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        Drive home a dreamhouse design by shifting gears and focusing on the attached garage.

        Today's residential garages are occupying more square footage and often are the primary way of entering and leaving a home, says educated aerospace engineer and co-author of the Rogue Engineer blog, Jamison Rantz. Jamie Rantz is the other half of the husband-and-wife design and contractor team that chronicles building their Ann Arbor, Michigan, dream home together.

        "The garage doors take up a lot of real estate on the front of our home," Jamison says. "With so many garage door options available, why wouldn't you find doors that complement your home's architecture and design?"

        Homeowners don't have to settle for builder's grade, windowless garage doors. Manufacturers are rolling out new garage door options that are more insulated and energy-efficient with eye-catching styles. Viewed less as a commodity and more as an integrated architectural element by consumers, garage door manufacturers have revved up sales with new designs, such as the carriage-house style.

        The Rantz home features a 900-square-foot drive-through garage with doors that enhance their modern farmhouse's curb appeal and functionality. They drove up the design factor by having two steel American Tradition Series carriage-house style garage doors made by Haas Door, based out of Wauseon, Ohio.

        Painted in "cool black" with a wood texture, these steel doors shed light on the Rantz's design with specialty glazed glass windows installed along the top of the door. Insulated steel garage doors are energy-efficient, low-maintenance and won't crack, warp or split when installed properly. Hinge-straps and door pulls can be the finishing touches that elevate a garage door from a standard to stellar design.

        The Rantzes also included a second garage door on the back wall, which opens to a large yard and enables them to drive through the garage, as needed. A high-end commercial grade garage door -- with all-glass panels -- acts like a large picture window that can be raised and lowered, Jamison says.

        "The glass-paneled garage door allows tons of natural light into the space and truly showcases our outside view when we're inside the garage," he says. "This full-glass door is a showstopper to guests."

        More and more, homeowners are using their garage as additional living space, whether it serves as extra storage, a man cave or an entertaining area, says Ben Weiss, a San Diego-based design consultant with California Closets.

        "Because not everyone has the luxury of a large home with a basement, you have to be organized with the space you have," he says. "The garage is a natural ingress and egress point of the home, and for many, it's the drop-zone, when people are transitioning from outdoors to indoors."

        Businesses -- like California Closets -- and manufacturers are rolling out garage organizing options that transform it from a catch-all to a well-designed car-park.

        "When I design a garage space, I ask people how they live," Weiss says. "Things that go in and out of the trunk of a car need to have a space closest to the garage door. A refrigerator in the garage should be near a countertop. The more a design makes practical sense, the more likely you are to keep it organized."

        No matter the level of garage upgrade, Weiss says the first step to any home organizational project is to first clear away the clutter. That means donating outgrown sporting gear, disposing of unused hazardous chemicals and discarding broken items that will never be fixed.

        After everything is off the garage floor, making the space functional starts from the ground up. Badly broken concrete flooring may need to be re-poured, but creating a clean surface can be as easy as installing an epoxy floor coating or laying interlocking, reinforced polypropylene tiles, designed for heavy-duty garage usage.

        A track wall system -- which features grooved channels like store display walls -- features modular shelving, hooks, bins and cabinetry that can slide into place without using nails. Get in the zone by creating different zones for a garage's use:

        -- Tool Time -- Start with a tool bench to anchor the space and mount most-used tools onto the wall or into easily accessible, clearly labeled drawers or cabinets.

        -- Car Parts -- Store motor oil, coolant and filters together in a cabinet that's out-of-reach by pets or children.

        -- Sporting Goods -- Ball-handling skills are easily practiced when bins are affixed to the wall. Hang up everything from baseball bats to golf bags, with individual lockers for each child as an option for personalized storage.

        -- Storage Bins -- You only have to look up to create even more storage opportunities. Vaulted garage ceilings can mean constructing a permanent platform to keep bins off the floor for good.

        A garage can be an open door into the family that occupies the home, Weiss says. "How the garage looks and functions conveys a message about the rest of the home," he says. "Plan a garage purge once a year to get rid of things you no longer use and make room for the things you do."

        For the Rantz family, their garage is also getaway to host their rambunctious children's parties, where it doesn't matter if things get dropped or spilled.

        "Because we built the garage with radiant in-floor heating and the doors are well-insulated, I believe we could actually live in our new two-car garage," Jamison says. "Our garage is always comfortable, even in our cold Michigan weather."

        Revving Up Garage Design

        Go to HaasCreate.com to upload a photo of your home and virtually click through garage door designs before buying.

        Go to CaliforniaClosets.com or call 888-336-9707, to request a free garage organization consultation.

        Subscribe to RogueEngineer.com to follow the Rantz family's adventures as they build their dream home in Ann Arbor.

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