When so many Londoners desperate for more space are digging down, extending up and pushing out to enlarge their cramped homes, it comes as a bit of a shock to discover owners with garages who actually want to use them to store their cars.
Many of the mews houses in central London started life as stables, then became garages with the arrival of the car, before morphing into homes. With remaining solo mews garages easily fetching £550,000 in Kensington and Chelsea, buying one simply to park a car can look like showing off.
Some owners, however, don’t stop there. Having spent so much giving their car its own room, they want to make it a good one.
Interior designer Dominic Wishlade pioneered the glam garage look in central London and now aims to bring the “motor man cave” concept to every postcode in the capital. Since 1997, he has been applying the techniques of kitchen designers to the garage, introducing chic steel cabinets and wall units. Dragging garages out of their oily-rag past, he turns them into object lessons in creative storage.
With a background in industrial design, he and his team at Dura Garages tidy away the gear, building drawers with cushioned slots for each spanner, and specifying floors so clean you could eat off them.
At the poshest end, Rolls-Royce, Bugatti and Aston Martin owners tend to admire the sleek lines and livery of their cars so much that they ask for a similar look for the garages they keep them in.
“We paint the fitted cabinets in the same red as their Ferrari and decorate the walls with appropriate motoring memorabilia,” says Wishlade.
That has opened up a world of themed garages — perhaps using Sixties styling with pop art on the walls for a classic Cadillac, or a chequered floor and brightly coloured cabinets for a Formula One look, or a retro interior with enamel Castrol oil signs to complement a racing Bentley’s heritage.
“We were designing initially for people whose garages needed to be cleaned up — they definitely fell short of the high standards they had set for the rest of their homes,” says Wishlade. “Now, the biggest demand is coming from people who want to be creative with limited space.”
Some garages have remained strictly as homes for motors, but others are becoming more flexible, doubling up as gyms or games rooms — with the car parked at one end. “You can have Wii on the wall, a pool table, trophies in cabinets and comfy sofas to relax on.
“You can have gadgets galore, with a rowing machine that whirrs into sight from under the floor at the touch of a button, big-screen televisions, drink chiller cabinets and sporting memorabilia,” he adds.
“I suppose it’s really the upmarket son of the shed.”