At AR-BE, we get excited about garages. You might even call us garage nerds. But that’s our job – we get excited about a space in your home that you probably don’t give much thought to, even though you probably use it just as much or more than any other room in your house. So we thought we’d compile a list of our favorite alternative uses for your garage in the hopes that they might spark your enthusiasm about the potential your garage has.
You don’t need much room to make your own home gym so even if you only have half of the garage, get it set up to pump some iron. First, you’ll want to lay down some cheap carpeting to insulate the floor and give it a little cushion. Now set up your stuff. Whether you have one of those big all-in-one weight lifting machines, a treadmill, or nothing at all, you can still have an at-home gym. Make spots to do push-ups and sit-ups. Use a step stool or sturdy box to do step workouts. A cheap yoga mat can give you tons of options and with a little creativity, you can make just about anything you need to get a good workout. Don’t believe me? Check out this guide to making everything you need for a home gym, including cardio machines! And don’t forget the tunes. You can always use your earbuds and your playlist on your phone, but if you want to be able to still hear what’s going on around you (always a good safety idea), get small speakers for your playlist (some even connect via bluetooth) and blast that music while you sweat it out. All of this: right in the comfort of your own home – and without that pesky membership fee!
Tired of working on the couch or in bed? Your garage might be the perfect space to set up an in-home office. A large folding table can be your desk and a rolling chair will glide over the concrete floor of your garage. Keep important files in lockable metal filing cabinets and get plastic bins for office supplies. Make sure you can get internet access in your garage – if not, refigure your wireless router set up or get a booster to increase the power of the wireless signal. A laptop can be easily transported into the workspace when you need it and back out with you, but an adequately secured and heated garage can also house a desktop with no problem (ask us how to secure and heat your garage!). If you’re still tethered to a landline, it’s pretty easy to extend the phone line to the garage, or simply make sure you can use your cell when you need to. The best part of a home office in your garage, especially if you frequently work from home, is that you really feel like it’s separate from your house: you’re “going to work” and can separate your work life and home life – without the stress and hassle of a commute!
A Halloween Haunted House
Even if you can’t give up all or part of your garage year round, this is one fun alternative garage use you might want to consider, especially if you live in a neighborhood with lots of kids. I have to admit: I stole this idea from my grandparents. Their annual Halloween haunted house was the envy of the neighborhood. Hang opened up black garbage bags or black plastic tarps from the ceiling to create a winding and dark maze through your garage. Add black lights in a few places to throw a scary glow. Up your typical Halloween décor and DIY scary. A laminated scan of your face, life-sized, stuck in a jar and filled with water looks like a head-in-a-jar. Trace adults and kids silhouettes in scary poses on paper, attach cut-out silhouettes to the back of the black plastic walls, and give it back lighting for a scary scene. Pop plastic doll heads over the tops of electric candles for a chorus of spooking glowing heads. Grab a box of trash bags and some duct tape and create a body-in-a-bag. Put the bag body in a clear bag, add some securing strips of tape, and hang your disposed of body from the rafters – or make it fall down in front of unsuspecting visitors! Don’t forget to recruit a few friends to don scary masks and jump out from around corners. Need more DIY-in-your-garage Halloween ideas? Check out this list of scary, cute, fun, and clever DIY Halloween ideas. At the end, give out candy or do what my Grandma did – bake fresh cookies and have hot apple cider (plus a little extra something for the adults). You’ll be Halloween party central for the whole neighborhood!
Open a Pet Shelter
You’ll have to check your local codes on this one, as many places limit the number of animals you can have in any one house, but one industrious Chicago area couple used their (heated!) garage to help dogs and cats in need of rescuing. You’ve got to love this alternative garage idea! Lulu’s Locker Rescue saves elderly cats and dogs and black cats and dogs, who are the most likely to be abandoned and the last to be adopted, and finds them loving foster- and forever homes. The owners of Lulu’s started by outfitting their heated garage with separate spaces for doggies and kitties. Both areas had carpet to insulate the cold concrete floor from sensitive paws. The cat area featured plenty of cat trees and climbing, leaping, and lounging spaces at all levels. A separate area for litter and, on the other end, mealtime, made caring for the kitties a breeze. The dogs lounged on padded beds and an old couch and had plenty of place for chew toys and impromptu Puppy-Bowl competitions. Of course, there was always plenty of water and munchies available for these lucky pups. What furry friend could ask for more?
