S ince the dawn of the 21st century, the wow factor of a house has centered on the trophy kitchen: a temple of polished stone counters, party-size islands and top-of-the-line appliances.
But that’s all gotten a bit boring. A new status symbol is zooming onto the domestic landscape: the luxury garage. High-performance Italian cars, after all, are much sexier than high-performance Italian dishwashers.
The latest space to transform from utilitarian to cool, garages are where Americans store some of their most precious, and most expensive, toys. The lowly garage is increasingly being blinged. In 2015, owners of single-family detached homes spent $3.2 billion adding garages, according to an analysis of the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the National Association of Home Builders.
Despite urban millennials’ purported distaste for collecting and the rise of ride-hailing, Americans haven’t given up their love of cars. Garages (and Bugattis) of the stars are catnip on blogs, TV and social media: Jay Leno, 50 Cent, Ralph Lauren and Britney Spears are just a few who have shared theirs.
The rich (but not famous) also have jumped on the bandwagon, with tricked-out warehouses, second-homes-as-garages and car compounds.
Short on space? Technology and creativity — and of course cash — can still open doors. “More and more people are interested in urban vs. rural homes, and this presents a challenge if you want to have your cars at your house and you don’t have 40 acres,” says Jonathan Klinger, a spokesman for Hagerty, an insurer of collector cars. And that desire is feeding an industry of space-saving, high-tech lifts, organization systems and even auto elevators that industry experts expect to continue growing as more Americans move to cities and suburbs.
The average-looking two-car garage of the future? It could be hiding three, four or more prestige autos, when it’s not doubling as a cocktail lounge or basketball court.
“If you look at a Ferrari as the equivalent of a Picasso, why would you want to keep it across town and have to go and see it or, worse, have a valet bring it for you?” says Sam Smith, editor at large for Road & Track. “So much of this is spontaneity. ... You’re going to see more people turning those spaces into a more welcoming and usable chunk of their house.”
Take Natalie Adams of Oakland Park, Fla. Adams, 41, who started collecting JDM (Japanese domestic market) Hondas after spotting “the cutest car I had ever seen in my life.” She turned a one-story, 1950s warehouse into a combination home/garage and, using car lifts, keeps six of her favorite JDMs inside the 1,200-square-foot space; that’s about 60 percent garage and 40 percent living space. “I don’t have a fancy kitchen,” says Adams, an accountant. “I have a fancy garage.” She actually thinks she made the kitchen too large in her renovation, adding: “I think I will probably shrink its layout so I can get two more cars inside where my kitchen sink and wall cabinets are now.”
Before buying the warehouse, Adams had lived in a 300-square-foot condo with her Chihuahua and rented space in a self-storage facility for her cars, but it was broken into twice. “I needed to upgrade my housing and get the Honda collection safer,” Adams says. It took her five years to find the perfect space.