Let’s get rid of the rows of bleak garage doors

Phil Berg
Car Culture

For a couple of generations during the pre-bust years of subdivision sprawl, houses were jammed together on quarter-acre lots and that forced their attached garages with huge doors and necessary two-car driveway pointed at the street.

All of those monolithic, monochrome, and monotonous doors overwhelmed the regular house architecture of a lot of the suburbs around the Metro Detroit area.

Since then, around the rest of the country, USA Today reported an increase of homes being built without garages in 2012, which reporter Tanya Snyder said “stands to reason” because of more dense developments built nearer to town centers. The garage-equipped new home building figure dropped from 92 percent to 87 percent.

But in a lot of places, we’re still stuck with bland doors as our neighborhoods’ faces.

Here’s what to do: Folks from Singapore to Cologne have been taking action to end the blight, with help from Munich ad agency honcho Thomas Sassenbach, who was inspired by billboards for a solution to bland garages. He started selling large weatherproof prints to cover doors in 2008, and now has sold about 15,000 of them worldwide. Most have gone to German customers, but next in popularity is the U.S. He’s also sold billboards to customers in Australia, South Africa, Brazil, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and the U.K.

Sassenbach had enough of plain up-and-over style garage doors driving through his hometown of Cologne, Germany. “Garage doors have always been mouse gray and ugly there — and very often soil the appearance of well-maintained homes,” according to Sassenbach.

The door covers span a single car’s seven-foot width all the way up to 32 feet. Most popular mural cars featured by Sassenbach’s company are the ’50 Bentley and Mercedes 280 and the yellow Lamborghini, while the U.S. garage owners prefer the ’32 hot rod and an open wheel racecar.

Car guys take note, however, that the company’s bestselling murals are the jet and then the horse pen.

The mural fever has spread indoors, too. California garage fan and car nut Peter Wollons brought the idea of floor-to-ceiling murals to his small, two-car garage in 2004. Wollons wasn’t so much inspired by wanting to decorate his garage as much as he wanted to preserve the memories of cars he no longer had: A beloved ’33 hot rod that had been stolen way back in 1984, and a ’58 Impala that he wished he never sold. Missing those cars so much led him to have his current garage walls painted with copies of the cars, full-size.

Wollons notes that it took 23 straight days to have his interior garage walls painted with murals by artist friend Gary Soszynski. (See his works at www.garysoszynski. com; see Sassenbach’s murals at www.style-your-garage.com). When Wollons leaves his garage doors open for passers-by to look in, the “neighbors think I’m crazy,” he admits.