March 2010 Issue
Determined to take his garage beyond the typical cluttered storage space, a Lima homeowner creates a customized room for his car.
For most Americans, the garage is a place to hang pegboard, fill metal cabinets and collect oil stains from parked cars. For Carl Bornhorst of Lima, it’s a room; one he created specifically for his 1973 MG Midget.
“It took six months to complete this project,” says Bornhorst of the space, the last project of a meticulous three-decade-long renovation of his three-story home located on West Market Street Boulevard. Built in 1928, his home was named to the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Park Service in 2004.
“After 30 years of restoring the house, I started to think about the garage,” says Bornhorst. “A garage is actually a large part of our homes, with most being over 500 square feet of space. I didn’t want to look at junk. I wanted my garage to be a relaxing sight.”
Technically retired, Bornhorst still logs 40 hours each week in the office of a local trucking company (“I can’t stand the thought of not having a job,” he says). After work, his garage is where his mental gears switch from drive to park as the tap of a soft ball hanging from the ceiling against his windshield lets him know that he and the car are in their proper, clutter-free place.
“I did not want my garage to be a man cave for playing cards or watching sporting events. I wanted my garage made into a room for my car,” says Bornhorst. “I have been to parties where hosts drape sheets over their garage walls to hide garden tools and hoses. I didn’t want that. If I plan an outdoor party on my brick patio or on my rooftop garden, it can be moved quickly into the garage where my guests will be equally comfortable.”
For the garage’s interior, Bornhorst searched for recycled items from the 1920s that were narrow enough to leave room for one or two cars. “Whenever I am refinishing or refurbishing, I get the feeling the original designer would be glad I am giving something he took so much time to make a second chance instead of throwing it away,” Bornhorst explains. “I ask myself, would the gentlemen who made it appreciate my efforts if he were still alive?”
Which is why his search for furnishings is never ending. “I am always looking,” explains Bornhorst, who begins every day at 5:30 a.m. with an early morning jog and the possibility of a few trash-day curb finds to add to his collection of period pieces.
The room for Bornhorst’s car is as comfortable and cozy as it is functional. A small leather settee, flanked by an end table with a working built-in Philco radio, provides a place for him to remove his shoes before he enters the house. Center ceiling, a schoolhouse swag adds light to the room. The room also offers a comfortable place for Bornhorst to read, and a long narrow sofa table holds a variety of books as well as a small compilation of audio books and CDs for driving. A coat rack in the corner holds Bornhorst’s collection of caps. Two decorative art deco shelves hang on the wall to display a set of miniature cars, along with a half-dozen pictures precisely positioned around the room.
Bornhorst found a store in Cincinnati with architectural artifacts and visited local demolition sites to find closet and cupboard doors that were just the right match and fit. Full-size, stained pine doors hide the trash cans Bornhorst tucked out of sight in a closet. Making their comeback from the Roaring ’20s, hardwood half-kitchen doors, with their original doorknobs, serve as cupboard doors installed under the marble and butcher-block counter top. An extra-wide rectangular picture of an MG Midget show Bornhorst attended in Indianapolis turns a backsplash into a conversation piece. “I actually went to the show the year the MGs made laps around the Indianapolis 500 track,” he says.
The drapes and curtains are custom made. “I took the measurements, chose the fabric and a seamstress in Delphos made them,” says Bornhorst. Light tan drapes cover the two main windows and tight-fitting matching panels are neatly attached to the garage door windows using top and bottom rods.
Bornhorst hired a local concrete refinisher to transform the cement garage floor into a wood plank look and had it top-coated with a shiny finish that protects the surface from oil spills. “The garage floor was not removed,” he explains. “That is the same floor I had, with a technique used to make it look like wood.” And to make sure his project was complete from top to bottom, a rooftop garden crowns the garage. The slate roof skirts the base of the garden, which is an especially beautiful sight in spring and summer.
Bornhorst credits his mother with instilling his drive for discipline, hard work and a job well done. “[She said] working hard all day makes a person feel better at night,” he says.
Relaxing in his handsome new space, Bornhorst must feel good indeed.