The Evolution of the Family Garage

NewEng1It has been said that the automobile has redesigned the American landscape.  The news is that it is hard at work on a new project, redesigning the American home.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the frozen north where the garage is evolving into a grand reception area and usurping the function of the mudroom as primary entrance to the dwelling.  Designers have long been at pains to incorporate this structure, at first just a storage shed for the family car, into the site as gracefully as possible.  As Americans acquire more cars, and spend more time in them, this task has become more complex.  As garages grow to three and more bays they can begin to dominate the site, transforming it from a home to a car storage facility with onsite accommodations for drivers, passengers and baggage.  To discover how to mitigate such a presence, and for ground level observations on the evolving culture and design of the family garage, we consulted with Guild Member Bob Moulton, of Moulton Custom Garage Door Company in Duxbury, VT.  

Bob Moulton is a native Vermonter and student of the way traditional North Country buildings defeat the many combinations of snow, ice, slush and mud that surround them for half the year. The mudroom, a common expedient, is a partially heated chamber at the primary entrance which allows people to shed this mess before entering.  The familiar connected barn complex strings all the out buildings between the barn and house so that it is never necessary to venture into the slop.  The overhead garage door itself is an adaptation to the northern climate, being operable without having to clear a passage for it through the snow.  He sees builders incorporating these large reception areas into the home by working with traditional ideas.  The garage is functioning as a grand mudroom and it is frequently modeled after parts of the connected farmhouse, Victorian carriage barn and other familiar adaptations.  

Bob Moulton observes that growth of the garage area has been driven not just by the need to store more cars but by the demand for more dedicated space per vehicle.  In the old days, passengers and cargo would frequently remove from the car in the driveway because the garage was too cramped to permit door swings sufficient to allow a comfortable exit.  In the grandest of these vehicle reception areas, room is allowed for full door swings, and easy passage around the vehicle.  Some garages are built with raised curbs alongside for foot traffic.  It seems that the North Country climate has helped to push the evolution of the garage beyond just a nice thing to do for the car to an extension of the living space, the room of arrivals and departures.  To humanize these structures and harmonize them into the existing buildings, builders are appropriating familiar models and period materials.

List of Custom Garage Door Specialists.

By John M. Corbett

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