Gordon Lindsay runs a construction company that specializes in oil refineries and water treatment plants. Earlier this year, when the 49-year-old went searching for a new head office, he had only two conditions: location (his hometown of Kelowna, B.C.) and view (spectacular). “I wanted something with beautiful scenery, but all the commercial space that was left had nothing,” he says. “And then one day I was in my garage, I looked out the back window, and I thought: ‘Holy s–t. There’s the perfect view!’ ”
Today, Lindsay’s two-car garage is the revamped envy of all men. His new wooden desk, L-shaped, overlooks that Okanagan vista, and the custom-made filing cabinets are painted the same shade of bright red as his beloved Porsche Carrera—which, of course, is now part of the “office” decor. His one-of-a-kind headquarters also sports a fireplace and a big-screen television. “It’s cozy and it’s quiet,” says Lindsay, the father of four. “It’s my own little hideaway.”
For husbands everywhere, the garage has always been a reliable hiding spot, a female-free zone they can call their own. But a new generation of garage-dwelling men is taking the tradition to a whole new—and expensive—level. They don’t want grandpa’s pegboard, and they certainly don’t want his grease stains. What they truly crave is an indoor/outdoor living room, a place where the beer is cold, the game is on, and the neighbours are eternally welcome—and a bit jealous.
“The garage is now the guys’ playroom, and the only room they’re allowed to decorate,” says Curt Dorin, owner of Unlimited Garage, the B.C. company that designed Lindsay’s dream space. “Most of the customers I deal with are married guys, and their wives don’t really care what they do in the garage.”
So they do it all. Pool tables. Couches. Walk-in humidors. Fully equipped kitchens. One Alberta man redesigned his garage to look like a fishing lodge. Others are trading their lawn chairs for La-Z-Boys and their toolboxes for plasmas. Some have even banished the car altogether. “The garage interior is the next great room, and it’s one of the fastest-growing areas in the huge home improvement industry,” says Don Fetherstonhaugh, who operates The Garage Store, a Calgary company that installs specialized floors, shelves and any other personalized touch the customer wants. “The gals have lots of rooms, and it’s time for the guy, who is 50 per cent of the equation, to have his little refuge.”
Or big refuge. Back in Kelowna, Fetherstonhaugh’s company recently supplied some of the high-end goodies for a mammoth, 17-car garage in the exclusive Woodland Hills district. Designed around a single, metallic- blue refrigerator, the gigantic garage comes complete with track lighting, stainless steel breakfast bar, black leather stools and three flat-screen televisions. Yes, three. The finishing touch? A urinal in the adjacent bathroom. “We joke about that garage a lot,” says developer Geby Wager. “Most people who see it say: ‘If I were in the doghouse I could just stay here forever and the wife could stay inside.’ ”
Such shrines don’t come cheap. Lindsay’s office with a view cost him $20,000 in labour and supplies, and, depending on the details of the design, the price tag can quickly soar into six figures. But this trend is not just the exclusive domain of the rich and famous. In fact, some of the most authentic layouts are completely homemade—and recession-proof. An old recliner, a cable hookup, and voila.
Take Pasquale Posteraro. He built his stand-alone garage in 1992, but it’s been at least 10 years since a car has seen the inside (unless you count the framed Lamborghinis and Ferraris that cover the walls). Now furnished with patio chairs instead of tire marks, his favourite room is also everyone else’s. Friends and neighbours in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., constantly stroll up the driveway for a cognac or a cigar or to watch the six o’clock news. The garage is even bug-free, thanks to a large black screen that covers the main door. “It’s all about the fresh air,” he says. “When you’re stuck in the basement, what are you going to look at? The walls?”
Posteraro adores his garage so much that he’s thinking of building an addition on the back end that could double as his home office. His company, Pasquale’s Imports, sells the best espresso machines in the city, and countless satisfied customers have tasted their first cup while standing in his garage.
“All I need is a bed and I’m set,” he laughs. “I’d never leave.”