Garages That Kick the ‘Man Cave’ Stereotypes to the Curb - Kanebridge News
Share Button

Garages That Kick the ‘Man Cave’ Stereotypes to the Curb

By Jim Motavalli
Fri, Oct 6, 2023 9:07amGrey Clock 4 min

Garages have long been little more than a home’s spare space, ideal for storage, fixing up cars and, for some, a small escape with an old couch and mini fridge. But now, mop up those oil spills because there’s no end to the features that can transform it into something a whole lot more enticing.

The idea of making a garage into a refuge probably originated in postwar America, when magazines like Popular Mechanics were full of do-it-yourself plans for transforming your home place with built-ins. Then, the “man cave” of popular imagination had a big heyday in the 1980s, when garages were fitted with TVs, built-in bars, and a microwave for popcorn. These days, garage retreats are getting a bit more sophisticated—and much more functional.

“Our focus is on transforming garages into clean, bright and functional spaces,” Aaron Cash, a co-founder of Garage Living and head of its franchise systems, said. “People do come to us wanting ‘man caves,’ but that’s not our focus. We’re about recognising the value of and reclaiming the space.”

Garage Living now has 45 franchise locations around the U.S., Canada (where the company is based) and Australia. Makeovers range from $20,000 to $100,000. The goal is to get a family’s accumulated “stuff” off the floor and into the company’s own line of powder-coated cabinets, or mounted on the walls and overhead.

Garage Living made over this space with vaulted ceilings and a finished floor.
Garage Living

“This is a growing category,” Cash said. “There’s a lot of interest from an affluent clientele with disposable income.”

Not everyone wants their space uncluttered. Today’s popular accessories for garage makeovers include home theatres, high-tech audio equipment, golf simulators, fireplaces with remotes, wine racks, custom flooring (sometimes heated) and lifts that allow a multi-car collection to be displayed in a smaller space.

Meanwhile, for the auto enthusiast, there are tool chests, rotisseries for working on a car’s underside, pressure washers and compressors, engine hoists, work benches, and more.

Storage space is always at a premium. Levrack, launched in 2016, makes a shelving system that suspends its racks from above. The sections, each with three or more shelves, slide together and apart to maximise space.

Ryan Stauffer, the Nebraska-based co-founder of Levrack, said that 80% to 90% of his company’s business is industrial and commercial, but it’s moving increasingly into residential—with strong buy-in from big car collectors like Jay Leno. The Porsche Classic Factory Restorations facility in Atlanta is also a client.

The Wisconsin- and Nebraska-made units make it possible to collect all the stray tools, cleaners and products that typically live in all corners of the garage and store them out of sight, freeing up a lot of floor space. Units come in seven- to 12-foot widths, with varying depth and height. Prices range up to $7,400 for a 12-foot unit.

Garage Living makeovers range from $20,000 to $100,000.
Garage Living

“We appeal to high-end consumers, people who have a lot of gear,” Stauffer said. “The concept goes back to the 1950s for agriculture, healthcare and other industries, and the racks typically have tracks at the floor level. But in the garage space, where dirt, oil and contamination are an issue, it makes more sense to suspend from the top of the rack.”

Taking the modern garage further still is the Hangar Group, which builds “premier garage condominiums,” where people can store their vehicles in luxury.

The first of these was in Riviera Beach, Florida, completed in 2019—it sold out. And the second is in West Palm Beach, near the airport, with a 2024 completion date. The new facility will have more than 60 units, ranging from 1,500 to 4,500 square feet, with a full-time concierge. There will be a members’ club with golf simulators, a lounge and even a boardroom.

A garage at the Hangar includes a lift to increase auto storage.

“What we’re doing is a little different,” said Scott Cunningham, founder and CEO of the Hangar Group. “Some of our customers buy as many as three units and furnish them with high-level amenities like $100,000 wine coolers for their million-dollar collections. We get Fortune 500 executives and equity guys. For some, it becomes like a personal museum—but for security reasons a museum with no windows at street level.”

The Hangar obviously appeals to car collectors, some of them with a dozen or more vehicles, and sponsors track days at nearby race meccas Homestead, Sebring and Daytona.

The Palm Beach location is already 70% sold. A third complex will cater to car collectors in the Hamptons, in New York, and ultimately there will be six to eight locations, he said.

“I’m a Ferrari guy at heart,” he said. “Many of our customers are people, like me, who don’t have room for any more cars at home,” he said. “They once traded in their Ferrari 360 for a 430, but now they want to keep them both.” Often, there’s a guitar collection, too.

The Hangar’s concept is similar to another recent phenomenon—full condominiums, with garages attached, located near race tracks—or with their own. Circuit Florida, between Orlando and Tampa, is one of those. The $90 million complex includes a 1.7-mile private track, with 75 two-story condos. The project is now “six weeks out from the asphalt paving,” according to the company. These are units for serious car people—with garages that will accommodate up to six vehicles.

Space is at a premium in most garages, and Levrack’s “mobile aisle” shelving helps.

This article originally appeared on Mansion Global.


What a quarter-million dollars gets you in the western capital.

Alexandre de Betak and his wife are focusing on their most personal project yet.

Related Stories
I.M. Pei’s Son Speaks of His Father’s Legacy of Creating ‘Places for People’ Ahead of a Retrospective in Hong Kong
By ABBY SCHULTZ 12/06/2024
EV Trade War Could Spread to Luxury Cars
By STEPHEN WILMOT 12/06/2024
Louis Vuitton Unveils Its Most Extravagant High-Jewellery Collection Ahead of Olympics
By LAURIE KAHLE 09/06/2024
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 5 min

I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”