That Stunning Garage Reno We Dream Of: An Interview with Maplewood, NJ Resident, Jeremy Frechette

There are two common relationships we have with our garages; one that fulfills its original purpose as a car house, and one that emerges when we former urbanites decide storage space takes priority over a car house (a driveway feels sooo luxurious after alternate-side-of-the-street parking!)

And then there is Jeremy Frechette’s special relationship with his garage. That in which the garage is Eliza Doolittle. Your vision of “garage” transcends cars and storage, landing squarely at an unusually beautiful multi-use space. Even more impressive, is that you actually conceptualized and fabricated the space yourself from start to finish!

  • Before Photo of Jeremy Frechette's Garage
  • Gorgeous frontal view of Modernized Garage
  • Gorgeous side view of Modernized Garage, featuring entrance door.
  • Interior of Jeremy Frechette's Garage featuring a diamond polished floor
  • Interior of Jeremy Frechette's Garage featuring a sitting area
  • Interior of Jeremy Frechette's Garage featuring two puppies

IYH: What initially inspired you to convert your garage into a multi-use space?

JF: I was initially inspired to convert the garage into a multi-use space when the Covid lockdown began and I had to transition from a location photographer to finding a way to keep providing my clients with their photo and video needs. I reached out to all my clients and offered my house as kind of a haven for them to send products that I could shoot in spaces throughout my home. Many of my clients were thrilled about the idea and sent me products to shoot as they virtually art directed. It was such a success that my house became filled with my clients’ products so then I started looking at the garage as an alternative space to shoot. 

IYH: What practical background and skills do you have that enabled you to take this project on and complete it so beautifully?

JF: I come from a long lineage of Carpenters on my father’s side of my family, and started building houses with my father when I was 13. Granted, I was only doing tasks like keeping the job site clean, stacking the wood and materials when they would get delivered, and bringing supplies to the crew when they needed them. Within a few years, I was part of the crew swinging hammers, cutting wood, erecting walls, and reading blueprints. These formative years taught me most of what I know about working with my hands and having the knowledge of construction… a real gift from my father that has proven time and time again to be one of the most valuable skills I carry with me every day. 

The prep time was critical to the success and speed of the renovation process because I did not have to compromise on my design choices or materials because I had everything I needed prior to pounding the first nail. 

Jeremy Frechette

As mentioned earlier, I am a location photographer meaning most of my shoots take place outside of a studio environment and at locations ranging from rental homes and buildings, hotels, in the mountains, on bodies of water, and occasionally from helicopters. I am fortunate to get to travel a lot for my jobs, both within the US and internationally. These travels have given me the opportunity to stay in beautiful hotels and see a lot of unique architecture. I guess a portion of my brain is kind of a Pinterest board of architecture and design elements that I have picked up from the places I have visited. My garage transformation is a sanctuary reflecting the design elements that have inspired me over my many years of travel.

IYH: What did you want the space to feel like?

Jeremy: I wanted my garage to feel inspirational and a place that is modern in design, all the while being light-filled and comfortable. The all-black exterior is surprisingly very Zen and a calming color to look at. Black is used a lot in Japanese architecture, and I am a huge fan of the Japanese aesthetic, so it was an easy choice for me to paint the exterior black. I chose an all-glass garage door to maximize the amount of natural light that would fill the space. As you enter the space the all-white interior instantly gives you a sense of awe as well as an immediate feeling of calmness fills your body. I am not saying this as fluff, there is actually a real sensation you feel as you enter the space and stand in it. I made deliberate design choices to make the space feel the way it does. I polished the concrete floor, which adds a natural luxurious look to the flooring, and raised the rafters, so the space instantly feels much larger than it is. 

IYH: What did you envision the space to be used for?

Jeremy: I wanted the space to be a place that stimulates creativity, so I designed it to be multi-use. I am a photographer and director, so it is a space for me to shoot as well as a screening room for the videos I create. It is also a space to showcase my art as well as the artwork of local artists…paintings, photography, movies, sculpture, and music. I wanted to create a space for the community to get together to see and hear all the amazing talent that lives in SOMA. I also envisioned the space to be a kind of think tank for creatives to get together to talk about and collaborate on projects. I have always loved the art of Bonsai (which happens to be the name of one of our dogs) so it will be a place for me to work on my Bonsai trees. 

IYH: What was your biggest obstacle during the process?

JF: The biggest obstacle during the process was twofold. One, finding alternative storage for all the items that came out of the garage that I still needed to have access to, and two, managing my time spent working on the garage with my time spent working and with family. So how did I do this time management? I set my alarm for 5 am every day and would get up and spend two hours working on the garage then, I would dedicate the remaining part of the day to my work and family. In the evenings, I would occasionally head out to the garage to tie up any loose ends from the morning’s project. This was a healthy approach to the renovation, even though it made the process go a little slower.

There will be extremely frustrating days but remember that you are creating a space for yourself and that the frustration will be worthwhile when your vision transforms a dull, ordinary space into something spectacular. 

Jeremy Frechette

IYH: How long did the process take from start to finish?

JF: The actual renovation process took 4 months but I spent several months prior planning and designing the space and sourcing materials. The prep time was critical to the success and speed of the renovation process because I did not have to compromise on my design choices or materials because I had everything I needed prior to pounding the first nail. 

IYH: What suggestions or advice would you offer to someone interested in renovating their garage?

JF: If anyone is interested in renovating their garage, my greatest advice is to know exactly what you will want to use the space for. Once you know what the end use will be, then be as creative as possible to create a space that reflects your personality, but most importantly, just have fun with the process. There will be extremely frustrating days but remember that you are creating a space for yourself and that the frustration will be worthwhile when your vision transforms a dull, ordinary space into something spectacular. 

There are many ways to do a garage transformation. From a simple clean-up and making it a more organized space to pushing all the limits and making it a dream space. No matter what you envision your space to be, you can do it on any budget. I was budget conscious, so I would visit local lumber yards and home improvement stores to rummage through their clearance areas. I found all my windows on clearance and saved over $2500 on just the windows. There are also many great online resources here in SOMA where you can find items for your renovations. Subscribe to SOMA at HOME Salvage Market, Swap Meet SOMA, Community Gifting SOMA, and Facebook Marketplace. You will be surprised at the treasures you will find. If anyone is interested in transforming their garage, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email for further advice.

There you have it! Thanks to you, Jeremy, for so much valuable information and for sharing your vision, creativity, and experience. You can check out more of Jeremy’s projects and work on his website and on Instagram.

LISA DANBROT, MANAGING EDITOR, “INSIDE STORIES” Having grown up in 1970’s Brownstone Brooklyn as the only child of a mother who was a writer and a father who was a designer, both valuing the arts above all else, aesthetic preferences and creative interests have driven my life. My foundations are as a dancer and a painter. Professionally I have managed art galleries and worked in publishing for an arts quarterly. Maintaining my relationship with movement through yoga, I’ve been teaching classes and trainings since 1999 in Brooklyn, NYC and most recently to the communities of Maplewood and South Orange NJ where I’ve lived since 2011 with my two sons (artists in their own right!) and my husband who is an exceptional creator of food, design, music, objects, paintings and humor. I obtained my Real Estate License after moving to SOMA. I was inspired by the housing stock and the opportunity to assist people with the city-to-suburb transfer. I approach my work in Real Estate as a creative practice–matching home seekers with homes, and the artistry of negotiations and service. I am delighted to be involved in the project of Inhabit Your Home.

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