Build a Cozy Room in the Garage

Cozy Room

Project 1:  Entertainment area

Three years ago, Conrad and Marlene van Reenen of the Strand totally transformed their garage with the intention of using it as a guest apartment – although it’s now become their preferred entertainment area where you can even relax and take a nap. (It’s recommended to take remvital sleep if you have some insomnia problems).

What they did ‘The building was completely dilapidated and if it had been demolished, we would not have been able to use the same foundation as the building line was in jeopardy,’ the couple explained. A designer refined their ideas and thereafter Conrad project managed the building himself. According to Van Reenens, there was no foundation – just pebbles and black stone. These had to be replaced with a modern foundation by way of erosion, where builders build under the old clay brick construction. They also replaced the roof to complement the farmhouse feel of the main house and had a lot of plasterwork done. In addition, the wall on the west side had to be damp proofed and a new layer of bricks added to strengthen the structure. The original walls were retained, but more windows were added to allow natural light to stream in, and to complement the appearance of the rear of the main house.

The end result 

Three months and R200 000 later, the flat was complete and even boasts covered parking. Now, when the Van Reenens open up their concertina doors on a summer’s day, they thoroughly enjoy the new space. Here guests are shaded under the new roof while they enjoy something to eat, swim, lounge about and socialize.

They say that you should not take any shortcuts and rather spend extra on durable products and good builders. Windows allow natural light in and enhance the garden views.

Project 2:  Still, a winner 

Who can forget our first Fix it with Flair winners? Melissa Kretschmer and Grant Newman of Wynberg entered the competition in 2009, showing how they converted a single garage into a luxury space that opens onto a deck with a jacuzzi. Their single garage was built as part of the main house in the early ’40s but the house had already been divided when they bought it four years ago and the couple felt it hampered their home’s flow. ‘When we realized a third of our plot consisted of the driveway and garage, we decided to do something better with space,’ says Melissa.

What they did Though they had no money for architects and engineers, the couple were lucky in that both their fathers are former engineers and an architect friend helped with ideas and advice. Melissa and Grant tackled many of the changes themselves, working every weekend for two months. The garage door was replaced with a big double French door that swallowed more than half of the budget, new lighting was added and a bar counter and bookshelves were built in while Melissa decorated the wall with a stencil for an interesting finish. Most of the building materials were recycled; the old garage door, for instance, was cut and reused as cupboard doors.

The end result 

The project cost R14 000 and the finished room is 18m2. ‘The space we gained and the good times we’ve already had there has so much more benefit than a single garage for one of our cars,’ says Melissa. Since then, the couple has embarked on further renovations, creating a TV room in a loft and redecorating their bedroom, bathroom and outside the area. Their next project is to install a canopy for their cars.

Melissa says ‘Carefully consider a safe space to park your cars and don’t let your renovations put off potential buyers.’

A friend constructed the solid cement table while the couple decorated the top with lights and plastic toy soldiers.

Old scaffolding planks became floating shelves; the new space is accessible from both the living room and bedroom in the main house.

Melissa Kretschmer and Grant Newman extended their living space by creating a lounging area in what was once a single garage.

A full-length white curtain separates the sleeping and lounging areas.

Project 3: Weekend breakaway 

The airy white room is brightened up with a red patterned rug and multicolored pictures in white frames.

After converting their main house in De Kelders into a guest house, interior designer Neil Stemmet decided to transform his single garage into an apartment for him and his life partner. It was Neil’s first such conversion and he was ingenious in furnishing the 21m2 space. Although the organic style of their weekend space differs from the main house, having the same color on the walls, floors, ceiling, and shelving are what pulls the two places together. ‘There must always be a line running through a home, from the front garden through to the backyard,’ says Neil. What he did The garage door was sealed and a mezzanine sleeping area was created atop built-in shelving and storage. Unfortunately, the concrete roof is only 3.6m high. ‘We could not lift the roof, so we have to bend when stepping into the walk-in closet and duck as we lie down on the bed – but it’s a small price for the luxury space,’ he says. Natural light streams through the window above the bed and a floor-length curtain separate the bedroom from the living area. The apartment is given breathing space with white as the base color highlighted by gold accents.

The end result 

The apartment, which cost R130 000 in total, is now their favorite place on the property, says Neil. He enjoys the privacy, the beautiful sea views, air that cross ventilate the room, the outdoor shower and seeing the stars through the window above their bed at night.

Neil says Build a mezzanine level and go for multipurpose furniture pieces such as a couch that can be used as a bed.

Project 4: Houseproud 

Do you remember the two Bloemfontein architecture students who appeared in our 2009 Home Renovations guide? As newlyweds in 2007, Marko and Maxie Pretorius urgently needed a home but had little capital. So with some clever thinking, they converted a 35m2 garage into an open plan home for two, complete with a dining and living room space, a sleeping area and a kitchen and bathroom. At the time, it cost them a mere R20 000.

Marko says ‘Have a sliding door made to fit the entire garage opening – this makes it feel more spacious, adds lots of extra natural light and extends the living area into the garden.’

Professional opinion 

Gordon’s Bay architect Marcus Smit says that if you decide to convert your garage into a living space, you should take the following into consideration first: 

• What are your requirements; what will space be used for and is there alternative space for your vehicle and the goods that are currently in your garage? 

• Is the existing structure sufficient, or will structural changes be made? Approach an architect or builder for reliable advice. 

• If the property is situated in a winter rainfall area, are the outer walls cavity walls? If not, consider the additional expense of damp proofing or building an extra wall inside the existing structure, depending on local building guidelines. • Is there a damp-proof layer under the floor? Often there is no damp proofing under outbuildings or older garages, and damp and moisture can move from the ground to the floor, rendering the building unfit for habitation. An extra concrete floor with damp proofing can be laid over the existing floor (or a new floor can replace the old one).

More tips

• Consider dry walls and light construction to divide spaces. 

• Build the doorway slightly smaller than the opening and install a double French door or make the opening wider for stacking doors and greater visual effect. 

• To save space, consider a sliding door for the bedroom, or built-in cupboards. 

• Utilize multipurpose furniture to save space; for example, a built-in couch against the wall also serves as a bed. The same goes for appliances such as an under counter bar fridge. 

• Make sure there are enough windows for natural light and ventilation. 

• If possible, shorten the driveway and create a garden to camouflage the ‘revamped garage’ look. An alternative may be to build a wall to create a small courtyard for some privacy. • Use referred, reputable, registered contractors and ask for examples of their work. If possible, talk to previous customers. Nobody wants to fix another builder’s blunders. 

• Always ensure that your building complies with municipal and building regulations and that the necessary water and electricity supplies can be linked to the existing service.

Did you know? 

A single garage is about 18m2 in size; a double garage is twice that.

If you’re still short of inspiration, take a look at these plans for a teen room, guest room and home office, all in about 28m2.