[ by Amanda Hopkins, CORT Furniture ]

Ahhh, the garage. For those endowed with the ability to organize with grace and ease, the garage is a haven for storage and… er, parking your car. For some of us, however, the garage is a scary place. It’s where the miscellaneous odds and ends of our lives end up. Garden tools, mismatched furniture, lawn equipment and boxes of old toys all can be found in the average American’s garage. But did you realize your garage can be turned into its own living space? Neither did we. It turns out that it is possible to gain an extra room without having to undergo an expensive addition. So go on, dream big – guest bedroom, media room, decked-out band rehearsal space – there are all kinds of options.

First things first, though— assess the clutter. Often, the things that end up in the garage are things we don’t use frequently, but can’t bear to get rid of.  Take stock of what you have, determine what you want to keep, and then take the plunge and make some decisions. If you truly can’t part with some of your possessions, but don’t have anywhere else safe or sheltered enough to store them, consider using a storage finder to find a nearby storage facility. That way, your things will be kept safe without encroaching upon your soon-to-be-improved and de-cluttered pad. Once the garage is clear, give it a good scrub down.

Next, plan the labor that needs to be done. Determine what utilities you will need to hook up in your future room. Before you dive in with your DIY hat on, be wary; a botched plumbing job can do real damage to your home’s entire system, so be sure to check with a pro first. Stopping by a home improvement store to formulate an informed game plan can do wonders for the renovation process. How is the ventilation? The electrical system? What kind of condition are the floors and walls in? Estimate the cost of it all, then allocate your funds accordingly.

After all the work is done comes the fun part— decorating. You will want to make sure the décor does not clash with the rest of the house, especially if you are planning to sell your home in the future. It’s helpful to keep to the same paint color scheme, and consider the types of lighting fixtures and general style you have throughout your house. Another thing to think about if you plan to sell your home is furniture rental. Rather than investing in a whole new set of furniture and trying to find pieces that match perfectly, it may be more prudent to rent a furniture package, or simply add a temporary accent here or there in addition to what you already have.

Image courtesy of ondeck.org