The garage isn’t normally a room that gets a lot of love and attention when it comes to home design, nor is it usually a pleasant place to pass the time. But why shouldn’t it be? The design team at Austin, Texas–based alterstudio decided to make the most of the space in a recent project.

Like many folks in Austin, the owners of Lakeview Residence live a car-centric life. Their garage needed to be easy to get to, with enough room for cars and bicycles (they like to tinker with both), as well as a workbench, trash, and storage.

More challenging was that this three-car garage had to be in sync with the rest of the elevation. “We didn’t want it out in front, nor did we want it to be the stepchild that no one pays attention to,” says alterstudio principal Kevin Alter. His team was quite taken with the trees on the property and wanted to make sure that the architecture didn’t detract from them. The designers began with a vertical element lined with slatted cypress. “The trees cast shadows on the slatted elements, and the slatted elements make the trees stand out more,” Alter observes. Both rectilinear and curved, the wood pulls the eye away from the garage door to the other parts of the elevation where it’s repeated—front entry, study, and guest house. “The home is under one continuous roof, yet the slatted pieces punctuate its free-form plan,” Alter points out. Those vertical elements aren’t just sculptural; they house storage, and Alter also uses them in the interior to give warmth, intimacy, and shape to the home’s open plan.

The floor is cement, and the space isn’t conditioned, but there are 9-foot ceilings with a skylight and clerestory windows to admit light on multiple sides. “The owner spends a lot of time there,” Alter says.

The garage door also lets light in during the day and is illuminated at night. Made of heavy-duty plastic that’s translucent, the bifold door opens overhead with the middle coming toward you. When fully opened, it rests parallel to the ground, serving as a rain shelter so the owner can work on cars and bicycles outside. Originally intended for small airplane hangars, this garage door was specially fabricated to meet residential safety and mechanical requirements.

A three-car garage is a large volume, so designing one that was close to the kitchen and didn’t overwhelm the rest of the house took some effort. But in the end, “we didn’t sacrifice function, place, or ease of use,” Alter says. “Plus, it’s cool to have a garage you like being in.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Austin, TX.