. I drew a checkerboard black and white pattern on the floor and filled it in with a high-gloss oil base paint. I added several layers of a clear varnish to seal it.
I reused and recycled many things rather than buying from scratch. On the back wall I installed much-needed shelves. I did purchase these as it was hard to find exactly the right dimensions.

The biggest concern regarding most garage conversions is what to do about the garage door. Rather than incurring the expense of replacing it with a wall and door, I used the existing door hardware to house a classic carriage door. Even on rainy days I can enjoy the garden by working in the studio with the door open. But in winter the door provides a tight seal.

Friends' and family members’ attics and garages were wonderful resources for unwanted furniture. In one trip I found my island, my table and writing desk and my grandmothers' kitchen cabinet.

Mar Jennings is a lifestyle expert for CT1 Media and the host of Northeast Living on Fox CT. www.marjennings.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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