Monday, March 03, 2008

More Than A Garage

board and batten
Today’s garage, in some ways, is simply an update of the nineteenth century carriage house. Compared to today, those structures seemed more important and therefore more time was taken for planning both the look of the buildings and their relationship to the home. Often the carriage house was part of a barn or stable and occasionally included living quarters above.

I consider the character and placement of a freestanding garage as important as locating the house on the property since the addition of a garage begins to make an isolated house into a compound. A garage structure can be used to block winter winds, an unsightly view or to simply provide an attractive element in a landscape composition.

When a client asks us to design a garage for their home, one of the first questions we ask is: “Do you think you would ever need additional living or storage space?” and most of the time the answer is “Yes”. Compared to building free standing guest quarters or studio space, the second floor of a garage is the best deal in town. Since you already have a roof and foundation, the additional costs include taller side walls, a stronger ceiling/floor, and a stair to create usable raw space for storage. simple interiors

Once the building is framed, finishing off the space can be accomplished modestly or at great expense just like you would any room in your home. A living space over an unheated garage does present some unique challenges. First the floors as well as the roof must be very carefully insulated. Secondly the water and septic lines must be insulated until they are in the ground below frost line. The garage space must be separated from the living space by fire rated sheetrock and any door into the living space from the garage must also be fire rated.

As far as taking care of cars, we have designed garages with radiant heat in the slab as well as air conditioning. For one car collector we included lifts and an oil changing pit as well as a two story viewing gallery.

Whether you need a simple structure to cover a car, a place to display a valuable antique, or a multipurpose building for cars and guests, the architectural details and the relationship to existing structures is as important to consider when designing the garage as any building on your property.

A Room for Mud

mud room storage
A Room for Mud

Living through the seasons in the Northeast reminds me of my daughters’ favorite book ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ where the father, the kids and the dog go looking for a bear and when they find one, they run home through the snow storm (Hoooo woooo), the forest (Stumble trip), the mud (Squelch squerch), the water (Splash splosh) and back through the grass (Swishy swashy). They then run into the house(without wiping their feet), up the stairs, into bed and under the covers with the bear country mud roomlooking through the window. I’m sure that having a mud room to shed the wet and muddy layers would have made mom happier when she came home.

Just about every home we design includes a mud room which is good for keeping bears out, but more importantly provides a place to take off boots and coats and leave the mud and slush behind. Mud rooms are also the primary place for organization of outer wear for future excursions. More elaborate spaces include slop sinks for cleaning gear and storage space for sports equipment and even sometimes a dog grooming area. Some layouts also work as an airlock to the rest of the home.

The basic requirements include a non slip, water resistant, durable floor. Walls and cubbies should be made of a rugged material such as wood with plenty of room to hang coats and store boots, gloves and mittens. Occasionally we will add a center drain to the floor for easy wash down(make sure the baseboards are waterproof). A bench with or without a hinged seat top is required for putting on and taking off those extra tight boots. Near the ceiling, a long shelf comes in handy for hats and other paraphernalia.

Even though the mud room can be the smallest room in the house, from its organizing capacity to the impact of a cleaner home, this little room earns its keep.