American driving culture can lead to some opulent garages

Curbed highlights eight fun quotes from a recent Wall Street Journal story on some unusual American garages. Here are four of the quotes:

6. “Once seen as a catchall space to store bicycles, trash cans and lawn tools, garages are being rediscovered as the ideal place—who knew?—to park cars.”…

4. “Mr. DesRosiers recently completed a 6,200-square-foot garage in the suburbs of Detroit that has a 1,800-square-foot detail shop on the lower level with a penthouse above, accessible via elevator.”

3. “There are seven flat-screen televisions throughout the three levels. “I can build a motorcycle and watch a football game at the same time, which is pretty sweet,” he says.”

2. “He put a glass door in between the wine cellar and underground parking space so the owner can “walk into the lift and touch and feel the car from the wine cellar,” he adds.”

The original story also highlights some broader trends regarding garages:

Even if an existing home has a garage, one or two bays may not be enough. “Those garages are not suitable for today’s vehicles. They’re just too small,” says Mr. Pekel of the Milwaukee construction and remodeling firm.

Of new homes built in 2011, 29% have a three-car or larger garage, according to Home Innovation Research Labs. These spaces have more bays, taller ceilings and greater square footage, says Ed Hudson, director of the market research division at Home Innovation Research Labs.

By and large, men are the primary users of garages, at 70% overall, Mr. Hudson says. For some purposes, like maintaining vehicles or working on projects,more than 90% of all users are men.

There is still room to discuss why people would want such garages in the first place, particularly if it comes at the expense of other items, such as spending money elsewhere in their houses. I would argue you could make a broader argument about the general love Americans have for driving and vehicles which then leads to a “need” for large spaces devoted to these vehicles. On one hand, vehicles are very functional – they get you where you need to go, particularly in a sprawling American built landscape that often requires driving. On the other hand, people can get attached to such functional objects and see them as much more than tools.

If some recent survey data is correct in showing that the younger generation of Americans don’t care so much about cars, perhaps we are in or have already passed “the golden age of garages.” If New Urbanists and other like-minded architects get their way, the garage would lose some of its prominence by being moved from the front facade of homes to the rear. In several decades, these opulent garages may look even more unusual and unnecessary.

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