Theory & Research – Car Gallery – Rigby & Rigby

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Theory & Research – Car Gallery

Written by James Ashfield, Studio Director

Our interior design team have been researching the fundamentals of a car gallery. Car enthusiasts and collectors can present their pride and joy either privately or publicly throughout their home or at a dedicated location and a car gallery can vary from a single display box, eg. a viewing panel onto the garage, to a ‘petrol head’ dream den with multiple or even 100’s of vehicles. With such high-value & collectable items, the vehicles can be treated carefully like a piece of art or sculpture & displayed in a similar fashion. This article looks into what makes a car gallery, what to consider and some interesting examples.

Display & Design

The initial items to consider are client driven: quantity of vehicles, spatial requirement, access & interaction. In the following pages we present some options that are heavily influenced by the vehicle(s), the space, the entry/exit and how the client wishes to display their vehicle(s).

Environment & Conservation

Classic cars are high value collectables and in 2018 a Ferrari 250 GTO sold at auction for $48m+. A list of the top 50 most expensive supercars dated 2017 starts at $380k and continues up to $8m. It’s important the environment is set up to preserve such a beautiful investment. The environment must be stable with good airflow to prevent moisture & to ideally maintain temperature. There should be sufficient space for the associated MEP equipment.


The light source can be from varied angles however when placed above and/or to the side it accentuates the shape of a vehicle. The current go to choice for lighting is led. The best brands provide excellent quality light, true CRI (colour rendering index) and a range of colour temperatures, along with dimming & interactive facilities. Crucially, LEDs emit no damaging UV or IR radiation and produce far less heat than other options.


The layout should accommodate cleaning & maintenance of the vehicle(s) & a dedicated space may be required to service the vehicles. If a car is stored and unused the battery & other elements will deteriorate – it is good practice to service the car when not in use. Another consideration is to allow for charging, there are varied slow and fast chargers available.

Access & Security

Access into the area where the vehicles are stored should be carefully considered. Both horizontal and vertical access are options depending on the spatial requirements. A car stacker is a great & efficient way to store and access vehicles, especially in cities where space is a premium. A high-value vehicle can be kept both secure and on display provided there is a balance between design and security – this should also be aligned with the insurance requirements.

Garage, Den or Lair

Galleries can be split into three main design categories as below:

  • Garage: a ‘usual’ arrangement to store vehicle(s)
  • Den: an interactive arrangement to display vehicle(s)
  • Lair: a ‘James Bond’ bunker with a wow factor

, Theory & Research – Car Gallery


Display & vehicle integration

The parking zone should be planned to allow sufficient space for each vehicle. Modern cars are typically larger thus requiring more space to both park and manoeuvre. Depending on the model, the length can exceed 5m, this is greater than the standard UK parking bay at 4.8m. The spatial design should respond to the collection of vehicle(s), the access route and how each vehicle is to be both displayed and interacted with. Design data, such as turning circles, is useful to refer to and other technology such as turning circles could be deployed to increase manoeuvrability.

Design considerations

Materials: it’s recommended to use a robust flooring that can be easily cleaned, such as a self-levelling floor screed (latex, concrete or emulsion). The walls and ceiling are perfect areas to accommodate lighting and features to allow a complimentary backdrop. More utilitarian materials can be used such as polished plaster, concrete or metal panelling – often the latter is good as a mesh on the ceiling to conceal away pipework and MEP.

, Theory & Research – Car Gallery

Environment & Conservation

What is the ideal environment?

The ideal environment is a temperature & humidity-controlled space to prevent the deterioration of the vehicle(s). Moisture is a major cause of rust & corrosion that can be detrimental to a vehicle. An ideal temperature is 21 deg centigrade (or lower) with a humidity level of 40-50%. If the vehicle(s) is being stored and not regularly used or a controlled environment is not possible then a premium breathable cover is recommended to maintain both the metalwork & paintwork.

The vehicle(s) can be further protected via careful planning of the space – a good precaution is to allow 1m+ of void space around each vehicle. A dedicated area for both cleaning and maintenance is also recommended – considering how moisture is an issue, a transportable vehicle ‘air dryer’ can be incorporated to fully dry the vehicle.

, Theory & Research – Car Gallery


Light source

Often vehicles have a defined shoulder line that can be accentuated with an overhead light source such as a light strip or box. The position & strength of the light is critical to help define the geometry – if set too far away or too forward the vehicle geometry looks bland. This could be troublesome if the space is limited but an adjustable led is a good solution. If required additional diffused lighting can be added to accentuate key details such as the wheels & any vents. Softer diffused lighting is important to avoid glare & reflection.

Lighting colour

The colour of light varies from warm yellows, through cool whites and then into colder blues. If the car gallery is associated or connected with other rooms it’s good practice to continue the same lighting. If the room is independent then a colour range between 3500k – 4500k is recommended. 4000k is similar to daylight and will not distort the true colour of the vehicle.

, Theory & Research – Car Gallery



As part of the maintenance process a dedicated charging station(s) should be considered for eletcric vehicle(s) – even if the current fleet are petrol because it is a good idea to futureproof. Charging can be categorised into three main types – rapid (10o+kw & up to 350kw), fast (7kw to 22kw) & slow (3kw to 6kw). A fast charger can typically charge a vehicle in 3-4hours and a slow charger would be for overnight use. Fast & slow charging are popular & suggested for domestic use. There are also specialist companies dedicated to converting classic petrol cars into electric.

Cleaning & servicing

Cars require attention, especially classic cars, to ensure smooth running. Having an open but weatherproof space to service a vehicle is a good idea, alternatively if space allows then a dedicated service area can be incorporated. Sufficient space should be allowed around the vehicle with access above and below eg a car service lift. Other considerations are welfare facilities for staff.

, Theory & Research – Car Gallery

Access & Security

Vertical & horizontal access

A car stacker is an efficient space-saving way to securely store vehicles. It’s convenient to store cars in basement areas due to the reduced light levels thus minimising any paintwork deterioration.

Car lifts are available from fully automated computerised systems capable of storing thousands of cars, or a simple double stacker for two vehicles, each system uses technology to stack or move cars closer together and so provides significantly greater parking densities compared to conventional car parks.


A car entry point is traditionally a garage door and once entered further security can be incorporated. A car stacker/lift can be operated with a personalised app and the user interface can be controlled via a pin code. Cctv should be commonplace to monitor the access points and car gallery. The vehicle(s) can also be fitted with gps trackers and high security ‘kidnap’ alarms to immobilise the vehicle if required.

, Theory & Research – Car Gallery

Garage, Den, Lair



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