Garages that belong to the house

A well-designed garage does lots more than just bring cars in from the sun or snow. It can provide space for storage, plus maybe a shop, a studio, or other hobby area.

Architecturally, the best garage also brings a sense of "belonging"-serving as a visual companion to the house and looking as if it’s always been there.

This charming brick carriage house is our first case in point Several years ago, owners Laurie and David Davis converted their original attached two-car garage into a family room. To replace it, they built a detached garage that mimics their 1957 ranch in its arched openings, brickwork, and roof pitch.

Two decades ago, architectural designer Gary Salter started planning a Colonial-style house for his family. He created an authentic period design that fits nicely into historic Norwell, Massachusetts.

Green paneled doors and red brick siding (top) help the new garage blend into the neighborhood (above). The entry to the garage and its upper level (right) matches the home’s detailing.

When he drew up plans for the original house, there was no way to attach a garage because of the septic system’s location. So, for 20 years, the family got along without a garage.

"Finally we decided to do something," says Judy, Gary’s wife. Judy acted as the client, citing her needs and preferences, while Gary supplied the design know-how.

Their solution-the half Cape Cod "house" shown here-won an award in Better Homes and Gardens magazine’s 1996 Home Improvement Contest. Janis and Gary Hostetler’s new garage solves several problems at their stately Indianapolis home. It gets their cars off the street and makes room for the workshop Gary has always wanted. Best of all, the garage accommodates secluded outdoor living in a bustling downtown setting.

Architect Terry Bradbury strove to ensure the new structure’s proportions, hip roof, and trim echoed the classic Italianate detailing of Janis and Gary’s 120year-old home. A patio, topped with a classy pergola, links the house and garage.

From its arched doors to the cupola and weather vane up top, the new garage (right) mimics an 18thcentury relic.

For security reasons, the windows on the garage’s side (above) aren’t windows at all. They’re an ornamental arrangement of shutters and trim pointed to match the house.

From the front, the garage (below right) looks like a neighboring home. Both house and garage are set back from the road and blend into the wooded landscaping.

"I don’t feel like I’m downtown when I’m sitting out here," Janis says. "I feel like I’m in an outdoor living room."

The garage features a bonus room upstairs that could someday provide more living space. "We toyed with the idea of an apartment up there," Janis says, "but decided we didn’t want people living in our backyard."

This new garage belongs to a house with history-a cottage that was built in the mid-19th century and later moved to a wooded hillside site in Zionsville, Indiana.

Automotive access to the garage (above) is from a back alley. The garage’s raised-panel siding doesn’t copy that on the three-story house, but similar proportions, materials, and color schemes tie the two together.

The garage’s rear entry (above) opens to a patio with world-of -itsown privacy. Stairs inside lead to a room above.

You hardly realize this is the back of a garage (left). The garage’s windows mimic those on the back of the house.

The homeowner would have preferred the convenience of an attached garage, but property boundaries, hilly terrain, and mature trees ruled that out. Instead, she built a rustic "barn" that looks as if it’s been on the property for more than a century.

On the ground level, the garage accommodates the owner’s 1952 British roadster, the minivan she uses for everyday wheels, and an extensive collection of garden tools and supplies. An exterior stairway climbs to a loft that stores garden furniture and other seasonal items.

Matching stain color and roofing help the garage and house righ harmonize without looking exactly alike.

Placing the stairway outside (above) doesn’t take away from storage space inside the garage.

Outdoor furniture and Christmas decorations go up and down these stairs several times a year.

A deep overhang at the front of the garage (right) serves as a porch, complete with a tilt-top picnic table.

Wrought iron hinges and latches give the overhead garage doors the look of swinging born doors.

Garage door danger

You may have been in this situation and escaped without incident, but not everyone does. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, 50 children in the United States died or suffered permanent brain injury between 1982 and 1992 as a result of accidents involving automatic garage door openers. Thousands of others suffer less-serious injuries every year. Make your garage door safer by putting it through these tests once a month.

