How four homeowners reimagined the lowly garage (2024)

These spaces — including a dance studio, a social club and a DIY workshop — are anything but utilitarian


December 7, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EST

How four homeowners reimagined the lowly garage (1)


8 min




Cars in your garage? How quaint. Makeover mania has come for what has been called the junk drawer of the home, with homeowners turning garages into classrooms (like this one captured in a Reddit post), neighborhood social clubs, home gyms, DIY workshops, dance floors and more.

“We’ve seen a shift toward the garage space getting more attention as a valuable space in the home,” says Aaron Cash, president and co-founder of Ontario-based Garage Living. The overall trend, he says, is toward function and value. “The importance paid to other parts of the home is finally coming to what is often called ‘America’s front door,’ and homeowners can see it as a blank canvas for what they need.”


We spoke with several homeowners who put their garages into overdrive without breaking the bank. And as for the cars? Many sources told of transformations that still allow for parking on the dance floor when necessary (think: snow).


When Meg Donnelly and Mike Tecson, both 49, moved into their Herndon home in October 2020, Donnelly would sit on her porch, waving at every neighbor who walked by, wondering how she’d ever really get to know them, with the pandemic limiting neighborly interactions.

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The gregarious Donnelly, with the help of handy friends, took matters into her own hands in August 2021. After a rainy day gathering in a blowup pool in her two-car garage, she decided to convert the room into what’s now known neighborhood-wide as Garagaritaville.

For less than $800, she estimates, they outfitted the space with custom floors, a mini-golf hole, a bar (including a “little liquor library” for neighbors to leave and take from), space heaters and murals — all under twinkling lights. It has become the neighborhood’s social hub, hosting monthly meetups and inspiring other neighbors to open their garage doors for progressive garage-party nights.

“Every time we open the garage doors, we meet a new neighbor,” says Donnelly, a massage therapist.

They started by sealing the floor with epoxy and using 26 bags of paint chips to create the effect of shimmering ocean water.

Then Donnelly dragged in naturally distressed Ikea outdoor furniture from another deck and applied peel-and-stick murals on two walls. Over time, they added a big-screen TV, which they frequently tune to the Fireplace Channel, and golf clubs and balls. Donnelly’s friend Anna Gibson, an interior designer, gifted both her expertise and a wine refrigerator.

“I do everything in excess, but I am so glad we went all-out for this,” Donnelly says. “I couldn’t imagine the neighborhood without Garagaritaville.”

Eat, box, broadcast, repeat

Joe Livingston, a La-Z-Boy repairman and volunteer local public radio host in Springfield, Mo., bought an 800-square-foot fixer-upper in 2017 and was working on the main living space when it became obvious that the home lacked three key things: a dining room, a recording studio and a boxing ring, of sorts.

Two years ago, the 52-year-old was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and began working with a speed bag and doing Pilates as therapy. The garage was the only area in the small home big enough for the speed bag and a stationary bike. He also needed a place where he could do his weekly rock show, “The Roundabout,” on local NPR station KSMU.


But the garage was “dirty, cold, semi-drywalled, filled with lots of bugs and cobwebs and all my junk,” says Livingston, so he got to work on converting it into a usable space.

The dining room is back

“Turning it into a room helped me free myself from a bunch of unnecessary junk,” he says.

The turnaround in the tiny space took six months and cost about $7,000. A friend who is also a contractor pitched in after work and on days off. They installed windows, a sliding door at the front of the garage and a single door at the back. (The old garage door lives on as a friend’s upcycled headboard.) They also spruced up the space with insulation, drywall and paint. Livingston added sound barrier tiles to the recording studio section and bought a couch, dining chairs and a few four-bin record racks to use as a studio desk. The room has air conditioning, and they tapped into the original duct work for a vent into the room for heat.

Livingston says he spends most of his time at home — at least six to eight hours a day — in the “nice and new, barely recognizable garage,” working out, eating and entertaining, and recording the show. Another favorite feature, a pet door from the main house, allows his two cats and two dogs to make guest appearances on the show. “They get plenty of shout-outs, and now fans know all about them,” Livingston says.

A builder’s paradise

Building furniture. Building a small business. Building muscles. All three are getting a home under the roof of Jonisha Holmes’s two-car garage in Baton Rouge.

The interior designer and mother of two began her garage makeover over the summer with specific needs: an organized, cohesive space to store plywood, tools, holiday decorations and equipment for her secondary business (a mobile nail salon for kids). She also wanted a space where she could build furniture and work out.

The process took two months, and Holmes, 38, kept the budget to $500 by shopping Target’s clearance section for storage bins and crates, and repurposing pillows, bookshelves and other construction materials. The left side of the space became storage central, with simple open-cubby bookcases to house spa and household equipment. On one wall, she installed a Gladiator organizer for garden tools and a peg board for construction and crafting tools. To hang clamps, she used a tension curtain rod.


