Mar 27, 2024

Our Garage Home Gym Makeover – Before and After

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Lara Casey | 2023

Ahhh, spring has sprung, and I’m excited to share one of my favorite home spaces with you today. You’ve been so patient as I’ve taken time to heal from surgery (that story is coming soon, too) and emerge from winter hibernation.

As you know, we’ve had a bit of a health transformation over the last year. Ari and I were experiencing chronic health challenges and discovered new ways to care for our bodies. This has transformed our minds, bodies, souls, and our relationship. We now have more energy to do the things we’ve always wanted to do.

Affiliate links are used in this post – enjoy!

A year ago this week, Ari and I made a big decision together. We wanted to find a piece of wild land for several years and build a little house in the woods. Such a piece of land came up down the street from where we live. We went to hike it and fell in love. God works in mysterious ways. Despite our love of the land, direction appeared all around us in this season of discernment: growing friendships between our kids and our new cul-de-sac neighbors, fully realizing I was in my midlife moment, new insight about our youngest’s needs with an Autism diagnosis, and knowing—after all the change of last couple years—we needed rest. Moving and building a house would take us in the opposite direction to a stressful transition. We decided to stay here, right where we are, with all the broken pipes and things that fall apart. And with wonderful neighbors and trust in God‘s plans. I read somewhere that unmade decisions are one of the most detrimental things to our health—they clutter your mind and keep you from being present. Every day since making this decision has felt sweeter and sweeter right here where we are.

So, we chose to make the most of this space we have, starting with our garage!

This garage, y’all. It has seen some unique seasons. Let’s start with its first use as the Southern Weddings/Cultivate What Matters Shipping Department, complete with official signage. We pushed pallets of magazines and thousands of products up this driveway. Bless my neighbors.

How many days has an actual car been in here? Four. Four days. It did not last long.

After the business outgrew our garage Shipping Department, we attempted to clean her up for more domestic use: gardening, workshopping, kid things, bikes, and the like. We eventually even added a couple of windows and redid the storage.

But, her most dramatic transformation happened out of a desire to have a wellness space for the whole family after a challenging few years. I had spent the previous decade working out at home, walking around the neighborhood, with no gym membership in sight. I slowly added a few small free weights in 2022, but I knew I needed more. I was ready to get back to the gym like my personal training days long ago and attempt to heal my body after a stressful season. As we crept into our mid-40s, Ari and I wanted to invest in our long-term health, and I wanted the kids to be able to get the most out of the space, too. Turning our garage into a wellness space seemed daunting at first. It would be a big transformation, but we knew it would bring rewards in the long term.

I set out with a mission on Pinterest and spent hours measuring, researching, and sending our carpenter questions. I wanted the space to have room for the kids to play, for Sarah to do her OT exercises, and for Ari and me to work out and recover well.

There was also the puzzle of what to do with all the things in our garage—you know, garage-y things. Where would the ladder and all the tools go? What about the bikes? The leaf blower? The 20-lb bag of organic fruit tree fertilizer??

As we began taking everything to prep for construction, the answer turned out to be two-fold:
1. We had to be selective. We donated most of what was in the garage. This was big and so freeing. We decided what we could realistically borrow from neighbors (ladders) and what we absolutely needed to keep (the kids’ bikes). Not having every tool leads to more connection with neighbors, too—a major bonus of downsizing.
2. We had to be smart about storage locations. We evaluated the spaces in our entire home and chose the best locations for the items we needed to keep on-site. Some things left the garage and went into indoor closets, and some things we realized we needed less of. For instance, large paint cans saved for future touch-ups went into small mason jars. This forced us to see what we really need and keep only the essentials.

The process of reorganizing and downsizing was hard work, and I needed a bit of a rest from it all. So, instead of selling some of the larger items we decided to part with, we put them all on our list-serve—free for the taking! This was SO fun to see how it blessed so many people. A single dad needed a ladder, a mom took several items for her daughter’s first apartment, and a newlywed couple had some of our storage racks on their registry. This energized me to keep going!

Now that we had space and room to dream, we chose these 6 main items to invest in:

— A cable machine/squat rack combo with bumper plates. We debated between the Titan and the Ritfit Power Cage, ultimately going with the latter because of the number of features included for the price. It was a beast to assemble, but worth it in the end. I love this thing.

— An infrared sauna was our largest investment in the space, and we use it daily. The health benefits are extraordinary; we’ve seen marked gains in recovery speed, reduced inflammation, and far better nighttime sleep. For me, it’s been especially instrumental in detoxing after surgery. If you order one, mention my name for a discount.

