If you are at all like my family, your garage has never stored a car. Ok maaaaybe once. But really it’s a place to store your excess “stuff” and it’s actually kinda a missed opportunity when you think about it. Yes, there are things like seasonal decorations, boxes of family photos, random piles of tools, discarded drum sets, and ALL of the sports gear from seasons’ past that need a place to live (or *cough* be donated). But in a time when home feels like the only true safe zone, separate “zones” are more desired than ever. Maybe it’s a place to escape when you need a little alone time, a separate common area to gather, or an extra room for a family member who just moved in? Guys, your garage could be the answer to your “lack of needed square footage” prayers.
Now as someone who was raised in California and then only lived in major cities where apartment buildings were the only housing options around, I was naive to what people who live with real weather do with their garages. Was transforming a garage only conceivable for people who live in temperate climates?? I obviously didn’t know so I had to expose my lack of knowledge to my go-to midwestern friend, Dan. This was my text:
Question for you from your dumb CA friend. Do people in snowy climates use their garages for car storage during the winter or do they just leave their cars in the driveway?
After apparently laughing for a solid minute (I think Dan is starved for real humor), he graciously answered by saying that it’s a mixed bag. Some people do use their garages for their cars, especially if they have nicer cars that they want to protect from the elements. Otherwise, a lot of people just use their driveways. He also noted that since most homes in snowy/cold climates have basements they act as that “separate space” to get away in. OK DAN, I get it, cold weather people are super cool with their awesome basements. Not. Jealous.
But here in California basements are a rarity and if we want an extra room but not the square footage to add, our garages are the top contender. Now, this post was actually born out of looking at the work of the super talented Shanty Wijaya of Allprace (Yep, the same designer responsible for this home). I noticed that in all of the projects she sent me, she transformed each of those properties’ garages into non-storage, useable spaces. It’s kind of a sneaky, genius signature move. So who better to chat with to get all of the tips and tricks to know how to transform your “catch-all space” into an extra oasis.
Why have you chosen to turn the garages of the houses you flip into rooms that people can use for bedrooms, game rooms, offices, etc.?
“For functionality, healthy lifestyle, additional income potential (via Airbnb/rental income potential), and additional flex spaces. Based on my experience, many LA homeowners opt to have an ADU (for Airbnb/rental income potential) or a rec room instead of a car garage. When designing/building all of our projects, we always strive to add value to the house for the prospective homeowners to enjoy. We also believe in the mental-physical health benefit of indoor-outdoor living. By converting and thoughtfully designing a garage into an ADU, we increase the sqft of the home and the potential rental/Airbnb income to help with the homeowner’s mortgage payment. These add tremendous value to the future homeowner. By converting and thoughtfully designed the garage into a rec room, we add flex space to the house and we normally design and incorporate this space as part of indoor-outdoor living. Also, extra space and sqft with a thoughtful design always add property value.”
ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) has a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, HVAC system and a permit is required. A recreational room (rec room) is an extra space that can be used as a game room, office, etc without bathroom/kitchen and not intended to be used as a bedroom but a permit is also required. - Shanty
What makes you decide to turn a garage into a bedroom vs a fun bar/communal structure?
“They’re many variables to be considered in making that decision. For example, there’s zoning, foundation, the overall design, and the lifestyle concept we aimed to achieve in each of our projects. When converting the garage, we always aim first to convert into ADU.”
Jess here! That makes the most sense since creating an ADU will get you the greatest return… but it does require the most money. Let’s take a look at a couple of Shanty’s projects to see her thought process and chat more.
Project WeHo (West Hollywood for Non Locals:))
Can you give me a quick overview of this project?
“The lot is sloped and small, only 3200sqft, which is the norm in the West Hollywood Norma Triangle neighborhood. We extensively remodeled, added sqft to the main house to become a 1600sqft house, a small heated pool/spa, and converted the dilapidated 1 car garage into a pool house/bar.”
“We decided to convert the 1 car garage into a pool house/bar with a bathroom. It sits next to a newly built small heated pool/spa. The city of West Hollywood allowed the bathroom inside the pool house with the proper permit. This pool house and small grassy courtyard which is facing the driveway created a much-needed separation between the 2 car driveway and the backyard pool area. Cars can also be parked on the street and this gated driveway can be used as a free flow extra entertainment area.”
