It's the indoor spot where you park cars or a boat; store tools, lawn equipment, golf clubs and skis; lean up bikes; and set out youngsters' basketballs, inflatable pool gear and outdoor toys.
The garage also can be a catchall place for items to take to charity, storage boxes piled up from various moves and plain old junk.
Many residences are built with these walled-in bays, often opened and closed via a remote control, generally not climate controlled but protected from rain, winds and extreme temperatures. They're included as perks in sales listings alongside a home's bedroom total and whether it has a laundry.
Yet the garage tends to invoke ambivalence among homeowners, even though they generally desire a clean uncluttered home space. The oversized concrete-floored caverns, which may prop up slick, finished rooms for mothers-in-law, teenagers or TV enthusiasts, can become littered, unappealing, closed off from even the family vehicles. Moreover, the garage typically gives way to kitchens, baths, porches and roofs in terms of most desired or necessary home improvements.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, the garage has been rediscovered, like finding a long lost keepsake under a pile of leaves or in a newly tilled garden.
Homeowners learned that they spend a reasonable amount of time in garages -- putting together a birthday trike, packing for a vacation trip, hauling groceries from the SUV.
A share of homes include garages that face to the front, so that neighbors and passers-by can see right into messes if the doors are left open.
The result is a developing cottage industry among specialty contractors and large-scale homebuilders to organize and beautify garages, in many cases spending less than $10,000 to install storage racks and drawers or lay down epoxy or similar attractive floor materials. For thousands more, they can redesign doors to look like barn entrances or other exotic styles.
"People take great pride in their homes -- organizing, decorating and showing off various rooms of their house, especially on social media," says Karl Champley, master builder and home improvement media personality. "But the garage is the forgotten room of the home and those same people who are proud of their home are embarrassed by how the garage looks," he says in conjunction with a 2015 survey by Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Gladiator GarageWorks.
Gladiator, a Whirlpool brand, describes itself as "pre-assembled and ready-to-assemble lines of modular workbenches, cabinets, wall systems, shelving, tool storage, appliances and flooring" sold through local garage dealers, retailers such as Sears and Lowe's, and at www.GladiatorGarageWorks.com.
Garage organization and storage systems are gaining traction as 92 percent of the property holders surveyed say their home is "somewhat or very organized," but 30 percent are embarrassed about their garage, 74 percent keep the door shut so neighbors can't see the clutter and 23 percent can't fit a car in the garage. "With an average cost of a new car just above $30,000, the inability to house and protect this investment in your own garage can be an issue," the company says.
Gladiator suggests that homebuyers develop a game plan for organizing the garage by dividing the area into zones based of type of equipment or materials. A majority of people use the garage to park the car or store things, 27 percent use it for hobbies, 23 percent work on cars, 19 percent clear space for woodworking or carpentry and 13 percent use it as an exercise or sport area.