GARAGES worth a tour

Here’s a look at re­cent garages, in­spired by pe­riod houses, which make the most of new space. BY PA­TRI­CIA POORE

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Like early elec­tric light­ing, most early garages were plain. (Hav­ing elec­tric­ity, or an au­to­mo­bile, was sta­tus enough.) To­day the garage is ex­pected to do more, from stor­ing grownup toys for four sea­sons to pro­vid­ing a work­shop or plant room or home of­fice. With the cost of new con­struc­tion, it makes sense to hire a de­signer for your project and to make the most of it. No mat­ter whether you have a vin­tage home or a new house de­signed along tra­di­tional lines, you don’t want to end up with “a garage with house at­tached.”

The garage was at first a util­i­tar­ian build­ing sep­a­rate from the house. By the 1920s—when it might be built along­side the house rather than at the back of the lot—the garage was in­creas­ingly tied to the house proper by a log­gia, per­gola, or breeze­way. A low wall be­tween house and garage formed a court­yard (or, at least, a laun­dry yard). The “walled com­pound” look was par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar for English and French Re­vival houses. The at­tached garage be­came more pop­u­lar af­ter fear of gas fires sub­sided, al­though many codes con­tin­ued to re­quire fire walls.

Garages for 20th-cen­tury Colo­nial Re­vival houses em­u­lated the con­nected build­ings of New Eng­land farm­houses. On for­mal Ge­or­gian Re­vivals and sym­met­ri­cal Dutch Colo­nials, a garage as one wing bal­anced a porch-on-slab, sleep­ing porch, or sun­porch on the other side. Soon garages were tucked un­der the house or hid­den in ir­reg­u­lar mass­ing. Not un­til the post­war split-level did dou­ble doors boldly ap­pear on the pri­mary façade.

If the garage it­self has lit­tle prece­dent as a fully de­tailed, multi-func­tion space, that’s not true of out­build­ings in gen­eral. Sur­viv­ing barns, al­ready of­fer­ing mul­ti­ple ar­eas and stor­age ca­pac­ity, were re­made by sev­eral gen­er­a­tions as guest

quar­ters, or as car barns with a work­shop, stor­age loft, and so on. Vic­to­rian houses may have had a car­riage house later con­verted to garage space. Both are com­mon sce­nar­ios used by to­day’s de­sign­ers for adding a garage to old houses. Bun­ga­lows of­ten had a garage from the be­gin­ning; builders’ cat­a­logs as early as 1909 in­clude garages with new homes.

Fancy garages are noth­ing new; they were built all along for wealthy. By the Twen­ties and cer­tainly the Thir­ties, sub­ur­ban own­ers could choose from garage de­signs that matched the house:

Mediter­ranean, French, Colo­nial Re­vival, Dutch Colo­nial, or English. Crafts­man­in­flu­enced styles were easy to adapt to garages, with their wood shin­gles, sim­ple frame­work, and lat­tice or a per­gola. A Ja­panese look was not un­com­mon. “Span­ish” garages had tiled roofs. Garages have al­ways had win­dows for ven­ti­la­tion and light, of­ten mim­ick­ing those of the house.

DE­SIGN GUIDE­LINES First of all, if you have an old garage that’s us­able, even if doesn’t match the house, con­sider choos­ing paint color and trel­lis­ing to make it at­trac­tive. You’ll see garage doors painted to match the trim color of the house, or even left white from the fac­tory. But paint­ing an ugly or too-big door the body color will help hide it. (New pre­mium doors made of hard­wood are some­times var­nished for the nat­u­ral-wood look, adding fur­ni­ture qual­ity and a lovely color to the doors.) If the doors are at­trac­tive, do paint them in the trim color, per­haps with pan­els re­versed to body color (or a shade of the trim color).

