Grand garage: A grungy space gets a lush upgrade

There’s something extremely clever about creating a space with dual functionality: a place to entertain and park a car. Photo: Kip Dawkins There’s something extremely clever about creating a space with dual functionality: a place to entertain and park a car. Photo: Kip Dawkins

A garage is often a dank, dusty place, cluttered and cobwebby, smelling of gasoline and grass clippings. It’s the last place most homeowners would choose to create a bright, inviting space that could host, say, a wedding party—but a Farmington couple did that and more, with a contemporary renovation of their three-car garage, an addition to their 1942 Marshall Wells-designed home.

Not everyone was on board with the idea at first. “The builder and the architect thought it was crazy,” the homeowner says. “But they’ve since converted to the concept that we don’t have to waste these spaces; they can be functional.”

Kathy Heiner, founder and principal of Charlottesville’s klh designs, elevated that notion with sleek, stylish choices that turned the garage into an unexpectedly pleasant place to hang out, even though it’s still also used for parking. “The homeowners entertain quite a bit, and they wanted extra space for staging and catering,” Heiner says. “It’s really designed to be able to have a party out there.”

Cladding the walls and ceiling with reclaimed wood conveys both hominess and utilitarianism. Photo: Kip Dawkins

Three sets of double carriage doors open onto a brick and bluestone patio, which allows access to the gardens and pool, and affords an expansive view of rolling hills and distant mountains. Inside, reclaimed granary oak from Ruckersville’s Mountain Lumber frames the space, with planks installed horizontally on the walls and wrapped across the ceiling.  “My idea was that it would feel more like a barn than a garage,” the homeowner says.

That theme carries through with sliding panels with top-mounted barn-door hardware to conceal storage areas, while farmhouse industrial pendants with wide metal shades provide plenty of light. The sealed concrete floor reflects the paneling with a warm glow.

A key party-ready feature is the built-in stainless steel refrigerator/freezer; its glass-paneled doors and interior lighting make it as pretty as it is practical. Tall, generously proportioned cabinets—designed by Lori Randle of Dovetail Design & Cabinetry, of Charlottesville and Staunton—surround the fridge and hold supplies for any spur-of-the-moment occasion. The cabinets, garage doors, and countertop components are painted Charleston Green, which Heiner describes as nine parts black and one green. “We really wanted those elements to mostly disappear, while in the sunlight, a nice hint of that green remains,” she says.

A garage, with sunlight? In this case it streams in through windows in the carriage doors. “That’s made all the difference in here,” the homeowner says. “It’s really nice to be inside and to see up the hill toward the mountains.” A wall-mounted electric heating and air conditioning unit keeps the room comfortable year-round.

The project wrapped up just in time for the owners’ daughter’s wedding, and the rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch both utilized the space. “We’re already thinking ahead to having our 40th wedding anniversary party here,” said the homeowner.

At this rate, the cars, including a classic Mercedes-Benz, may just have to find another place to stay.

There’s something extremely clever about creating a space with dual functionality: a place to entertain and to park a car. Cladding the walls and ceiling with bright, reclaimed wood conveys both hominess and utilitarianism.

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