Rethink the garage

Add flexibility and functional style with smart strategies for storage
Mary Jo Bowling

When the house starts feeling cramped, it's time for the garage to multitask. Homeowner and interior designer David Rivera packed his garage with multiple functions to free up space in his home. "It's really the place where our family enters the house, so why shouldn't it look nice?" he says.

Rivera's family includes two sports-loving boys with a plethora of equipment ― balls, gloves, bats, and more. Using parts of an Elfa modular system (The Container Store), he designed a storage wall that works like a super-size gym locker. Each metal shelf corresponds to a specific sport. "When we're leaving for a game, we can quickly grab the equipment we need," Rivera says.

Flanking the shelves are deep storage cabinets ― one for bulk items, the other for seasonal gear such as Christmas decorations and beach and lawn equipment. "This gives us more space in the kitchen and closets for the things we use every day," Rivera says.

With a custom-designed coat rack over a bench and a wall-mounted message board, one corner of the garage acts as a mudroom for removing wet coats and muddy boots and leaving notes.

The wall adjacent to the house serves as the laundry room, with an undercounter washer and dryer, overhead cabinets for detergent and craft supplies, and a wine and beverages cooler. It's clear that the car has learned to share.

Set up a great garage

It's all about thinking through activities and functions.

Plan for storage: "If you know what and how much you want to put away, you can make room for it," David Rivera says. "If you add generic storage without thinking, you may not be able to fit everything in."

Select durable materials: In a small space with lots of activity, every surface needs to stand up to wear and tear. For his garage, Rivera chose laminates and stainless steel.

Install good lighting: Doing laundry, working on projects, or looking for sports equipment in a dim room is difficult. Rivera chose an adjustable track lighting system and undercabinet lights for the garage. He found track lights (Halo) that wouldn't get in the way of the garage door.

Use wall space: Rivera maximized storage by using walls as well as floor space (such as wall-mounted racks for bicycles).

Choose a color palette: Rivera selected a light, medium, and dark shade of gray for his space, painting two walls in medium gray and a third wall in the darker shade for interest.