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When Concrete Collaborative cofounder Kate Balsis bought her ’70s-era abode, the idea of converting the 420-square-foot garage into usable square footage wasn’t on her mind—until Domino came to capture the home’s renovation and the photography team used the area to set up shop. 

“That’s when I realized it could be a kind of bonus room—a main thoroughfare that brings a taste of what’s to come in the rest of the house but is still really functional,” explains Balsis. Not that she anticipated an easy overhaul. “It was pretty bad,” she adds, laughing. “The concrete was gross; it felt very damp and dark. There was nothing nice about it.” 

Still, she couldn’t unsee the potential—and her vision for it was clearly correct. A five-months-long, budget-conscious DIY endeavor culminated in a colorful, comfortable, SoCal-cool space that defies, and redefines, expectations of what a garage can be. “It has really become the heart of our house,” Balsis says. Here, she shares how she pulled it together. 

Start From the Bottom

The garage, before. Photography by Kate Balsis
The garage, after.

Gussying up a garage floor often looks like fixing cracked, stained concrete and finishing the surface with an epoxy—but, as Balsis related, even that route can be costly. So why not go at it with another highly durable material that’s intrinsically good-looking? 

The flooring features Concrete Collaborative’s Venice floor tiles in Alabaster and Laguna tiles in Universal Green.

“Compared to re-creating an improved version of what was originally there, tiling was relatively cheap,” says Balsis. (Admittedly, being able to pull products from your own company helps.) “Stone aggregate is super-durable and easy to clean, and it sets the tone—everything in here kind of pulls from that green terrazzo.” The large-format checkerboard pattern extends throughout the space, continuing halfway up the wall on the interior side of the partition. “Our one rule is ‘no white.’ We just like to have everything saturated with color,” she adds.

Lean Into Budget-Friendly Finishes

The garage storage, before. Photography by Kate Balsis

Rather than redoing all the drywall, Balsis decided they would cover it up—including the ceiling—with a material that pays subtle homage to garage workshop origins: plywood. “It’s an inexpensive alternative to layering finishes and painting, and it really elevated the space,” says Balsis. The cladding is also a nod to skate culture and the perfect backdrop to her sons’ board collection. “This is a storage solution, but to me, those skate decks also function as art,” she says, as do the trading cards and figurines given pride of place in the space. “These walls reflect what’s relevant to us.”  

Balsis leaned into IKEA cabinetry, too. “We didn’t really do anything custom,” she explains, instead utilizing Concrete Collaborative stock tiles as a desk backsplash and sourcing tonal knobs from Etsy. She also went big box for the coffee table, albeit with a twist: “The base is from Urban Outfitters. We repainted it and then added a terrazzo top.” 

“You could really use any coffee table with a glass top and make the swap,” adds Balsis. “It’s a cool way of doing something really bespoke but doesn’t require a commitment to construction.” 

Give the Laundry Room a Glow-Up

A peek into the laundry room, before. Photography by Kate Balsis
A peek into the laundry room, now.

“I hate laundry—it’s my nemesis,” says Balsis. So it helped immensely to turn what is typically a utilitarian space characterized by drudgery into a design moment. 

The peachy, patterned 8-by-8-inch tiles carry across the floor and up the walls.  Fluorescent overheads were swapped for prettier lighting picks. A butcher block countertop provides much-needed space for folding without breaking the bank. But the best part is how being in there puts Balsis in proximity to her kids when they’re chilling on the garage sofa (a Facebook Marketplace find, by the way): “It’s kind of like I can hang out with them without hanging out with them. I’m close enough to just tune in.”