Jess again. Clearly this was a HUGE job but man was it a transformation with so much thought put into it. I love that they had the idea of making part of the extra-long driveway a potential entertaining space as you enter into the back of the home. And since it would be cruel to not show you the inside, here are some pictures…
That wood ceiling adds SO MUCH texture to what could have easily just been a plain white box.
Another one of Shanty go-to’s that I’ve noticed is she incorporates skylights in almost every bathroom. If you are renovating, you should 100% consider one (Emily is equally a fan). Also, you can’t see but there is a door that goes directly into the bathroom from the pool area. Again, thoughtful design always wins.
For these next two projects, the purpose was to refinish the spaces into rec rooms/possible garages which could be far more DIYable if you are up for it…
“This was not a garage conversion. We just remodeled the existing back structure into a finished garage with polished concrete, ceiling, walls, and replaced the existing doors as well as added in custom-built carriage garage doors. The glass carriage doors provide access for cars to go inside the finished garage when the homeowner chooses to use this space as car garage in the future.”
Here is the “Before”… I KNOW IT’S INSANE.
Shanty also mentioned that in both this and the next project that the idea of indoor/outdoor living was a huge part of the overall design. However, what I love is that this new structures can easily be closed off so if someone needs some alone time it’s not a problem. Quarantine dreams amiright??
Now I had a few more general questions.
For someone who is considering transforming their garage what is your advice? Any must-knows or experiences you’ve learned from?
“Go to the city and check all the requirements and confirm eligibility. For example, but not limited to zoning, parking requirement, property setback, garage foundation, etc.
- For ADU conversion, hire a professional. At the end of the day it will save more time and money than DIY.
- For a rec room and finished garage, you might be able to DIY but first, always do thorough due diligence.
For example, most LA homes are older homes and many older home’s garages don’t have a foundation/proper foundation, and this will add significant cost to the project.”
What is the average price for making a garage into a room?
“It varies depending on existing garage condition, finishes, material, the complexity of the design, etc.
For an ADU: We get many requests from homeowners to build a new ADU building or a garage conversion into ADU (bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, HVAC), and based on our average price all included is around $250/sqft. This includes design, plan, permit, project management, construction, and our finishes.
For a rec room: Plan and permitting are still required but DIY construction is possible depending on how adventurous you are! But again, price is very subjective depending on existing garage conditions, finishes, material, the complexity of the design, whether you DIY or hire professional, etc.”
Sidenote. Do I spy with my little eye a hammock?? The new EHD favorite relaxation decor tool? Yes, yes I do. If you are in the market head here.
What are some ways to save?
“The majority of the budget will be in construction, planning, and the permitting process. For me, to save money, time, and headaches in this project scale is to do a thorough inspection and research. Go to the city and hire the right people who can do all of it.”
Remember our design mistake post: when to hire and when to diy?? Sounds like unless you really know what you are doing, hiring might be the way to go to get your dream garage getaway and not to completely drive yourself (and loved ones) nuts:)
Any products/materials that you’d recommend?
“I love carriage doors for garage conversions for the design purposes, light source and it offers flexibility for car access whenever you want to use it again as the car garage.”
For garage door sourcing, do you have any recommendations where people could look for similar kinds?
“For carriage doors, we always use wood and custom-built them. Any woodworker/carpenter can do it. It’s pretty easy.
For interior doors, go to Home Depot, Lowes, or any door/windows stores. They surprisingly carry countless door styles. Ask for the catalogs of all the door brands they carry. For a unique design, most of them are in the catalog and have to be special order.”
Well, now that we have all of her secrets we should be all set. Just kidding she is VERY good at her job (clearly) and I hope that you’ve learned about a few new things to consider if you are wanting to throw out most of that garage junk and have another room to call dibs on.
But I HAVE TO know. Do you agree with Dan? Are garages used as much in say, Ohio (Dan’s homeland), as they are in California? If you live in a cold climate would you consider making your garage another room to hang out in or is your basement (if you have one) all the extra space you need? Have you tried to DIY your garage with success and have more hot tips for us? Let’s talk in the comments!
Love you, mean it.
Designs by Shanty Wijaya of Allprace Properties
Photos of first home by Jessica Alexander
Photos of Project WeHo by Virtually Here Studios
Photos of Project Cimarron and Project Baywood by Tessa Neustadt