What Is a Carriage Style Garage?


Carriage garages or houses have been around since colonial America when they were used to keep carriages protected from the elements. Because the early carriage houses were symbols of wealth, they often had ornate exterior decorations and stained glass windows. Although the original carriage garages or houses are a rare find, the architectural style remains.

As wealth grew and carriages were replaced with automobiles, carriages houses evolved into garages. Throughout the course of history, carriage style garage owners started building dwelling units above the first floor of the carriage house or garage for servants to occupy as their living quarters.

History of Carriage Houses or Garages

  • Over the years, carriage houses evolved to become garages, and as wealth increased, more and more families built outbuildings or attached garages to house vehicles, tools and workshops. The term garage evolved from the French for "to store." The original French word is "garar."

As Dwellings

  • The carriage style garage with living quarters inside or built above the garage is considered an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) branch of the federal government as of 2010. HUD considers ADUs a positive way to provide affordable housing, reduce urban sprawl and improve air quality in urban areas. HUD encourages communities to allow them on residential properties and some communities have adopted more relaxed zoning codes to allow more ADUs on residential property.

Zoning Considerations

  • Contemporary carriage style garages can have any kind of exterior styling, subject to local planning department approval. Most jurisdictions have final say over how these buildings are used, especially as residences. Some jurisdictions will not issue occupancy permits to use the second floors of newly constructed carriage garages because of the safety issues, and if they do allow the garages to be used for residential purposes, they might require extensive use of firewalls to protect the occupants from the cars stored below them.


  • Many jurisdictions also have regulations for the size of these buildings. Some will not allow outbuildings that are more than 30 percent of the size of the principal dwelling, and have regulations about what percentage of the lot can be used for buildings. In rural areas, these might be easy to overcome, but in cities, the lot size requirements dictate the ultimate size of an additional carriage house or garage on the property.

Plans for a Carriage Style Garage

  • Carriage style garages are often attractive buildings. Architects design carriage garages, and plans are available online or through mail order from companies that specialize in home designs.

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