How to

11 steps to an organised garage

All too often a dumping ground for miscellaneous junk, a garage can be both well-functioning and pretty. Yes, really!

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1 Planning 

Natalie Jane, owner/director of professional organising service Be Organised, has some great advice when it comes to planning your garage space. She suggests that before decluttering we get a clear vision of how we want the space to be organised, and recommends having a decent clear-out each season.

Clear out
“Once you have a vision for your garage space, put a date in your diary and stick to it,” Natalie says. She also recommends having banana boxes as well as black plastic bags – and even a Flexi Bin if you think you will need it. Label your banana boxes with ‘Donate’, ‘Relocate’, ‘Sell’, ‘Recycle’, ‘Fix’ and ‘Give to a Friend’ and use the plastic bags and Flexi Bin for rubbish.

Assign zones
Natalie says it is important to create zones for items. This not only makes it easier to find them, but by putting ‘like with like’ you create an ordered space. “Everyday items should be in your ‘prime space’ and occasional items placed up high or lower down.”

Work around cars
Are you envisioning being able to park your car in the garage, or do you want to use the garage for storage only? Maybe you want to set up a gym in there, or use it as a creative space? Natalie recommends folding workbenches as they are hinged and can be lifted up to create a usable workspace, or folded down when not in use.

Create a budget
Keep the budget in check and, if you can, work with storage you already have. “Many people make the mistake of blowing their budget by spending too much on storage before they have even begun.”

2 Building 

Dan Gudsell, managing director of Abodo – the company providing the exterior timber cladding on the homes of The Block NZ 2016 – suggests lining and insulating the walls and ceilings of a garage to help create an effective and efficient design aesthetic. “Built-in cabinetry, shelving and hooks are ideal design solutions for getting bulky equipment like bikes off the ground and will free up floor space.”

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3 Cabinetry and shelving

Mitre 10 has a multitude of affordable storage cabinets and shelving options. The ever-popular Mitre 10 Muscle Racks can be used to store up to 200kg per shelf – perfect for bulky items and tools. They can also be assembled side by side to create a workbench. The Mitre 10 Elfa garage storage range can be customised to suit your needs with pegboards, tool clips and hanging hooks to tidy up even the most disorganised of spaces.

4 Lighting

As a general rule of thumb, garages require good overall light, as well as decent task lighting for different zones, such as a tool bench, laundry or games corner. If you want to add a little more personality to your garage, why not follow interior designer Alex Fulton’s advice and add a little something special to your space? “Fairy lights, marquee signs and neon lights are much easier to get hold of these days, so using these to help define a space or draw attention to a specific area is an easy and inexpensive design fix.”

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5 Design

From the outside, garage doors can be unsightly, but Dan Gudsell from Abodo has a clever solution. “Consider a hidden garage door that can be built into the wooden facade of your home for slick, clean lines.” As for the inside of your garage, that doesn’t need to be bland or unsightly, either. Here are designer Alex Fulton’s neat tips on how to create an interior space with wow factor.

Use your walls (and ceiling space)
Maximising space is a must for garages. Pegboard is a cheap and easy product to paint and hang. Use shelves, hooks, pipes, chains, plastic bins, jars, baskets, and get creative.

Try old products in new places
A fun space lends itself to using everyday products in a novel way. Try carpet on the walls or blackboard paint on the ceiling. Paint is an easy way to add colour or pattern, so don’t limit your inner Picasso to just the walls.

Reuse and upcycle
Giving new life to shabby old furniture has got to be the best way to save pennies and dust off your artistic flair. There are a number of easy-to-apply spray paints on the market which give great coverage and a professional look to old, tired pieces.

Team designing
Think like a designer. Sit down with your ‘clients’ (the people who will be using this space once it’s finished) and get a brief from them. Then work out what it will be used for and how it will function. Set yourself a budget and make it a family project to work on together to produce a place that will suit everyone and their needs.

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6 Tool storage

Mitre 10 and Bunnings have some great storage solutions for your tools which are very affordable. Anything from a pegboard to wall or modular cabinets, hooks, sturdy storage boxes and bins and shelving units. The Mitre 10 Jobmate garage tool organiser (pictured in the set-up above) is the perfect option for tool storage and can either be wall-mounted or fitted on top of a work bench.

7 General storage

Karen Hansen, national sales manager of Lundia, suggests taking advantage of any underutilised wall space, including under windows. “Choose a shelf depth that will accommodate most items, but will still allow corridor space in front.” She also suggests installing adjustable shelves to help define ‘zones’ for certain items and functions, such as camping equipment, garden utensils and tools.

Natalie Jane from Be Organised recommends Wardrobe World storage designs for those with a tighter budget, but if you are wanting a complete fit-out and budget is not a problem, she suggests you check out the storage solutions at Gladiator Garage. If you’re looking for a simple and inexpensive option, Mitre 10 has a large range of hobby boxes and stackable fish bins.

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8 Laundry

If you are short on space in your home, the garage can be a great place to site your laundry. “It’s important you plan for adequate storage and organisation such as overhead shelving or cubbies, under-bench storage, a freestanding storage unit or even a trestle table,” says Natalie Jane. She also suggests housing your laundry behind bifold doors to create a streamlined look.

Interior designer Alex Fulton thinks this would be a good opportunity to have some fun with your whiteware – “Use wall decals to add some pattern and colour. Make a feature of what you can’t hide and turn the mundane into a design statement.” If you have an unvented dryer in your garage, Garage specialists Garador recommend using the ventilation mode on their garage-door openers, as well as keeping the garage door slightly open.

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9 Sports equipment

Getting sports equipment off the ground is a great way to free up valuable garage floor space. Graeme Thompson, owner and managing director of Rack It Up, suggests you get as much as possible off the floor by installing racks. ‘This maintains the longevity of your sports equipment as well as keeping the floor clear.” Rack It Up has durable, easy-to- install horizontal sports storage racks for just about every sport imaginable, with new vertical storage for fishing gear about to hit the market.

10 The garage door

With the difficulties facing many of those trying to buy their first home, and more families choosing to stay under one roof for longer, the garage is becoming more than just somewhere to park the car. Garador (garador.co.nz) says it is seeing a growing trend of homeowners replacing the old garage door with an insulated one. There are plenty of design options out there, but the company says the sectional door (made up of four or five panels which rise vertically and then slide back along the roof interior) is in hot demand and there’s a move towards minimalistic styles and darker hues. The cost to install a sectional garage door and opener starts at roughly $2000 for a single-car garage.

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11 Future proof

Stacking the family cars on top of one another may sound pretty ‘out there’ as a way of maximising your garage space, but it’s a growing trend, says Bob Haswell, managing director at Car Parking Solutions. Bob says they have more than 10 models to choose from; most about 2.6m wide and all with numerous safety features. Costs vary, but think upwards of $15,000 including installation. With urban sites getting tighter, if you’re planning a new build or renovation, Bob suggests talking to your architect about increasing the height of your garage as a way to future-proof the space. “That way, you can always put a stacker in at a later time,” he explains.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Maree Homer, Prue Ruscoe, Brett Stevens, Lynden Ross/bauermediasyndication.com.au, Scott McAulay, Getty Images.

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