Conventional wisdom considers the garage less an extension of the home than an afterthought: four windowless walls to keep cars dry, out of the freezing cold or searing sun, and safe from the scratches and dings that all too often accompany street parking. But sometimes that kind of practical, style-free bunker is no match for an owner’s automotive enthusiasm.
Architects and real-estate developers are increasingly coming to the rescue with designs that upend the very concept of car storage, using clever layouts and inventive engineering to create more fluid connections between living areas and four-wheeled objects of affection. Interior glass walls offer views of bright, spotless garages, and in many cases cars pull right into furnished rooms, where they have pride of place as if they were billiard tables or multimillion-dollar contemporary sculptures.
With their prized Ferraris and Bentleys as the focal points, some owners enjoy these hybrid spaces more deeply than their primary living quarters. Thanks to automated temperature and humidity controls and high-tech ventilation systems, the garages are just as livable as the rest of the home.
It takes equal parts imagination and science to build the perfect home garage. Here are our favorite examples that reveal what can be achieved when the brief is to refashion the (not so) humble automobile as a kinetic objet d’art to be experienced and appreciated every day.
For most car fanatics, creating the perfect showcase for their cherished collection is the culmination of a lifelong vision. But in the case of one ingenious garage, a Denver-area collector didn’t develop his passion until about two years after he had already built his dream house, presenting a unique design challenge.
Architect Don Ruggles was tasked with retrofitting the property, which he had designed, to make room for an array of automobiles that were being stored in a warehouse. The owner did not want to “disrupt any of the original geometry of the home,” Ruggles recalls, “and we didn’t want [the garage] to feel like an appendage that had been cobbled on at some later date.” The solution? Create an entirely new lower level beneath the original circular driveway, an idea that came with its own conundrum. Ruggles devised a novel strategy: a 360-degree glass bay that housed a hydraulic lift for lowering and raising cars into and out of the space. Because the owner imagined an area where cars could be arranged in virtually any position, the builder equipped the lift with a turntable capable of aiming the car as desired.
“It’s a special place, and it’s very much in the same design idiom as the rest of the house,” Ruggles says, adding that the space, which includes a caterer’s kitchen and forest views, is often used for entertaining. The owner also enjoys showing off his cars’ engine sounds, so Ruggles installed a ventilation system to eliminate fumes as well as a high-tech mechanism that suppresses fire by evacuating the air from the space.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Holger Schubert’s long-term obsession with the Ferrari 512 BBi is a familiar story to enthusiasts, but as an architect and designer, Schubert was in a unique position to create the ultimate showcase for the vehicle—if he could ever get his hands on one. “I always wanted a silver one because that’s what I saw in the original brochure,” Schubert recalls. But when a 10-year search led him to a pristine gray, single-owner example in Newport Beach, Calif., he knew he had found it. Schubert was already in the process of designing a new house in Brentwood but prioritized the garage, which he’d dreamed of building for the Ferrari well before he bought it.
“Everything I design is meant for the architecture to step back and provide space for something to be the center of attention, be it furniture or some element,” Schubert says. He literally conceived the hillside property around the single Ferrari: He designed a special bridge to link the third-floor garage—with a view of the Pacific, of course—to the road and included a hydraulic ramp engineered to tip the nose of the car upward, enabling it to roll backward out of the space without starting the engine and sullying the air. Though the garage–cum–living room design was met with acclaim, the story has a bittersweet postscript: Schubert moved to Germany (with his Ferrari) and sold the property, which remains a construction site mired in a neighbor’s challenge to the legality of the bridge.
Seat at the Bar
With its welcoming climate and vibrant auction scene, Arizona has become a haven for seasoned car collectors. But the region has presented a paradox for new residents: Many empty nesters relocating from sprawling, multi-acre properties want to avoid the headache of maintaining large yards, but they are loath to skimp on luxuries.
Developer Cullum Homes, a builder of custom residences, has addressed the demand for “lock-and-leave” homes while assuaging enthusiasts who don’t want to trim their collections. “We were seeing these guys that said, ‘We’ve got six or seven cars, and we’re not willing to give those up,’ ” says real-estate broker Scott Grigg of the Grigg’s Group, which represents Cullum. The solution is the so-called Car Bar, which uses an elevator to transport vehicles from a three-car ground-level garage to a lower level of the home. Displaying cars behind fire-rated glass partitions offers automotive eye candy alongside amenities such as a bar, home theater or pool table.
Grigg says the conditions in the Scottsdale area are ripe for demand to grow: In addition to plenty of gated communities, “we got a McLaren dealership here. We have a great Ferrari dealership.” What else would you need?
Gift With Purchase
Los Angeles, Calif.
Sometimes lavish simply doesn’t cut it. The over-the-top home at 924 Bel Air Road in Bel Air has every imaginable amenity sprinkled like birdseed across its 38,000 square feet of living space: from a 40-seat theater to a four-lane bowling alley and an 85-foot glass-tile infinity pool with unobstructed 270-degree city views. The tiered property, not so subtly dubbed Billionaire by its developer, Bruce Makowsky, was built on just over an acre of land once owned by Judy Garland. When it went on the market in 2017, it claimed the distinction of the loftiest list price of any home in the US: $250 million.
Because automobiles are integral elements of Los Angeles (and billionaire) life, the house accommodated a $30 million stash of a dozen exotic cars across its lower level, including Lamborghinis, Ferraris, a Bugatti Veyron and a Pagani. The so-called auto gallery features what Makowsky says is the world’s largest indoor screen, at nearly 30 feet, and a nightclub-style lounge. Resting atop a makeshift helipad was a non-functioning helicopter from the TV show Airwolf, as if bolstering the property’s sky’s-the-limit theme. The car showcase, separated
from a green lawn by a wall of glass, was initially a prominently featured element of the home, but a cascade of price reductions suggests there are indeed limits to buyers’ appetites: The asking price dropped to $180 million and then $150 million, with the house finally selling for $94 million in 2019. Whether the cars were part of the package remains a mystery: Terms of the sale are under a strict NDA.
West Hollywood, Calif.
Collywood, a residence in West Hollywood, Calif., designed by architect Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig, makes the case that, in its highest form, a garage can take on the role of an art gallery. “I think of it as a disciplined garage that allows the art of the cars to take center stage,” Kundig explains. “It’s similar to our typical strategy for a gallery—the architecture doesn’t compete with the object being displayed. Highlighting the genius of the cars’ design over the architecture of the space was our agenda with Collywood.” (The name is a portmanteau of Collingwood Street, where the home is situated, and Hollywood.)
The 15,600-square-foot house is spread over three levels that interface with nearly 7,000 square feet of terraces, gardens and pools, lending the rectilinear structure an open relationship to its surroundings. The garage plays a unique role: The sparsely furnished space spills onto a patio, and its interior incorporates an airy overhead lighting system. “We’re intentionally lighting the space to reveal the nuances of the vehicles,” Kundig says. “Collywood is a fairly technology-savvy home,” he notes, referring to the property’s glass walls with metal shutters that operate remotely to control natural light.
At the client’s request, Kundig designed the entire property, including the garage, to be fair game for sprawling parties or special functions, and an A-lister sipping Champagne in black tie looks as much at home among the cars as a coveralled mechanic wielding a wrench. “Because the client comes from a background of outdoor adventures,” the architect says, “he wanted the house to feel like an adventure to him and his many guests.”