Beautify My Garage

The garage has grown up.

No longer just a place to park the car or the lawn mower, the garage -- once an afterthought for most homeowners -- is now a multi-purpose space. Whether you're using it for a "man cave," a recording studio or your startup's world headquarters, "it's become an extension of the home," says Ginny Snook Scott, chief design officer for California Closets, the Berkley, Calif., home-storage franchisor. After all, it's easier and often cheaper to customize the inside of a garage than it is to put on an addition.

As homeowners become increasingly dissatisfied with their garage's unfinished walls and standard-issue cement, a number of custom-design franchises are seeing new business. While many provide organizational services for the house (see our recent piece on the topic, "Get Organized! Cleaning Pros Offer Tips"), some specialize exclusively in ultimate garage makeovers.

At GarageTek, a Syosset, N.Y.-based franchisor, the most popular service is the full-blown garage overhaul, complete with cabinets, modular flooring and lighting. The company also installs "TekPanel" walls, designed to make it easy to hang and rearrange garden and sports accessories. The cost, says company president Mark Shuman, runs from $3,000 to $10,000 per wall.

Others that provide garage services include PremierGarage, GarageExperts and HouseWall Garage System.

At California Closets, about 10% of the franchise's business is now focused on the garage, though in some markets it's considerably higher, Scott says. While many clients want ideas for converting their garages to special-purpose spaces, storage space is still the most common request, she says. Clients ask for built-in cabinets, pull-out baskets and even cedar-line closets for off-season clothing.

Sure, you can still store your bulk goods from Costco there. But at least make your garage the envy of the block.

Readers, what other housing trends could be entrepreneurial opportunities?