Murph, the Seasoned RookieSeasoned Rookie with Murph, The Seasoned Rookie.


Greetings, Rookies.

Last spring we embarked on a major project. In a period of six weeks, the Rookie and some very close friends constructed a new-to-me Suzuki in my backyard. We handled painting, sanding, gaskets, driveshafts, thousands of screws, and gallons of fluid.

After spending all summer in the garage surrounded by a concrete floor and bare walls and scattered tools, I realized that it was time for a change of surroundings. Since I can only tell colors apart by reading the word on the bottom of the crayons, I decided that it was time to consult a professional. My good friend Mark referred me to his favorite designer, a quirky guy named Beaux from the Dark Millier Design Studios.

tool storage in backBeaux graciously put aside a few hours of a busy day's afternoon to discuss the makeover my garage would soon receive. We covered aspects of workshoppery which wouldn't even occur to me to apply - and this is why I chose this topic for the special valentines day article. Why, you ask? Well, isn't Valentines Day (marketing-propagated fake holiday that it is) all about spending time with the one you love, or at least are attracted to for the time being? Wouldn't it be grand to have a garage and workshop that a special someone would find comfortable and pleasant to exist in, particularly if said special someone is not particularly interested in wrenching? The way I see it, putting this sort of extra effort to convert your standard twin stall garage into a grand Garage-Majal is, as Patron Saint of Zooki-melt Jimmy Buffet has said, "the difference between lighting and a harmless lightning bug."

The first thing we encountered were the walls. Typical bare studs with the exposed exterior wallboards. This would have to be covered with drywall (insulated as well) and then how to treat the walls was our next concern.

Seasoned Rookie: "Can't we just slap some white paint on there to reflect the light better?"

Beaux: "Anything is possible - but that is so nondescript. What one must consider is the depth of color and how your mind will travel deep into the wall - a flat white wall leaves nothing to the imagination, but adding a simple texture with a sponge or similar method ads a whole new feeling to the walls.

garage occupiedAbove the walls is the ceiling - again I had just assumed we would leave that white as well for light reflection from the twin 100-watt bulbs on the ceiling (which I later learned would be retired.) Colors and design tricks can be used to make a room appear smaller or larger - and yes, the garage with its exposed rafters and walls seem to reach up to the sky... a cold, infinite sky. There is no sense trying to make the garage APPEAR larger than it is - once a truck is parked inside, there is a concrete point of scale which ruins all illusions. Plus, what good is a garage that LOOKS like it could house a few new Hummer trucks when reality says otherwise?

use for ceilings and bordersThe ideal color for the workshop ceiling may be black - the absence of color is not distracting and it completely disappears from view - creating a very clean and open appearance. Beaux stated that surrounding elements should be taken into consideration when choosing the color of the ceiling. For example, if there happened to be large windows or open areas in the garage where one could see the lawn or possibly the pool, green or blue ceilings respectively would not be wise since there would be no ending point for the green or blue coloring and would then have an overwhelming infinite appearance.

This brings us to what is called the point of separation. There should be a barrier of color where the wall meets the ceiling as if to state, "this is the end of the wall. The ceiling starts here." Although various forms of molding and wallpaper borders were recommended, my suggestion of a row of mismatched license plates from previously owned vehicles was met with an interesting look of despair.

tire work"It's a good thing you hired me," said Beaux. That would be fine for everyone elses garage. But not THIS one. This garage will be a work of art.

Now that the surrounding structures were completed, it was time to start the filling of space. Beaux explained to me the theory of functionality. Everything within the room either has a function or is purely aesthetic. This launched me into a philosophical argument circle because I wanted to know how something could be considered nonfunctional if it was serving a purpose of looking nice, is that not the function of the device?

After about ten minutes of arguing this point, I was taken down to the storage room and beaten to a pulp.

It was determined that considering the type of space and function (theres that word again) of the area to be designed, we would utilize tools and other garage/workshop items as purely functional items, stored in a decorative manner. Not only does this make wise use of limited space, but also prevents me from showing people things that are nonfunctional, and having to beat THEM to a pulp when they ask why.

workbench with compressors underneathplace to store socketsThe big red craftsman drawer-sets were the first to go, as well as the pressed metal shelving sets. These items were bulky and unattractive, and inefficient to work with. Each time a tool was needed, drawers had to be opened and rummaged through before finding the one needed. These were replaced by mahogany curio cabinets (with internal lighting and adjustable shelves) so that all tools could be easily located. Smaller items, such as sockets were relocated to oak display shelves on the wall, again in easy reach and arranged tastefully. Although I insisted that the sockets should be kept in a pre-built case, Beaux reminded me of the typical dentistry/emergency room set-up where all the tools needed were kept within arms reach in an orderly display. Larger items, such as the air compressor and welding machine were kept hidden in cabinets under the work surfaces with remote leads and air outlets placed around the garage.

use for carburators and other thingsIt was determined that the work surfaces would be either stainless steel or a light colored granite. Although I preferred stainless steel not only for easy spill-cleanup but also to go along with the medical examples he had mentioned, Beaux instead suggested we go with a granite countertop with a light-colored pattern, which would help disguise the inevitable stain from greasy parts. The stainless steel would indeed be easier to clean, but it scratches easily. A compromise was reached with several stainless steel trays which would be brought out to protect the granite as needed, also to help corral small parts when working on a carburetor or other items which are known to spew liquid and tiny screws.

Overhead lighting was next on our checklist. Todays market calls for halogen lighting, said Beaux. It is a much better quality light than your common fluorescent tube lighting it gives off a cleaner and sharper light. He explained to me that fluorescent lighting is considered a cool or soft light and does not accent colors properly many of us have had photographs not turn out quite well when taken under fluorescent lighting. Halogens, although they are more expensive and operate at a hotter temperature, are considered warm light sources. This gives better color representation which is imperative in an environment where bodywork may take place.

what a cutieArmed with this newfound knowledge and awareness, I returned home and went to work immediately. The new work area had to be perfect as a Valentines Day surprise not only for myself (and of course the Rookette,) but also as a public service to any of my fellow Zookers who have to hear on a continuous basis, are you going to work on that thing AGAIN? Possibly with a little consideration to tool placement and lighting options, maybe she might be asking YOU, hey, maybe we could work on your Suzuki tonight for a little while?

Life is Good The Seasoned Rookie

07/24/10 08:19

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