Decorating Your Garage Like a Personal Museum Is an Underrated Pleasure
I like to think of my garage as a bedroom for cars, not a walk-in junk drawer for the whole house. This makes it a fun place to wrench.
We talk about tuning and personalizing cars all the time—it's a big theme here at The Drive, after all. Over the last year, I've been putting the same level of thought and care into customizing my garage. The dream is to make my workspace not only functional but also a fun place to hang out in. The experience has been a joy that more people should try to take advantage of.
Now I'm always keen to show off the automotive baubles I've collected. But the real reason I've been itching to write about garage decor is that I feel it's an underappreciated aspect of car-enjoying. For example, many of my own friends and family members (who are also into cars) store and work on their vehicles in dimly lit unfinished dungeon-vibes garages. If that describes you too, I recommend adopting my mentality when it comes to formulating a garage aesthetic: A garage is not a household junk drawer, it's a bedroom for your cars.
Why bother beautifying a "car's bedroom" since cars can't see or appreciate art? Well, the main reason is that if your garage is more fun to be in, working on your car will be less miserable. And I don't care how much you love wrenching—there's always a little pain and misery in mechanic'ing.
Light home renovation is a fun way of applying the same problem-solving skills you use to build a cool custom car ... in a different format. You've got to pick priorities (how to optimize the space), a cohesive visual theme, evaluate various parts (hardware), and then get to thrashing with tools. You probably already knew all that. What I'm trying to tell you is—it's worth doing.
For a little more inspiration, I'll run you down what I've done in my place so far. When I set up shop in this little basement two-bay I've got here in New York's Hudson Valley, a lot of the heavy renovation work was already done. The walls were all sealed up with sheetrock, and wiring for big overhead lights was in place. Upgrading the existing lighting from fluorescent to LED was pretty straightforward, and painting the walls and ceilings white came together to make it the brightest room in my house by far.
Functionally, I made a little workstation with a piece of countertop that a friend was throwing away. Then I made some computer stands with bits of wood and hardware I had laying around. I added a shelf around most of the perimeter, partially to make a cleaner visual transition from the sheetrock walls to the concrete lower half. The angles I cut on my wooden shelf, and the finishing stain on it, help it look a little more professional.
The blue and yellow accents are simply colors that I like, but I won't deny that I took some inspiration from Napa for that.
Once I had the paint laid down I realized I'd created kind of a retro tire shop vibe, so I leaned into it with a few '80s art pieces sourced mostly on eBay. Of those, the coolest by far is a bonkers chrome-and-purple BMW M1 BF Goodrich poster. I don't even remember what I was looking for when I found it, but have since learned that it's part of a series promoting BFG's Comp T/A radial tires. My sister-in-law later found the matching Corvette, and they looked so cool together I splurged on professional framing. The immense BF Goodrich sign I got for almost nothing from a farmer down the road from me—it was in his barn and I guess he was tired of looking at it.
Moving around the place, I've curated a few little exhibits—shrines to some of my favorite slices of car culture. Here, I'll take you on a little tour.
You'll see a lot of IH Scout stuff, Montero stuff, Baja and Dakar Rally stuff, and tuner car stuff which, yeah, basically sums up my primary automotive interests. To be completely honest, I might enjoy hunting for trinkets as much as I like tinkering with real cars. And I love hanging out in this garage now, surrounded by my treasures. Now my goal is to stop myself from collecting before my place ends up looking like Millenial Car Enthusiast Chili's. Or maybe I'll just have to build another garage.
So if you're lucky enough to have any kind of automotive storage or workspace, and you've been toiling in there under weak lighting or a lack of decor, I hope you're inspired to level it up (maybe over the holidays?) and make yourself a little temple to this great hobby.
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