In an ideal world, all houses would have perfect proportion, perfect scale, and fit in perfectly with the neighbors. That includes the garage, which, instead of being front-loaded and dominating the most important side of the home (the very first glimpse of it), would be detached or positioned off to the side—tucked away from the front façade and invisible from street view. Over the years, we’ve been asked to design homes without a garage but in most cases it’s a necessity, whether the homeowner plans to park the car there, install a woodshop, or use it as a storage shed. Oftentimes it’s zoning, budget constraints, or narrow lots that don’t leave enough room for anything but a garage in front. The good news is that there are artful ways to make a front-loaded garage a graceful part of any elevation.
The first step is to add dimension to the façade so that there’s a physical break between the main entrance and the garage. At minimum, this can be done by splitting the oversized garage door into two smaller, carriage-style doors, offering a more human scale. Yes, two doors cost more, but curb appeal sells homes. Next, the garage mass can be recessed 2 feet or 3 feet from the main body of the house, lessening the garage’s dominance. Recessing the garage by introducing a vertical break provides visual interest, plus it gives you the option of changing materials or color on the façade if desired. Taking this idea a step further, adding a small pergola creates a strong shadow, a move that makes the garage doors appear to be even more recessed (the pergola can be supported by architectural brackets). If the garage side of the house gets enough sunlight, wisteria or ivy can be trained to grow through the lattices—yet another way to humanize the front-loaded garage.