Reversing test: Garage door openers manufactured after 1982 are likely to feature automatic reversing mechanisms that sense obstructions and send doors back up if they hit something while closing. To test the sensitivity of the mechanism, some manufacturers recommend placing a block of wood on the ground beneath the door. The door should reverse within two seconds of contact. Consumer advocates say that this test should instead be conducted with a large, unwrapped roll of paper towels which more accurately simulates the body of a small child. If your door doesn’t pass the reversing test, a knob on the motor housing will allow you to adjust the sensitivity until it passes. Garage door openers made after 1993 have even more sophisticated safety features. According to federal mandate, they must be equipped with pressuresensing reversing systems along with photoelectric sensors that prevent the doors from being activated if there are obstructions in their path. They may also be outfitted with switches that must be held down constantly to operate doors.

Balance test: For maximum safety, the door must also be properly balanced. To test this, disengage the electric operator and stand outside. Lift the door 3 or 4 feet off the ground, let go, and step away quickly. If the door drops to the ground, it is out of balance. Because balancing a garage door requires adjusting the tension on heavy-duty springs, it should always be done by a professional. The springs should also be attached to safety cables. In the event that a spring breaks, the cable will stop the spring from flying off and causing injury or death.

Equilibrium test: Finally, perform an equilibrium test. With the electric operator disengaged, watch and listen to your garage door as you raise and lower it. If it is hung properly, it will glide up and down smoothly without screeching or Littering. If it is lopsided, or not moving smoothly on its tracks, it should be adjusted by a professional. Not only will lopsided or improperly installed garage doors not function well, they’ll put undue stress on the electric motor, making it difficult to correctly adjust the reversing mechanism and causing a potential fire hazard.

Considerations for parents: Teach your children that the garage door is not a toy-no matter how much they like to push buttons. The National Safe Kids Campaign recommends that you teach your children to wait until the garage door stops moving before they enter or exit a garage. They also suggest locking a garage door’s remote control in your car’s glove compartment.

Easy living house

We can learn a lot from houses. Some teach us the finer pionts of home maintenance, while others beckon us to slow down and appreciate life. This home leans toward the latter. Built with charm and ease of mind, its classic Cape Cod design harbors plenty of ideas for your place, too.

Architect Paul Kreuger decided on the locally grown Cape Cod style for this summer home near Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The one-level design hugs the landscape, lending itself to an interior free of steps and other barriers-and ensuring the empty-nest owners will enjoy the home well into their retirement years.

Most Cape Cods feature tight rooms and low ceilings with upstairs attics. But this home boasts an open-beam design with little in the way of interior walls, creating wonderful volume.

Laid-back living dictated the arrangement of rooms. The kitchen, dining room, living room, and porch-where the homeowners spend the most time-enjoy the best views of the ocean. Ceilings measuring as high as 16 feet provide the roominess of a much larger home-without the cleaning responsibilities.

Although a couple of rooms have rugs, the entire home’s floor is oak-treated with polyurethane so water dripping from a bathing suit isn’t a problem. "And the wood is the color of sand," Kreuger points out, "so you don’t worry about every grain of sand that might be on the floor."

When winds outside howl, the living room-with its fireplace and shelves full of books- provides an always-cozy respite.

Sunshine sates the living room and adjoining spaces through a large, south-facing window. Because of the window’s height, you can see light filtering through the trees almost as if you were outside.

No four-walled kitchen and separate dining room for this family. The oll-in-one room lets everyone participate in good cooking and lively chatter.

Time away from the scrub brush and dust mop is spent in the living room enjoying a toasty fire on a cool day, or outdoors exploring a nearby wildlife sanctuary. Boating, fishing, and bird watching come easy in these parts.

By deciding early on what furniture pieces would go into each room, the architect and homeowners were able to cut down on unnecessary floor space. "Everything we put into the house is a useful item," Kreuger says. The 13xl4foot master bedroom, for instance, accommodates a queen-size bed plus the usual dressers and nightstands-but no more.

Beadboard paneling finishes the home’s walls, ceilingseven the kitchen’s built-in desk and island-for on informal vacation-house feel. Easy-care laminate counters are perfect for no-hassle deanups.

The centrally located dining area extends to a large deck outside..

A three-wing plan (left) with zoned heating allows the guest bedrooms to be shut off when not needed, saving on energy costs.

Just as much thought went into the room’s location. The master suite, which angles away from the living room, enjoys wonderful views and separation from the guest quarters.

Ease also extends outside, where the landscaping is completely maintenance-free. Because fresh water is precious here, indigenous birch trees, Russian sage, and fescue grass make up most of the plantings. The landscaping choices were never a question-most of us would also trade in the lawn mower for a fishing pole.