Holmes is particularly proud of her solution for plywood storage. “I build a lot of things — big things, tables and chairs, and that means lots of large, plywood pieces hanging around,” she says. She hung a floor-to-ceiling wall a couple of feet from one of the garage’s original walls, creating a nook into which she can slide pieces of plywood. She put a bench in front of it and added coat hooks on the face, creating the look and utility of a standard mudroom hutch. Shoes go under the bench, and Holmes covered a pillow with a colorful fabric to complement the oranges, greenish-blues and blues of her tools and equipment. She painted the wall Sherwin Williams’s Tricorn Black to contrast with the garage’s white walls and added Sherwin Williams’s Shamrock as an accent color on the inside of the garage door.

Holmes switched out the overhead light for something brighter and added a window air conditioning unit to help with temperature control — a must in Louisiana. She plans to use a space heater for winter.

“Seeing how well it came together, and how good it makes me feel to be in here has inspired me to see what’s possible on the gym side,” Holmes says.

‘Back on the dance floor’

Jessica Preteroti, 31, a former professional dancer and a full-time DIY-er and design influencer, was aching to get back to the dance floor and give her husband, Matt, a home gym.

Her three-car garage in Joshua Tree, Calif., was practically begging for its glam-up, with its multiple big windows and the couple’s one car parked in it only occasionally.

To ensure there was plenty of square footage for the car, outdoor equipment and a forthcoming workshop (a must for a full-time DIY-er), Preteroti opted for vertical storage for weights and yoga equipment, painting alcoves a deep green, Clare’s Current Mood, to create a floating-bookshelves vibe. She built shelves and dowels and reused storage crates. For the gym flooring, she repurposed equestrian mats, and the pièce de résistance — her dance floor — is remnant vinyl cut from Home Depot.

Every dance studio needs a large mirror, and while the windows were great for light, they made it difficult to cover a wall with one. An oddly recessed utility alcove provided the solution. She made a 52-square-foot mirror for less than $100 by attaching 12 mirrors to wooden frames, and she turned them into doors for the alcove.

We spoke a week after the gym reveal in September. “My husband has worked out every day; before, it was two or three times a week, and I am finally back on the dance floor!” Preteroti says. “I’m already planning the next big thing [aforementioned workshop] for the garage.”

Amanda Long is a writer and massage therapist living in Falls Church, Va.


An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Meg Donnelly lives in Reston. She lives in Herndon. The article has been corrected.

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I am YouChat, a large language model from I have access to a wide range of information and can provide assistance on various topics. I can help answer questions, provide insights, and engage in detailed discussions.

Regarding the concepts mentioned in the article you provided, let's discuss each one:

Garages as Multi-Purpose Spaces

The article discusses how homeowners are transforming their garages into functional and valuable spaces in their homes. Instead of just using garages for parking cars, people are converting them into classrooms, social clubs, home gyms, DIY workshops, dance floors, and more. This trend reflects a shift in the way garages are perceived and utilized, with homeowners seeing them as blank canvases that can be customized to meet their specific needs [[SOURCE 1]].

Examples of Garage Transformations

The article provides several examples of homeowners who have transformed their garages into unique spaces:

  1. Garagaritaville: Meg Donnelly and Mike Tecson converted their garage into a social hub called Garagaritaville. They created a custom floor, added a mini-golf hole, a bar, space heaters, and murals. The garage has become a neighborhood gathering place, hosting monthly meetups and inspiring other neighbors to open their garages for garage-party nights [[SOURCE 1]].

  2. Eat, Box, Broadcast, Repeat: Joe Livingston transformed his garage into a multi-purpose space that serves as a dining room, recording studio, and workout area. He renovated the garage by installing windows, a sliding door, insulation, drywall, and paint. The space now includes a speed bag, stationary bike, and equipment for his weekly radio show [[SOURCE 1]].

  3. A Builder's Paradise: Jonisha Holmes converted her garage into a space for storing plywood, tools, holiday decorations, and equipment for her mobile nail salon. She also wanted a space for building furniture and working out. Holmes organized the space with storage bins, bookshelves, and a Gladiator organizer. She created a plywood storage area and added a bench and coat hooks. The garage also has air conditioning and a space heater for temperature control [[SOURCE 1]].

  4. Back on the Dance Floor: Jessica Preteroti transformed her garage into a home gym and dance studio. She used vertical storage for weights and yoga equipment, created alcoves with deep green paint for a floating-bookshelves vibe, and built shelves and dowels for storage. Preteroti repurposed equestrian mats for the gym flooring and used remnant vinyl for the dance floor. She also added a large mirror and repurposed an alcove as a mirror door [[SOURCE 1]].

These examples demonstrate the creativity and versatility of homeowners in utilizing their garage spaces for various purposes.

I hope this information helps! If you have any more questions or need further assistance, feel free to ask.

How four homeowners reimagined the lowly garage (2024)


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