This is Not Your Father’s Garage: A Brief History and How We Use Garages Now

If your home has a garage, yet your car lives in the driveway, you’re not alone. According to a story on, more than half of homeowners use their garage to hold their stuff rather than their sedan. And if you find yourself lamenting that no one is appreciating your home’s curb appeal because everyone uses the door leading in from the attached garage, you’re in even better company. According the same story, 71% of people who have an attached garage use its entrance into the house, instead of the front or back door.

When automobiles were first invented, they were quite pricey and typically owned only by wealthy people. Wealthy people would, of course, have a sizeable carriage house for their teams of horses and various buggies, and it was here where cars were first stored.

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Caption: A vintage carriage house. Photo via Southbridge Credit Union.

It wasn’t until 1920, more than a decade after Henry Ford revolutionized the automobile by mass-producing the Model T, that structures were built specifically to hold cars.

Meet the garage.

The word garage is derived from the French word garer, which means “to shelter.” And that’s just what the first garages were: utilitarian buildings with just enough space to shelter the family car. Just a year after the garage made its debut, C. G. Johnson invented the overhead garage door, which quickly replaced swinging barn-style doors. In 1926, Johnson invented the automatic garage door opener. First considered a novelty, it wasn’t until the late 1960s that automatic openers became commonplace. And in 1967, Home and Gardens magazine published a story called “From Carport to Family Room.”

garage renovation ideas
Caption: A family room in a renovated garage. Photo via Amarr Garage Doors.

Meet the modern garage.

As real estate prices began to rise, families looked toward the humble garage to gain added living space. American families now use garages as playrooms and man caves, gyms and family rooms. Cape Cod is a typical coastal area, where summer visitors are as ubiquitous as restaurants that serve clam chowder, and garages are frequently transformed into guest quarters.

With minimal renovations, a garage can easily be turned into a seasonal playroom, den or game room. In addition to furnishings, installing drywall and a weather-friendly flooring material may be all that’s needed.

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Caption: A kid-friendly space in a modestly renovated garage. Photo via Pinterest.

With just bit more of an investment, an “adult-friendly” space is also easily done. Love the bar in this converted garage!

Caption: Photo via Desire to Inspire.

With drywall, wood-look flooring, and a few built-ins, this single-car garage has been transformed into a charming guest room. Added windows fill the space with natural light.

Caption: Photo via Décor Pad.

With a solid structure in place, the garage is a great starting point for those who find they need added space year-round. For things such as a man cave for watching  sports, renovations may entail simply adding insulation and drywall, a heating system and flooring. Well, that and a big-screen TV and killer sound system.

Caption: Photo via Home Stratosphere.

If zoning regulations permit, a garage can be turned into a guest suite with a bathroom, or even an apartment with a bath and a kitchen or kitchenette. Because the garage needs to be retro-fitted with plumbing, these renovations are more extensive, but the results can be absolutely amazing!

In some cases, a second story can be added to a garage, with an apartment on the top level and the ground floor retained for storage. While this studio, on the second level of a converted garage, isn’t especially large, it has everything, including a full kitchen and dining area. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Caption: Photo via Better Homes & Gardens.

As the summer season kicks into high gear on Cape Cod, you’ll likely be welcoming overnight visitors. While you’re entertaining, try and take a moment to step back and think about whether converting your garage into a guest suite would be a good investment. You may relish spending every moment with your visitors, or may finding yourself wishing you had a bit more privacy. If the latter is the case, it’s time to start planning your renovation.

And if your Cape house doesn’t have a garage, think about adding one to protect your car once you head south for the winter. Should a growing family have you wishing for more space in several years, your new garage will already have you halfway to an extra bedroom when the time comes.

Please contact us for more information or to arrange a consultation.