If you are build­ing a new garage, de­cide which of th­ese cat­e­gories you pre­fer: a sim­ple, util­i­tar­ian garag­ing space, or a garage that stylis­ti­cally matches the house. Will it be at the back of the lot, semide­tached, at­tached, or in­te­grated into the house? If fit­ting in mat­ters to you, walk or bi­cy­cle around town, peer­ing down al­leys and side streets. Note ma­te­ri­als, garages’ re­la­tion to their lots and houses, roof types, door styles, and de­tails. Re­mem­ber that the new build­ing will be close to the old, so match the ba­sics and even try to in­cor­po­rate some sal­vaged win­dows, millwork, or or­na­ment.

An ar­chi­tect will take a so­phis­ti­cated

ap­proach to garage de­sign. A de­signer may be able to in­te­grate car park­ing into the ex­ist­ing house, as a mod­est rear ex­ten­sion—or un­der it, in space ex­ca­vated from the base­ment or pa­tio. A de­signer un­der­stands that the garage has to be sub­servient to the main build­ing, by means of lower height, a set­back, or lo­cat­ing it at the rear or side of the house. De­tails are de­signed to be re­lated to the main house but sim­pler, not fancier.

How­ever plain or fancy, the garage will be judged by its doors. If they out of pro­por­tion, ob­vi­ously mod­ern, and clunky rather than stylish, the build­ing will look wrong. The in­her­ent prob­lems of swing­ing doors (they sag and get blocked by snow) led to in­ven­tion of the seg­mented door that re­tracts into the garage above the ve­hi­cle. To­day’s man­u­fac­tur­ers go to great lengths to cre­ate the im­pres­sion that their ap­par­ently old-fash­ioned doors look like they swing (or slide, or fold), even though they of­fer the con­ve­nience of an over­head sec­tional door—and re­spond to the re­mote-con­trol opener.

Ap­pro­pri­ate de­sign goes be­yond aes­thet­ics to solve site prob­lems. The garage can bridge a slope, hide an un­for­tu­nate view, or block road noise.

Tra­di­tional de­sign and ma­te­ri­als make the ren­o­vated car­riage house look orig­i­nal to the New Eng­land prop­erty, where the house is in turn-ofthe-cen­tury Shin­gle Style.

RIGHT Beau­ti­ful pro­por­tions mark a Colo­nial Re­vival three-bay garage with a hy­phen con­nec­tor to the house. Re­tractable over­head doors by Cam­bek ap­pear to swing; their win­dows match the fen­es­tra­tion on the house.

LEFT In the Vic­to­rian tra­di­tion, a garage with an apart­ment above, de­signed by David Heide De­sign Stu­dio, echoes the style and rooflines of the main house.

ABOVE Car­riage doors (by IDC Doors) are un­ob­tru­sive, re­cessed un­der a row of win­dows in a multi-pur­pose Tu­dor garage with a wood-shin­gle “thatch” roof.

RIGHT Built to re­sem­ble the con­nected out­build­ings of New Eng­land, the new garage ell fea­tures fire-code doors of clas­sic de­sign from Garaga Inc.’s East­man series.

LEFT A re­cently built garage/of­fice fits seam­lessly in a neigh­bor­hood that re­tains some of its orig­i­nal car­riage houses. Its cross gam­brel roof and un­usual fen­es­tra­tion match fea­tures of the old house it ad­joins.

LEFT Sim­ple, one-bay, and de­tached—yet hand­some and fit­ting with its bun­ga­low-era de­tails and pe­riod-per­fect doors by Real Car­riage Door Co.

BOT­TOM The front-fac­ing at­tached garage dis­ap­pears into new gables added to a 1969 tract house re­done in Arts & Crafts mode by Wai/Gorny De­sign.

RIGHT A garage by The Bun­ga­low Com­pany is un­ob­tru­sive at the side of the house; a con­nec­tor bridges the change in slope.

BE­LOW Dug out be­neath the yard, the near-in­vis­i­ble garage be­lies ag­gres­sive de­sign by David Heide De­sign Stu­dio. A stone-cov­ered re­tain­ing wall and ivy on brick soften it.

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