Platinum Parking: Building the Perfect Garage
by erin byers murray
Conrad Wetterau’s garage
There's a certain level of artistry involved in building the perfect garage. We're not talking about that overstuffed storage space attached to most suburban homes, but rather the showpiece stand-alone, often a striking architectural statement with a six-figure price tag. Architect Greg Colling says they've been showing up in Boston's most exclusive suburbs for the past five years: "I've seen an increase in the market for specialty buildings such as garages to store private car collections. Sports cars are today's art collection," he says.
For car collectors with land to spare, the super-garage can be a worthwhile investment that increases property values, say the principals at Wellesley and Weston real estate firm Benoit Mizner Simon & Co. The buildings, which range in size from several hundred to several thousand square feet, might run up to $350,000 for a fully loaded man cave, complete with car lifts, integrated audio-visual systems, and well-stocked bars. Just as important, these garages can provide climate-controlled storage for investment-grade vehicles, as well as the convenience of having an auto collection within arm's reach—reason enough for many owners to justify the expense.
Conrad Wetterau with his collection
THE MANSION OF MUSCLE
A graceful Victorian houses automatic lifts and other modern amenities, even a Kegerator.
When Conrad Wetterau, a Weston resident and beer distributorship owner, decided to design a garage for his sports car collection, there were a few specific requirements. He needed a structure to hold as many of the dozen or so European and American muscle cars he owned as possible, but he had only 1,000 square feet on which to build it. (Among Wetterau's trophies are rare vintage Ferraris—investment-grade collectibles he co-owns with his brother, Mark—as well as a 1976 Mini Cooper, a 2006 Custom Shelby GT500 Mustang, and a rare 1970 SS Chevelle LS6.) And while Wetterau no longer rebuilds cars, the space had to be equipped to allow for the minor repairs and detailing he still likes to do.
Wettereau's passion for collecting started during childhood. "I was a gearhead at an early age," he says, noting that he bought his first car, a 1972 Camaro SS, with lawn-mowing money and promptly took the thing apart in order to rebuild it. Later in life, after he and his brother launched the beer distributorship, they began collecting in earnest.
When Wetterau decided to build a space for the cars, he connected with Greg Colling of Merrimack Design Associates, whose work includes designs for specialty buildings such as carriage houses, indoor pool rooms, and cabanas for discerning homeowners. Colling's expertise with traditional building design and classic craftsmanship convinced Wetterau he was the man for the job. He asked Colling to create the structure in the Victorian style of his main house, and Colling delivered with a 19th-century shingle-style design.
Because of the limited space, Colling decided to go vertical, maximizing the usable area by including two automatic car lifts, which allowed for storage of up to five cars, with the option of adding a third lift for six cars. The room is capped off with industrial ceiling fans, pendant lights, and a cupola outfitted with low-maintenance LED lights. Outside, a custom copper and titanium weathervane—a perfect replica of Wetterau's 1967 Corvette—crowns the top of the cupola.
Colling added a stain-resistant epoxy-coated floor for easy cleaning and maintenance. An energy-efficient heat pump and super-insulated walls allow Wetterau to work in cold months. Colling also specified black steel cabinets to conceal a central vacuum unit, compressor, air and water hoses, and a hot water heater. For entertaining, the room is outfitted with an integrated audio-visual system, which includes two television screens and a sound system, also concealed within cabinets. Wetterau's final request? A Kegerator was installed, so he could always have beer on tap. "Ultimately," says Wetterau, "it's a place where I can admire the collection, hang with my buddies, and drink a beer."
Span Systems created the roof for this garage and for the Bank of America Pavilion.
THE MODERN OVERLOOK
This architectural marvel elevates storage to an art form.
