When garages go glam

Could your car space make all your real estate wishes come true?
Derek Swalwell

Heres to the humble garage – the answer to Australias real estate dilemmas. With property affordability at an all-time low, switched on Australians are transforming storage space into self-contained digs within the boundaries of the family nest. Enter the converted garage, a home not-so far from home for semi-dependant family members, at-home businesses or even collecting rent. Want to get a foot in the roller door? Here’s how

The rules 

The more significant the changes to the structure, the more likely you are to require approval. Wherever you live, your local council is your go-to location for an up-to-date set of rules. Typically, granny flats can’t be on a separate ownership or title, and cannot be sold independently of the main dwelling.

In 2009, the NSW government legalised additional housing on a block as small as 450 square metres. In most states, you can also rent out a granny flat on a commercial basis. But in Victoria, only a dependant family member can live in one and, once they’ve moved out, the structure must be removed. Similar restrictions exist in SA and Queensland but there are exceptions.


HQ or hangout

This black and white studio space is the ultimate garage gone glam. It now stands as a separate office for the owner’s business, keeping work life and home life delightfully separate. The owner painted the walls and the floor with paving paint and installed new Ikea lights and new Freedom curtains. She also found a piece of car carpet from a wholesaler and hand-sewed the edges to create an affordable rug. Picture frames from La Maison were spray painted black to come in-line with the scheme.

Starter home (Credit: Nicky Ryan)

Function first

Consider who you are building for. A teenager will probably require wifi and a desk but minimal kitchen facilities if they continue to eat with the family. An ageing parent may need grab rails, a shower rather than a bath, slip-resistant flooring and accessible storage. Long-term guests and short-term renters will relish their independence. That means a separate entrance, television and storage.


First step

With only 50 square metres and $60,000 to work with, one young couple created this peaceful home from their parents’ garage. In place of the original fibro walls, a new timber stud frame, weatherboard cladding and Colorbond gable roof and were installed along with salvaged windows and doors. A washing machine inside the pantry and the walk-in robe with plenty of storage allow the couple to be as self-sufficient as possible.


Maximise space

For the cooking space think kitchenette – a modest built-in oven, a single drawer dishwasher and an under-counter fridge will suffice. When the floor plan is tight, make the most of under-used vertical space, especially if the ceiling is high enough to create a sleeping platform above the living area. In bathrooms, a wall-hung toilet that hides the cistern in the wall cavity is a neat space saver and easy to clean around. Also look for a wide sink and vanity that are narrow from front to back, so neither jut out into the room. 


Guest suite

With a budget of $40,000 and a six-month timeline, interior designer Dominique Hunter transformed the junk room above a garage into this cosy pied-a-terre. The conversion had its challenges. For one thing, it needed a bathroom of its own – not easy in a 6m x 7m room. Dominique replaced the existing long staircase from the garage with a shorter, wider flight of stairs that steps around a landing, with the reclaimed corner utilised as the bathroom. 

The room also needed insulation, an internet connection and hot running water. During the project, everything – even the appliances and benchtops – had to be carried up the stairs, around the landing and through a hole in the unfinished wall. Once the plasterboard went in and the walls were painted, that access point was closed off and only flat-packed furniture could fit. Still, the result is a luxuriously appointed guest room with spaces to cook, eat, chill out and sleep. 


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