The garage is a perfect place for a craft room because you can design it to fit your particular needs. Hang shelves to hold supplies and get a long folding table and a folding chair or two. Make it homey by using a fun tablecloth and an old carpet on the floor. If you like to sew or knit, get a big comfy chair to sit in and make sure you’ve got adequate lighting so you don’t strain your eyes. Need entertainment while you craft? Luckily most garages have electrical outlets so putting in a TV or radio isn’t a problem. Organizing systems and clear, stackable bins can hold all your craft tools and you’ll have plenty of space to spread out without ever having to clean up the kitchen table before dinner. If your crafting involves paint or anything messy, get a throw-cloth that can permanently sit under your painting area and get an old coat rack so your smock can stay in the garage, too. Clear jars with screw tops are great for small craft materials like beads while a short piece of PVC or even a shower rod can hold roles of tape and ribbon. If you do anything with painting or glue that involves harmful fumes, make sure you allow for airing out your work space – garages, especially insulated ones – are not the most airy places. Your garage can even be a great place for a pottery kiln. The possibilities of your crafting garage are practically endless!
Whether you’re hosting a book club or an insurgent political action group, your garage can be a great place to host a meeting. For a regular meeting, get a carpet or rug and a bunch of comfy chairs and/or old couches and place them in a close circle to facilitate discussion. Make sure you have good lighting to read handouts and take notes. If the meetings will be more formal, get a table and chairs. Best case scenario – make space for both! Then think about what else your group will need. Do you enjoy glasses of wine and light snacks during your meeting? Then add little side tables and maybe even a mini-fridge or wine rack. Will you be making posters and signs together? Then get the supplies you need and keep them handy. Old paint cans can hold markers and wire racks can house poster board and sheets of paper. Make it a place where your group and your passion can flourish.
Need some extra space where junior can get a little crazy? A garage can be the perfect make-shift playroom. Of course, you’ll want to make sure anything dangerous is out of arm’s reach and you won’t want to leave little ones unattended, but especially during the cold Chicago winters, a small indoor playground is worth a million bucks. First, lay down some cheap but cushy carpet or a play-mat designed to cushion hard surfaces. Then, tailor to your kid(s) age(s) and interests. Separate areas for different activities can make this playroom the envy of the neighborhood. A kid-sized table and chairs can be set up next to art and craft supplies on shelves and in plastic bins. Legos, blocks, and other building toys need a firm surface so instead of using the concrete floor (which can be cold year round), put a large piece of plywood (sand the sides down first so there’s no splinters!) over a part of the carpeted area and have bins of building toys right there. One of the best parts of a playroom in the garage is there aren’t any windows or knick-knacks to break so it’s ok for younger kids to throw and kick softer rubber balls (be careful, though – harder balls or stronger kids can still damage garage doors!). You can even toss a few comfy beanbags and pillows together next to a small bookshelf for their very own reading space. Especially if you don’t have a basement that kids can play in, a garage playroom can be a winter lifesaver for active little bodies (and mom and dad!).
It’s not a “man cave” – because plenty of gals like to watch sports too, right?! But seriously, whatever you want to call it and whoever wants to use it, a sports room can be a great addition to a home for big sports fans. First, a big screen TV that is hooked up to cable or satellite is pretty much a must so you can watch all the big games of today – and yesterday! Next priority: comfy seating. Old couches and loungers are probably the best, but for a low-budget option, use the same folding lawn chairs you use for tailgating. Final absolute priority: snack access. Whether you get a mini fridge (or hey, full sized is cool too) and stock it with beverages or just have a cooler or two that you fill with ice on game days, make it easy to get to your brews. Going inside to get a drink means you might miss a play – so keep stuff handy. Side tables are also important so game watchers have places to set drinks and snacks when its time to cheer. And if you really want to up your sports-watching room game, decorate with your favorite team’s memorabilia. Banners, flags, and posters really set the scene. If you’re one of those people that shifts right from baseball to football to basketball, all the while keeping tabs on the hockey games, dedicate a section of the three walls (not the garage door itself) to each sport. One last tip: keep in mind that a concrete floor is a tough competitor for glass bottle and cups. Get plastic – preferably in your teams colors.
We hope these ideas will inspire you – even if your garage remains the home of your cars, maybe one of these ideas gave you an idea about a new activity or way to decorate your home. If you need to spruce up your garage, give us a call. Whether its making sure your garage stays warm and toasty or beautify the look of your home façade with a new garage door, we can help you make the best of your garage.