Marlon Brando’s Country Cottage


Garages are a staple of suburban residential construction, but despite their effect on a home’s size and appearance they are often overlooked during design. There are ways to improve the look or conceal the identity while ensuring that visitors don’t come knocking on the garage door instead of the front door.

For a new home, first consider whether the garage has to be attached to the house. Most people enjoy the convenience, but they should be aware of the consequences. The side of the house to which the garage attaches will necessarily lose views to the outside and, depending on the orientation, a good deal of natural light as well. A three-car garage may approach in size the house it adjoins and create an unpleasant relationship. Detachment allows the garage to take on its own character. Thoughtful placement can achieve privacy and definition for outdoor spaces.

Whether the garage is attached or not, it need not necessarily face the street. If width of lot permits, garage access can be redirected to the side or rear. For a roughly square, two-car garage, the design modification is straightforward and minimally disruptive to roof lines and structure. Meanwhile, the view from the curb changes from overhead doors and paving to windows and landscaping. Scarcity of level building sites means more homes are being built on sloping terrain, which in some cases may allow for a basement garage. This technique can save money and leave the house above to stand alone, thereby improving light, views and visual appeal; but bear in mind the associated stair location which can complicate the design, especially in a smaller home.

If the garage doors will face the street, there are several ways to improve the appearance. The simplest is to install attractive doors. People will usually spend a little more for a handsome front door when in fact the garage doors are substantially larger and contribute as much or more to the façade. Custom garage doors can be made in any style and can include windows and finishes to match or complement those found elsewhere in the design. Or, the garage can remain connected but set back or angled to reduce its apparent size and importance relative to the main house.

Extending the roof over the garage doors and supporting it on posts, columns or brackets places the doors in partial or full shadow and diminishes their presence in favor of architectural features. If the house is set far enough from the street, the driveway can be curved or angled to de-emphasize the garage during approach. Natural materials such as peastone or Belgian block can be substituted for
some or all of the paving and better blend driveway with landscaping.

Focus on the garage when reviewing designs and you’ll have visitors focusing on your front door.