Many homeowners would never let sports gear, tools and yard equipment clutter up the front hall where it's the first things guests see.
But they're willing to wend their own way into the house through a garage stuffed with those things, plus patio furniture, bikes, holiday decorations and more, says Todd Carter of Tailored Living featuring Premier Garage, in Reston, Virginia.
The company focuses on renovating and improving garages, and that's a hot area in home renovation, experts say. From cabinetry and shelving to flooring and overhead storage, there are many new ways to turn a garage into an organized and attractive space for storage, entertaining or working out.
The trend has been made possible by today's larger garages.
"The sky's the limit," said Greg Parsons, owner of Motor City Garages in Clarkston, Michigan. "It's all based on the homeowner's stuff."
He routinely outfits garages with high-end, scratch-resistant cabinetry, sinks and epoxy flooring — an easy-to-clean coating that comes in numerous colors and finishes. He recently added a line of cabinetry that lets buyers customize the color to match their car.
Some homeowners end up adding televisions and seating, Parsons said.
Jeff and Linda Marsack of Macomb, Michigan, hired Parsons to organize their two-car garage. They added cabinets to store shoes, sporting equipment and tools. She chose red cabinets to match their kitchen.
"Every time you open your garage, you really do smile because it's so organized," she said. "Who doesn't love an organized space?"
Susan Rhodes of Tempe, Arizona, purged a lot of items from her garage, added nice flooring and cabinetry, and created a work bench near a window where she can do crafts or pot flowers. The space is so tidy that when temperatures dropped over Christmas, she moved tables from the patio into the garage for dining.
"It was just perfect," she said. "It's good to know, it's not just for cars and gardening."
Professional organizer Melanie Dennis gets many calls from homeowners who want to redo their garage because it's too cluttered to fit a car.
"It's a combination of people not wanting to get rid of their stuff and having access to buy things 24/7 and have it delivered to their house," said Dennis, owner of Neat Streak in Columbus, Ohio.
Families today have more stuff than previous generations did, she said. They decorate for more holidays, have dishes that they only use on special dinners, and hang onto photos and sentimental items with the intent of making scrapbooks, she said.
Bill McDonough, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for M/I Homes, a Columbus-based home builder, agrees.
"The big trend has one word, and that is 'storage,'" he said. "People of all ages have an increasing amount of stuff."
Customers increasingly ask for three-car garages or bump-outs that extend the garage's length or width, McDonough said.
The National Association of Homebuilders found that 23 percent of new homes built in 2014 had three or more garage bays. In 1994, only 13 percent of new homes had garages that large, according to the Washington-based organization.
Storage products for the garage include wall-mounted panels with slots that can hold everything from pliers to bikes to motorized lifts for hanging golf bags and kayaks. There's cabinetry designed specifically to hold power tools.
Garage renovations are also a popular do-it-yourself project, said Jason Arigoni, field divisional merchandizing manager for Home Depot's Southern Division.
"I'm definitely seeing more interest in the garage," he said. "It often starts with function and then jumps into fun."
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