While building a modern home in Manchester-by-the-Sea, architect Marcus Gleysteen of Marcus Gleysteen Architects wound up with a surplus of unused glass. On seeing the pile of excess material, the client (who prefers to remain anonymous) suggested using it for a garage. This client wanted something far grander than a place to store the family's two cars; his vision was for an architectural showpiece with a Piet Mondrian-inspired design to complement the recently completed house, a dynamic contemporary form perched on a ridge, featuring curtains of glass and a soaring curved roof.
Gleysteen jumped at the challenge. Before architecture school he had worked as a sculptor, and this project would be "the first that required the skills, creativity, and vision developed in art school," he says. Those skills were put to the test as he faced one obstacle after another on what was, after all, a garage. After discovering structural issues with the original glass, he was forced to replace it with new glass, which opened up the design to a much cleaner and more exciting result. For the roof, made from a Teflon-coated Fiberglass fabric, he contacted Span Systems, the company that built the roof on the Bank of America Pavilion.
"From an engineering standpoint, [the roof] really is quite amazing," says Gleysteen, who created what appears to be a tent resting softly atop a box. "We had a lot of fun engineering maintenance systems that are utterly hassle-free," he adds. Waterproof openings, or small pockets in the roof fabric, were added so it could be cleaned of mildew and dirt with a regular hosing inside and out. The paneled doors are lightweight and easy to open, offering a view of the sea just over the ledge where the house stands. The client didn't need bells and whistles for the cars—the garage would act strictly as a storage spot for the family's two workaday autos. But Gleysteen added uplights to show off the room's interior, which make the building glow at night. While the garage's soft roof provides a striking visual counterpoint to the sharp lines of the modern, sculptural house, "One doesn't upstage the other," says Gleysteen. "The purpose of the garage is to be a wonderful piece of sculpture."
The deluxe garage on-site ensures that Leed can easily access his prized autos.
SOUPED UP IN THE SUBURBS
A car lover builds a carriage house to keep his collection close at hand.
"As soon as you start collecting cars, you realize that if they're not physically on your property, you're not driving them," says Steven Leed, the copresident of Royal Jewelers. To make sure he would have easy access to his collection, he decided to build a two-story carriage house on his North Shore property. Now, even if he's simply scooting off to pick up groceries, he can do so in, say, his '57 Porsche Speedster.
To create the stand-alone structure, Leed worked with John Grasso of Grasso Construction to create a space that's more than a storage garage. "If you're going to build something like this, it must be aesthetically pleasing but also be an important structure," he says. Like many who commission stand-alones, Leed wanted the building to harmonize with his 1930s New England-style brick home. While he knew the general style he wanted, he sought inspiration for the specific design. Leed and his wife, Elizabeth, drove through towns along the North Shore, where outbuildings like barns and carriage houses are commonplace. A carriage house with a large semicircular window impressed them, so Leed sketched the image on a napkin for Grasso to modify for their garage.
The structure's first floor is dedicated to car storage and display. Leed outfitted it with easily cleanable, vintage-style industrial tiles, an early 1900s soapstone sink with hose hookups, hidden cabinetry to conceal a compressor and tools, and plenty of wall space for his collection of vintage racing posters. Gallery lighting and wood paneling give the floor, which holds up to nine of Leed's cars, a showroom feel. Upstairs, Leed built himself a personal clubhouse, complete with a bar he salvaged from a Faneuil Hall restaurant as well as a converted billiards-and-pool table—but no televisions. "I wanted the focus to be on what was happening in this space. The people [who stop by], the cars, what was happening right here, not on a game somewhere," he says. This is also the area where the family gathers for an occasional Sunday evening games night.
Though Leed calls his collection "fluid," meaning as a desired car becomes available, one will be sold due to limited space, he holds onto a few of his favorites year after year, including a Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet, a model that was only made in 1971. Typically he has about a dozen cars at any one time. "I get a lot of pleasure from the aesthetic value of each," he says. "It's sometimes difficult to part with one, but I'm privileged to have them, even if they're only under my care for a short period of time."
photography by andy ryan
photography by marcus gleysteen
photography by russ rocknak/mesh new england