Guest Architect: Joseph Stein Centex Homes

Raleigh, N.C.


Q: How can I maintain the integrity of my new-home elevations on narrow lots and still include an attached garage?

A: Due to rising land costs, many production home builders are being forced to develop houses on smaller lots than they have been accustomed to. Usually, this takes the form of narrow widths, which is the simplest way to achieve a higher density. This creates quite a test for the architect. Once the width of the house drops below about 48 feet, it is no longer possible to present the "normal" two-car garage, entry foyer, and living and dining areas to the street elevation. Architectural massing schemes and details, which serve to de-emphasize the garage on a wider house, can lead to discord on a narrow plan and actually make a house look narrower. So, the challenge is to integrate the garage (especially a two-car model) into the massing of the house while visually widening the elevation.

28-Foot-Wide Elevation: A simple gable roof, with the ridge line parallel to the front wall, tends to widen the appearance of the house.

  • Allow for pediments at the second-floor windows.
  • Include twin windows. They appear wider.
  • Instead of a two-story covered entry, try breaking it into a covered entry with a second-floor balcony.
  • On tall, narrow elements, use a material change with a band to emphasize the horizontal line.
  • Trim the balcony floor to make it look like it's 12 to 16 inches thick.
  • 36-Foot-Wide Elevation: Don't try to cram too many pieces onto the elevation; instead, opt for a few well-executed elements.

  • There should be no more than one break in the main roof line.
  • Make sure the roof pitch is not too steep.
  • Incorporate the elements over the garage in the roof massing.
  • Six-inch-wide frieze and corner boards make the trim look more substantial.
  • Create a shed roof over the garage. It won't dominate the facade like a gable would.
  • A porch with well-detailed and well-proportioned columns adds interest.
  • Glass panels in the garage door add a pleasing design element and help to integrate the door into the architecture.
  • Use a glass entry door if there is not enough width for sidelights.
  • 40-Foot-Wide Elevation: In the plan, it's best to keep some living spaces and second-floor bedrooms as far forward (relative to the garage) as possible. Within 6 feet of the front of the garage is best.

  • A hip roof is good if it permits an adequate horizontal ridge line.
  • A wide trim band emphasizes the horizontal lines.
  • Scale down the massing at the entry.
  • Use single garage doors if possible.
  • The front columns should be 10 to 12 inches wide.
  • Extend the brick or stone as a "waistband" to strengthen the visual base.