But now, thanks to the recession and a crappy real estate market that makes everyone just want to stay put forever, garages are emerging as the next room of the house to renovate for added living space.
If you have one, it's cheaper to remodel a garage than building an extension because the structure already exists (with some oil stains, but still) and as a garage is often detached from the house, it makes for a nice studio, guest room or office with some privacy. What's more, if the real estate market ever recovers and you want to sell, you can describe the garage as an outbuilding on the family compound. Or if you want to make some cash, you can rent out the big house and retire to the garage (which also works if your spouse throws you out).
Shelter publications are taking note of the trend. So after you clear your clutter, what can become of your ugly duckling garage?
Sunset magazine details a classy garage conversion by an architect in San Francisco. A two-car garage was repurposed into a guest room, office and bathroom under a new gabled roof - and surprisingly, there was room left to squeeze in one car.
Just so you know, the garage-storage industry is worth upward of $1.5 billion annually, according to a market study quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The shed-organization sector (there is such a thing) brings in another $520 million or so, according to the study's source, the market-research firm Specialists in Business Information.
That means we're hoarding lots of stuff and willing to invest in innovative ways to stash it.
So even if your garage will remain as a storehouse, you can still dress it up -- at least from your neighbor's perspective. Ever consider weather-resistant photo-murals that you attach to the door with Velcro?
At Style Your Garage, 'the world of garage billboards," you can chose from an array of images such as wild horses, a wine cellar, a garage for racing cars or "sexy go-go girls." Your garage will look great -- or at least be a conversation piece -- and your neighbors will certainly wonder what's inside. Only you will know it's just junk.