— A red light therapy panel – another daily game-changer for all of these reasons.
— Therapy swings, a punching bag, and ropes for the kids. I had no idea how much this would help them each day – they are always in here.

— Neutral linen covers for our Nugget Play Couches, which turned out to be the best part of the space. The cover color gave these kids’ couches a modern, functional feel. They serve as exercise mats for me, which are easy on my joints and back.

— Exercise thingy-things! It’s the small things that can make a big impact on our daily wellness routines. Find all of my favorites from our home gym here. Our space was completed with free weights, a yoga mat, a wooden box, an exercise ball, and foam rollers. We already had the Octane elliptical, so we just had to pay a technician to move it into the space and give it a good tune-up.

The transformation of the space itself was so fun to watch! It was a challenge, too, though, as I wanted to bring in as few VOCs as possible. This took research (and wasn’t always perfect), but our AirDoctor 5500 definitely did some heavy lifting in construction and after.

Okay, I know you’re wondering, so let’s talk about the garage door. Where did it go, you ask? It’s still there but skillfully hidden behind a wall. Our construction crew said they do this for model homes. They remove the garage door tracks and machinery, store them away in the attic if you ever want to put it back to sell the house, and build a removable wall around the existing door with insulation. I looked at allllll the options here: an insulated garage door ($$$), removing the garage door entirely (not HOA friendly), and this was by far the best option for cost and logistics.

— So, we covered the garage door and stored the tracks in the attic!
— We put in an eco-friendly floor
— We used zero-VOC paint throughout and natural wood – I’ll list paint colors in the comments!
— The wood trim through the space really made it sing – I’m grateful we went with this
— We installed a small but mighty HVAC unit through a friend of a friend. It’s energy-efficient and quiet.
— I chose natural sisal rugs instead of rubber – I did not want the fumes from traditional gym flooring

The decor was super fun for me. I love transforming a space.

— The light fixtures gave it an upscale library look
— Natural water hyacinth baskets made for great storage
— A cost-saving move: I chose these Roman shades in lieu of cabinetry doors. They are so simple, and all of our gardening supplies, towels for the sauna, bike helmets, and various tools are tucked behind them on peg boards. I’ll try to get a video of this for you to see – this system is WONDERFUL!
These mirrors saved us a ton of money compared to getting a sizeable commercial gym mirror
— I loved this inspiration and went with board and batten with peg hangers. I love them together, and they have been so practical for hanging towels and placing art
— I decided on a warm botanical theme with citrus fruit in honor of my dad, who loved all things citrus and health. Many of these are free public domain prints I downloaded and framed.
— The exercise bench and rattan storage benches look fantastic and are both great quality for the price
— The Nuggets – again, a huge hit, and they get used multiple times a day for workouts for me and Ari or kids’ playtime

These photos were taken last September, and we’ve made some small newer additions since then.

I’ve gathered all of our home gym favorites for you here and here.

There you have it: our favorite space in the house! It’s where I start my day with training and end my day before bed with redlight and sauna. We’ve been in this space for almost a year, and it consistently gets used multiple times daily in every season.

We’re so glad we made this space our own instead of moving. It has blessed us all—and many friends we’ve invited for sauna and playtime.

While a lot has changed at our house over the last year (I’ll share a few more before and after posts soon!), the Shipping Department sign will forever remain – a reminder of the beautiful seasons that brought us here to our Garage Wellness Space.

Many thanks to my sweet friend, Traci Huffman, for the photographs! 🌿

5 Comments

  1. Casey on March 28, 2024 at 7:28 am

    Oh my stars! It’s beautiful, Lara! I can’t wait to keep reading more about your journey to health. These posts are so inspiring and give me so many good ideas. 🩵

  2. Dawn on March 28, 2024 at 5:37 pm

    It’s beautiful, Lara!! Looks so cozy and peaceful. Every little and big decisions you made work together so well. Excited for you and your family!!
    I have always wanted to transform our garage into several things over all these years. Something about garages has always appealed to me.

  3. Sarah on March 30, 2024 at 6:37 am

    Love anything you post and this was inspiring. We got a peloton bike and began using that ecosystem in 2020/202, and having the ability to work out in a beautiful space at home (my living room for weights and my office for the bike!) with natural light and steps away from my kids (instead of schlepping to the gym) has been such a game changer. It’s so much easier to make a habit when it’s easy and rewarding. Thank you for sharing. Happy for you!!

  4. Emily on March 30, 2024 at 4:24 pm

    What an incredible transformation! So fun to see it all together. I love how the details make it work for the whole family and for so many different parts of life!

  5. Caley on April 10, 2024 at 6:13 am

    Wow wow wow!! What an incredible transformation, and such a beautiful space x

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