For years Roxanne Portnoy and her family used their attached single-car garage for storing just about anything but a car. Located between their Highland Park home and the two-car garage they built to replace it, the smaller garage held bicycles, garden tools, landscaping supplies, a refrigerator, a freezer, two workbenches and boxes of used clothing and household goods awaiting donation.

“It was always a huge mess in there,” Portnoy said. “It was a junk room, and we always kept the doors shut.”

Today, that space has been transformed into a sleek home office. French doors have replaced the lift-up garage door and serve as an inviting back entrance with a small vestibule where family members can hang their coats and sit on a bench to remove their shoes. The two side walls of the office are lined with cabinets and long matte granite counters that serve as desks. Desk drawers and cabinets are located beneath the counters, offering plenty of room for storage. Additional cabinets have been installed above the desks, framing the windows on both side walls.

The idea of replacing the shed with an office came after Roxanne tried to convince her husband, Gary, to replace the aging garage door with French doors. He agreed, but only if the entire space were reimagined as a multipurpose room and office. The couple hired Plekkenpol Builders to do the remodeling.

1730 Bayard
The attached garage at the Portnoys' Highland Park home before (below) and after (above) its remodeling as his and her offices.

New space has transformed home

Roxanne and Gary have other offices in their home, but prefer to work in the new space. Gary likes the natural light that his basement office does not offer. Roxanne likes the spacious desk surfaces where she can spread out when working on volunteer projects.

“We didn’t need it for the office space so much as an extra room to add more convenient storage,” Roxanne Portnoy said.

The couple moved the items from the old garage into their newer two-car garage and other areas of the house, Portnoy said. They moved the freezer to a porch and placed a new refrigerator on the back wall of the home office.


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The new cabinets come in handy. Portnoy used to store her food processor, blender and other appliances in the basement when she did not have enough space for them in the kitchen. With the new cabinets, they are now just steps away.

Making the space attractive took some doing

Plekkenpol Builders did exceptional work, Portnoy said. When the couple did not like the look of plywood wainscotting on the ceiling, the contractor replaced it with tongue-and-groove paneling. “We liked the company’s craftsmanship, and they stood behind their work,” she said.

Project supervisor Tahzeeb Hirji-Walji said the remodeling presented challenges. The garage floor had to be leveled before the installation of a wood subfloor, spray foam and the equipment for a heated floor. The crew from Plekkenpol capped the subfloor with floating luxury vinyl plank flooring that looks like wood, he said.

The existing ceiling was ripped out to take advantage of the pitched roof. Plekkenpol installed beams to support the roof and walls and added insulation and new windows to improve energy efficiency. Skylights were installed in the ceiling.

“It was a unique project,” Hirji-Walji said. “Just to remove the ceiling, we had to modify the structure and get some engineering done to make that happen. There was a lot to do in a relatively small space.”

And now on to the kitchen

Roxanne and Gary have lived in the house for 17 years. They recently moved out while Plekkenpol remodels the kitchen, another long-deferred project that should be wrapped up later this year. The couple are looking forward to getting back in their house and enjoying the new office and multipurpose space.

Their seven grandchildren “think the space is great,” Portnoy said.

— Frank Jossi


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