Lake Zurich man builds a 'Garage Mahal' to house his sports car collection

Brian Leadingham of Lake Zurich has been collecting late model sports cars for about 13 years. He had them stored in separate garages scattered around the area and found it difficult to truly enjoy them because he didn't have 24/7 access. So he began searching for a space where he could store them together and even invite friends and family to enjoy his hobby with him.

“I had been looking around for a space for a couple of years. There weren't any of those ‘garage condos' around me, so I began looking for an industrial condo with the right amount of space,” Leadingham, a hobbyist with two adult daughters, recalled.

A few years ago, he found a 3,000-square-foot commercial office space with a drive-in loading dock about five minutes from his home. Formerly a telemarketing office, it needed to be remodeled for his unique needs.

So, after the purchase, he contacted Jennifer McGinnis of REDUX Interior Design in Lake Zurich. She had recently remodeled his home, so he knew her abilities and knew she understood his design tastes.

The pair collaborated to remove existing cubicles and a dropped ceiling and transform it into an interesting and inviting space where he can both house and enjoy his personal sports car collection, as well as store a small fleet of racing go-karts and their transport vehicle.

In fact, the effort even earned the Top Design Excellence award for spaces under 3,000 square feet from the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) in 2018.

Most of the existing walls in Leadingham's new space were removed or shifted to accommodate easy circulation of automobiles. The original grid ceiling was removed and replaced with energy-efficient LED lighting.

“The concept was Jennifer's,” Leadingham said, “but I had specific requests that she accommodated. And now that it is done, I am beyond thrilled. It really exceeded my expectations. I have even hosted quite a few parties in the space. I love to hang out there and I still have room for about four more cars, if I buy more.”

The design revolves around the concept of the cars being the art in the space, McGinnis explained. “The cars are highlighted through a backdrop of matte black walls and ceiling. Emphasis is given to the quality of light and the color of the walls and floor. A rich black wall and ceiling color were chosen to serve as a dramatic black envelope. A durable mica chip, polyaspartic floor in metallic shades of white, silver and copper reflect the true colors of the cars. This almost subterranean feel gives way to a brightly colored hobby.”

Special consideration was given to the lighting, she added. Commercial LED track lighting is used throughout to provide high output, energy-efficient, no-glare light.

“I designed the garage by zones so he could house the maximum number of cars and complete necessary and desired tasks,” McGinnis said.

For instance, in the kitchenette area, a dining table was designed and fabricated with a beautiful natural wood top encircled with a welded band of metal and rivets. Comfortable leather game chairs on castors invite occupants to grab a beer and socialize. The full working kitchenette also provides all the necessities and luxuries of a true man cave including a beverage refrigerator, ice maker, dishwasher drawer and microwave.

The cabinetry throughout is metal clad in brushed black and satin brushed bronze and the countertop is a quartz that appears like raw concrete and has all the durability of quartz. To top off the man-cave experience, big-screen TVs, pendant speakers and security cameras, all in black, are controlled wirelessly through an iPhone and an in-wall touch screen.

In both the work area and the kitchenette, reclaimed wood covers the walls, adding a naturally rough texture. Brick is used to separate the kitchenette and the work zone while providing a backdrop to a slop sink for car maintenance. Thick, reclaimed wood is also used for the work-area countertops.

Vintage industrial elements are also incorporated into the aesthetic, according to McGinnis. Circa 1940s factory Pyrex pendant lights anchor the work zone and vintage American automotive signage, an original 1930s illuminated gas pump and various other accessories unify the space and add character. The elements within the space were specifically chosen for their mix of contemporary and warm vintage industrial feel, she said.

“The design of this space impacts the client's life, health and well-being from convenient, multifunctional cabinetry to faucets that are motion-activated to keep surfaces clean in a semi-industrial environment,” McGinnis added.

“Heavy duty pull-out shelving in the work zone makes heavy equipment easy to access. Extra, strategically placed, concealed outlets at various heights and voltages allow for a multitude of car maintenance activities. Hanging storage is incorporated for racing attire and equipment,” she said.

In addition, scuff-resistant, low-VOC paints were used. The bathrooms are low maintenance with automatic hand dryers and easy-to-clean surfaces. And the owner's occasionally messy hobby is made easier and more enjoyable through the use of dark colors, durable surfaces, easily accessible tools and equipment, and the ease of movement throughout, McGinnis added.

Primarily a residential designer, McGinnis admits that this was her first foray into garage design. But she said she was able to draw upon some prior experience in commercial design during the process and was thrilled with the unique experience and exciting result.

  Leadingham's building that houses his sports car collection also contains a kitchenette, big-screen TVs and a fully stocked bar, which comes in handy when he decides to host a party in the space. Mark Welsh/
  Interior designer Jennifer McGinnis took a 3,000-square-foot former telemarketing center and turned it into a showroom for the sports car collection of owner Brian Leadingham of Lake Zurich. The garage has a bar, bathrooms, kitchen area and vintage signs from years gone by. Mark Welsh/
  Owner Brian Leadingham of Lake Zurich also uses the showroom garage to store go-karts, which he races in Wisconsin. Mark Welsh/
  Leadingham still has a bit of room to add more sports cars to his collection if he chooses. Mark Welsh/
  Vintage signs adorn the walls of Leadingham's Lake Zurich collector-car showroom and garage. The building has bathrooms, a bar and sitting area, below, where Leadingham can comfortably host parties. He is also able to work on his cars there, as well as the go-karts he races in Wisconsin. Mark Welsh/
  Interior Designer Jennifer McGinnis along with Brian Leadingham owner of a warehouse in Lake Zurich that he had the designer turn into a snazzy garage for all his amazing cars. Exterior of the garage surrounded by other businesses in the complex. Mark Welsh/
  A customized, vintage gasoline pump is now a cabinet to hold Leadinham's collection of smaller cars. Mark Welsh/
  The garage has a bar, bathrooms, kitchen area and these vintage signs. Mark Welsh/
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