I mentioned the other day that I think the next focus in the super hot home decorating and makeover world will be the car-home interface also known as the garage. While the teen/pre-teen room redecoration trend wave is just now cresting with retailers like Pbteen, Pottery Barn Kids, IKEA, Target, and Ethan Allen scrambling to capture market share, the Great Garage trend has yet to emerge.
The jungle drums are beginning to be heard though. New manufacturers are eyeing the market and the DIY/Decorating media are about to discover a new space in the home ripe for renewal. Most importantly the progression of decorating dollars has been working its way through the house. Starting with the living spaces like the living room, dining room and family room people spend their decorating budgets on the public spaces of their home. These efforts have been fueled by the popularity of decorating shows from Martha Stewart Living to Trading Spaces. The next step is often the kitchen in older homes that need updating. In newer homes the decorating budget often flows through to the outdoor space creating landscaping and outdoor living spaces like decks and patios. Next come bathrooms and bedrooms or home office space. Children's bedrooms are where it's at right now. Specifically, the most dramatic transition in a child's life, the change from child to teenager is clearly the point where a redecoration is in order. Once the bedrooms have been done the next logical focus are the utilitarian spaces of laundry rooms, storage areas, and the beloved garage. In many homes the garage represents all the utilitarian functions in the home. There may also be a social dynamic at work here as well. While the decoration of the kitchen and living spaces in the home are often viewed as the territory of the woman of the home, the garage is man-land and men may be feeling that it's their turn to spend on their space and spend they will.
As men (and women) are continuing to buy expensive vehicles clearly the need for suitable garage space is a priority. New homes are featuring three, four and even five car garages. Bigger and bigger SUVs are driving up the size of garages. An architect friend of mine who does high end residential work says the garages keep getting longer and longer growing four feet at a time. Soon I think we will begin to see some of the vehicle handling and storage equipment we see in other space poor areas of the world like Japan and Europe.
Vehicle turntables are an obvious addition to the garage/driveway configuration. With speed and convenience a premium in America it's not a big leap to see a market for anything that will help people maneuver their Super-Sized vehicles in tight spaces. If people will buy vehicles with power sliding doors surely they are ready for powered turntables that will rotate their vehicles.
For Baby Boomers who are buying their third or fourth vehicle. (Cooper Mini, Ford Thunderbird, Chevrolet SST etc.) the must have garage equipment may be a vehicle stacking system. These systems are popular in pre-car areas of Europe where parking space is at a real premium. Utilizing space above or below a garage is the answer for those unable to add another parking bay for a sports car or a collector car.
Storage seems to be a common element in all garages. Often its active storage of yard maintenance equipment, workshop tools and materials or sports equipment like bicycles, golf clubs and rollerblades. Often it's deep storage of furniture, files, cloths and clutter. New products and service have entered the market to help in these areas as well. A variation on the self-storage concept, containerized storage services will deliver an empty storage container to your driveway ready for loading. Once loaded the service trucks and warehouses the container for you keeping it ready to return to you at anytime. While these are popular with those who are moving I think the "portable garage" aspect will grow in importance as people makeover their garages. For active storage and workspace many companies are offering products to help store everything from golf clubs to spray paint cans.
One of the latest players is Whirlpool's Gladiator line of garage equipment. Gladiator is a comprehensive system including a slat wall system, storage cabinets, lockers and shelves all with a tough garage like diamond plate aesthetic. The system seems like an odd move for an appliance maker until you discover that a specially insulated refrigerator/freezer, a mini "beer box" fridge and a trash compactor are a part of the system. Seems Wirphool sees a new market for home appliances for the garage. Obviously, this represents the high end of the market. Other manufacturers like Rubbermaid have numerous products to help organize the garage. Even closet organizer manufacturers are positioned to capitalize on garage storage needs.
Technology is important in the Great Garage. Beyond utilities like water, power, heat and air conditioning, telephone, cable TV and computer networking cabling all have a place in the garage. For a variety of reasons the garage will be an important place for the just replaced family computer. In homes with WiFi networks coverage in the garage will be important to facilitate web browsing for vehicle maintenance information, DIY information and shopping (check to see if Home Depot has the right widget.) MP3 players in cars can even download music via WiFi. In the future vehicles with video systems will accept digital movie files over WiFi thus eliminating the need to stock the car with heat and theft sensitive DVDs. The crystal ball for the future holds more technology ideas for the future of the garage. Cleaning robots like the Roomba could be adapted to clean the garage floor unattended. One day small independent cleaning robots will attach themselves and wash your vehicle each night while you sleep. There are even plans for fueling appliances that extract hydrogen from water to fuel up your new hydrogen powered car right in your garage.
The garage is about to be Great it's the savvy marketer and trendspotter that's going to be ready. Americans love their cars and their homes so it's only natural that they're gonna go crazy over the place where the two come together.
It's gonna be a great futureÖ.in the garage.