Perhaps inspired by the “Tiny House Movement,” which packs home features and amenities into a small footprint, Americans across both coasts are rethinking their garage space – and adjusting their budgets – to build apartments above it. This re-definition of the garage provides a variety of options at their fingertips, ranging from a separate suite for older children, overnight guests, and in-laws to an adjacent “staycation” retreat when renovations are underway in the main house, a hobby/crafts room, an art studio, a gym, a man cave, a “she shed,” or a rental unit to generate extra income.
A garage with apartment – as the name suggests – is a functional and comfortable living space constructed above a detached structure. As Kira Obolensky describes it in her book Garage: Reinventing the Palace We Park, the “most versatile room not in the house” comes with its own kitchen, bathroom, living, and sleeping areas; a garage living space can be tailored according to a family’s needs and lifestyle.
This attractive Craftsman style garage apartment plan includes a second-floor master suite, full bathroom, walk-in closet, and eat-in kitchen with an island and peninsula/eating bar (House Plan #163-1041).
Whether the free-standing structure holds one garage bay to three or more, there are many exciting and unique opportunities for apartment conversions. Depending on the size of the property and the structure itself, garage apartments can be designed in spaces as small as 350 square feet or as big as 1,000+ square feet – or anything in between. They may range in size from one large room similar to a studio apartment to three bedrooms.
Typically, the garage living area is on the second level, with the garage parking space on the lower level. In other design layouts, everything is on one level – with the living area situated next to the garage. This is an ideal layout for elderly parents/in-laws and those who have a difficulty with climbing up the stairs to the second floor.
Top: Above this detached 3-car garage structure is a 750-sq.-ft. 1-bedroom suite with a family room, eat-in kitchen, full bath, closet, and family room. The rendering shows a Palladian style window on the front façade and another window on the side. There’s also an outdoor sitting area – perfect for relaxing and taking in the natural surroundings. Bottom: The floor plan of the second-floor living area shows a spacious and well-designed layout that includes all the features of a conventional 1-bedroom home (House Plan #109-1001).
Can you imagine yourself setting up residence above the garage?
Before you start shaking your head, remember that today’s garage homes are a far cry from Fonzie’s “no-frills” apartment above the Cunningham family’s garage in the iconic television show Happy Days.
A photo from Happy Days gives a view of Fonzie’s serviceable studio apartment atop the Cunningham garage. A white wood door with glass panes on the top half opens into the living space. There’s a small closet, refrigerator, kitchen, dining table, and sofa bed (courtesy of DVD Talk).
Contemporary garage residences are designed and built as thoughtfully and elaborately as the primary residence. And some homeowners have gone all out to furnish these garage dwellings with all the features and conveniences of a luxury home.
According to an expert from the National Association of Home Builders’ remodelers council (quoted in a National Association of Realtors article), “the cost of the projects he has done range from $75,000 (usually an existing, attached garage so there are no extra hard costs like heating and air systems) to $200,000, depending on the level of the finishes.”
So think of all the innovative and trendy designs and layouts that you can do to give the garage apartment a unique and striking look. You can go ultra-modern or choose a more traditional style plan while creating a breezy, open feel and well-defined rooms in the living space above the garage.
This Tuscan-influenced garage apartment in San Diego has 3 bedrooms, including a master suite, a bathroom, and two decks with ocean views (courtesy of The National Association of Realtors).
Starting from the exterior, there are some touches you can add to make the home appealing and inviting. Interesting window designs and shutters, gable roofs, landscaping, shrubbery, and a porch, for example, will set the home apart from its neighbors on the block.
This 792-square-foot 1-bedroom garage with apartment home plan has a lot going for it in curb appeal – with its beautifully landscaped courtyard, covered porch, outdoor fireplace, and gable roof. The red door, potted plants, and chairs add a splash of color (House Plan #109-1008).
Interior Accents That Make a Difference
Imagine a Fixer-Upper reveal with the incredible and striking interior finish when you plan the décor touches and accents inside the garage apartment. You can combine the practical and stylish in designing an amazing simple, comfortable, and efficient area.
