One Couple's Real-Life Garage Loft Ideas and Style We Love

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Garage Loft for Guests


Guests will never want to leave once they experience life in Tim and Carol Thompson's guest apartment above their Chicago-area garage. The roughly 19-x-36-foot space includes a bathroom with a shower, living room, open kitchen, bedroom, and nook for laundry and storage.

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A Functional Plan


Architect Michael Abraham designed the creative layout. "Mike told me to think of the bath as a big tree growing up through the middle of the roof," Tim says. He created a bath with curved walls and a custom shower near the center of the space. This layout gives the apartment an open and airy feel, even though it's small and the four rooms are well-defined.

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Exterior Stairs Make Sense


Exterior stairs are both a cost-efficient and space-savvy garage loft idea. Anything that pierces the garage ceiling or connects parking and living spaces must be properly sealed to stop exhaust fumes from reaching inhabitants. In addition, interior stairways consume valuable floor space and must be blocked off to be fume-free.

Tip: For year-round access, use thick cedar treads on the stairs that can handle occasional winter salt.

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Details Matter


The front door features an oval knob. A welder's torch turned its nickel surface blue-gray.

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Safety First


Stability is key when planning a living space atop a garage. Consult a structural engineer to ensure the upstairs is properly supported. The Thompsons' guest retreat has 2x12s on 12-inch centers as well as steel beams and columns.

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Texture is Design


The seating area features curved stucco walls and reclaimed pecky cypress wood paneling. The wood was coated with drywall compound, sanded, and stained.

Tip: Create a uniform look using the same materials throughout the space. Here, marble windowsills match the kitchen countertops.

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Add History for Timelessness


Century-old slate tiles reclaimed from a military complex are used for flooring throughout the loft. The slate is less than an inch thick but resembles larger chunks of stone because of the deep mortar bed and broad grout lines that showcase the tiles' chipped edges and irregular shapes.

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Innovative Garage Loft Ideas


A custom-cut marble countertop creates a narrow hall into the kitchen. Abraham says the usual rules, such as "halls must be 3 feet wide," don't apply in tight quarters. Thinking outside the box with garage loft ideas allows you to get more use out of the space. The passages between the kitchen and the other areas are only 2 feet wide.

Tip: Add character and save money with DIY features. Each flower-shaped cabinet knob in the kitchen was handmade.

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The Look for Less


Combining budget-friendly kitchen fixtures, such as stock cabinets and a beaded-board backsplash, with marble countertops and a professional-grade range, gives the kitchen a high-end look at a moderate price.

Tip: Get a built-in look for less. The refrigerator is an inexpensive model with a faux-steel front tucked in a surround made of salvaged cypress. "We cheated the wall a few inches so the fridge would fit almost flush with the countertops," Tim says.

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Show Creativity


This handmade cabinet combines whitewash pine and salvaged glass. The flower cornice is made of pine strips joined to form hollow cylinders.

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Knockout Hardware


Seven-foot-tall screens made of wood planks and louvered doors provide privacy for the bedroom. Hardware from a home center anchors the door. The hinges were battered with a grinder and a hammer, then antiqued with stain.

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Customize Antiques

bedroom with white and burgundy headboard

The Thompsons found a unique way to add storage in the bedroom. An antique mantel from New Orleans creates an attractive bedroom shelf.

Tip: Tim, a custom builder, recommends having a plan and careful measurements when working with antiques. Make sure the piece fits in the space before you fall in love with it.

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Stay Consistent


A louvered door panel separates the bedroom from a walk-in closet. Matching shutters on the windows carry the look throughout the room.

Tip: A good garage loft idea is to keep horizontal lines consistent. When the tops of doors and windows, the transom line, and the tops of cabinets line up, everything feels more spacious.

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Add Storage Everywhere


An old scrap of mahogany is bolted to the wall to create bedroom storage for robes and towels.

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Light the Way


A local artist crafted this handmade light fixture. The bronze and nickel pendant light fixtures are used throughout the space.

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