Candice's Design Tips: Garage Transformations

In episode four, the Design Stars transform garages into comfortable family rooms. See what Candice says they did right, did wrong and how she could have done it better.

Light Blue Garage Makeover with Neutral Furniture

Add Unexpected Touches to Garage Makeover

Add Something Unexpected

A garage makeover challenge like this is not so far fetched. Increasingly, homeowners are asking more and more of their homes — to reclaim previously wasted or underutilized spaces like attics, storage rooms, closets, garden sheds and garages so that every last square inch of their homes is working for them. As a designer I love these out-of-the-ordinary projects; they really require you to think outside the box. With that in mind I think this garage suffers from an overabundance of predictability; predictable furniture has been predictably arranged, from the media unit to the desk vignette. The only element that wasn’t bought and plopped is the under-scaled chair rail and beadboard detail that you probably didn’t notice because it gets lost when not highlighted with more contrasting color. I do commend this team on the sand-, sea- and sky-inspired palette and balance of natural materials that lends itself to a casual, yet elegant, seaside inspired retreat.

A puny chair rail in a space with a low ceiling only serves to cut the space in half. A fat plate-rail trim at 78" above the floor with 6" wide, rustic, whitewashed fence boards below and robin’s egg blue painted above, would really drive home the casual beach vibe and not dissect the height of this room.

An unexpected space cries out for something unexpected. A swinging wicker egg chair or big breezy hammock suspended from the open rafters would have been just that and gone perfectly with this team’s concept.

Yellow Living Room with Flower Painted on Wall

Living Room is Brightened by Handpainted Flower

Have a Floor Plan

I am fifty-fifty on this space. I can appreciate that the layout has been planned to offer this homeowner many functions — media, lounge, bar, possibly a desk area — but I think this could have been achieved without building a platform to define these functions. The platform makes a low ceiling even lower — the homeowner even hit their head on the ceiling during the reveal. Ouch! It also takes up so much of the space that there is no room for seating across from the sofa; that’s important for when TV is not the focal point.

I also like the idea of incorporating the TV into a built-in structure that has multiple uses. However, as much as the stained wood wall is striking it seems its sole purpose is for the TV (and maybe a plant as shown), which, frankly, seems a bit indulgent. I’m sure this team means for this TV bench to be additional seating across from the sofa but unless the area is propped this way, the homeowner and the viewers are left guessing. An open area under the bench for storage baskets; a long, low floating shelf above the TV for display; a few flat seat cushions and throw pillows to create comfortable bench seating — all would have rounded out and completed what started out as a very good idea.

Back to the platform. I know it also serves to disguise a very bad concrete floor, but so can leveling compound or at the very least a very thick underpad and area carpet. When you are faced with major site problems and limited time you really have to ask, “How can I make the most of a very bad situation with what I have, within my budget and on the clock?” Sure, we want to make everything perfect, but sometimes it’s unrealistic. If this were truly the problem area of the space, here’s a plan that might have saved time, energy and money: Scrap the back bar area with the bar fridge and let the wall graphic be the story here. This allows room for the sofa to be pulled back over the damaged concrete and for the legs of the sofa to be leveled rather then the entire floor; it also would allow for a more conversational grouping of a few chairs in front of the sofa. Finally, build a longer sofa console spanning to the back wall and work the bar fridge in here. Just a little shifting of this layout may have been the ticket to a really great room.

I also think this back wall falls short on impact. I love the wispy sheers but the impact is lost in front of the yellow wall. Imagine if the brilliant blue in the wall mural was behind the sheers for a dreamy sky effect that would also have given the rather random floral graphic a bit more visual meaning. Personally, since this space is windowless (no new garage doors here!), I would have installed a wall of peel-and-stick mirrored panels behind the sheers. Instead of Moroccan mirrors I would have chosen illuminated lanterns hung at varying heights to span the wall. The light reflected in the sheers-covered mirror would create the illusion of depth in this square box space and add some much needed light.

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