• Light fixtures – Hanging and recessed lights and sconces add to the ambiance and cozy feeling of the space – whether it’s an open concept studio, a bedroom, a Great Room, or a kitchen.
• Doors and windows – For the maximum in natural light, choose floor-to ceiling glass doors and wide glass-paned windows. French and pocket doors are attractive options, too. Add trim to windows and doors to give them more flair.
The wide glass-paned windows and floor-to-ceiling glass door in the Great Room of a Contemporary style 2-bedroom garage apartment provide spectacular views of the mountain range and large trees. Check out the dark wood trim on the windows and door (House Plan #196-1030).
• Storage Space – and, plenty of it – is always a must in any home. Don’t skimp on cabinets and drawers in the kitchen area and bedrooms. Think of installing coat hooks and bars behind closet doors as well as the bathroom.
Top: The U-shape kitchen in a Contemporary style 2-bedroom garage apartment features lots of lower and upper cabinets for ample storage space. The large window allows abundant light to suffuse the kitchen space. Bottom: Recessed lights enhance the warm atmosphere (House Plan #196-1030).
• Custom Touches – One of the ways to make your garage apartment “your own” is to add custom touches – something either personal, memorable, or unusual that you’d really love to be in your home.
Top: In one of the Fixer-Upper episodes, an antique windmill perched above a rustic chest becomes the focal point of the room as the quirky and eye-catching wall accent (courtesy of Instagram user joannagaines). Bottom: Can you see this bedroom in your garage apartment? It’s everything that’s comfortable and cozy with its mix of color – headboard, curtains, pillows, area rug – and distinctive décor pieces like the wall lamps and the chandelier hanging from the vaulted ceiling (courtesy of Design Sponge).
While a splash of color and something out-of-the-ordinary always make a space interesting, going with a smooth, muted white look can transform your garage apartment into something truly unique and stylish. Try the timeless white-on-white color palette in your bathroom and kitchen for a clean and uncluttered design.
All these accents will make your garage apartment a really delightful home.
A 344-sq.-ft. studio apartment atop a 2-car garage includes a charming all-white kitchen with a subway tile backsplash, a stainless-steel sink, and open shelves (courtesy of Remodelista).
What Are the Advantages of Garage Apartments?
Now the new element in home design, garage apartments provide plenty of benefits for families. First and foremost is the additional square footage to a home – especially for those families who need that extra living space. That space can be used in many different ways:
This Contemporary style 1-bedroom garage/apartment home plan with an open floor plan design comes with a full bath, a family room, and a sundeck (House Plan #100-1355).
1. Home for College-Age or Older Child who wants to live at home while attending school. This is a “win-win” situation: children can have their own space and privacy, and parents can keep tabs on them.
2. An In-Law Suite is a popular choice for families who want close but separate quarters for in-laws or elderly parents who need to move in with them. A garage apartment allows the older residents to maintain their independence while living on the same property.
3. A Guest House is a convenient arrangement for visiting relatives or friends and the host family. Guests can come and go as they please without “bothering” their hosts because they have access to their private space, with its bathroom, living area, and kitchen.
4. An Entertainment/Recreation Center – For families whose home is not large enough to have a dedicated space for a media/theater room or a game room, the finished space above the garage can be used for this purpose.
5. Art Studio/Hobby/Crafts Room – If you need to take a break from all of the social activities going on in the main residence to indulge in a few hours of arts and crafts, sewing, or painting, a garage apartment is a perfect getaway retreat.
6. Man Cave/“She Shed” – We’ve all heard about man caves and now “she sheds.” What better space than a garage apartment to escape when you want some alone time?
7. Rental Unit for Extra Income – Lastly, a garage apartment can be rented out for extra income. With the demand for rental units, especially in major cities, a garage apartment provides additional income for a family. But before jumping into the rental business, be sure to check with the local building authority to determine requirements and permits.
If you’re ready to embrace garage apartment living, use your creativity and imagination to design a stylish and comfortable space that suits your lifestyle.
Footnote: The lead image in this article is a modern 820-square-foot Garage with Apartment style home. For more details, click here (House Plan #196-1030)