Garage Design Ideas

Emily Smith reveals the main garage design options for a stylish space to store your car and free up space in your home
by Emily Batesmith
8th April 2021

Garages can be a frequently overlooked element of a home scheme. However, a well-designed structure can add architectural interest and curb appeal to your property, as well as providing a valuable multipurpose space.

Whether you want to integrate a new garage into your existing house, or include one in your self-build plans, here are the key designs to choose from:

Car ports

Garage car port by Welsh Oak Frame

Supplied by Welsh Oak Frame, this two-bay car port has a room above, accessed via an external staircase

These offer shelter for vehicles, but are open across at least one wall.

More from Welsh oak frame

While this may not offer the same security as an enclosed garage, it’s a great way to protect your car from the elements (and you, when you’re getting in and out) without the need to open and close garage doors – useful if you’re in a hurry.

Car ports work well both attached to and detached from the main dwelling. The best result for you is going to be down to the style of the house, how much space you have and the way in which you intend to use the zone.

There’s also some design versatility – for instance, architects have created wow-factor schemes, such as car ports positioned below a cantilevered section of the main property that appears to float out over it.

Learn more: Building a Garage – Planning, Costs and Design

Bear in mind that you won’t be able to store other items in these spaces in the same way as you would with a fully enclosed garage. So you’ll have to keep washing machines, freezers etc in the main house.

Attached garages

Garage by Hormann

Positioned on a lower-ground level, this T-ribbed sectional garage door is available from specialist supplier Hormann

Having a garage integrated into a new property is a great option if you’re working on a compact plot or if you’re facing planning restrictions that don’t allow you to add a separate structure.

However, careful consideration is needed to make sure it doesn’t look out of place with the rest of the house. Think whether it’s worthwhile allowing the potential for this zone to be converted into extra living space at some point in the future. For instance, should you insulate to the same standard as the main building, and will the zone benefit from a window and side door?

If you’re keen for the garage to appear to be detached from the main dwelling, but still benefit from a covered connection, then linking it to the house with a buffer room – such as a utility space – can work well. A glazed passage between the zones can look particularly striking, especially if you’re joining a new structure with a period property.

Self-built houses on sloping plots are well-suited to having garages positioned on a lower ground floor. This makes sense when it comes to access and keeping the driveway separate from any elevated garden space, but it will also help to raise living areas to a position that makes the most of natural light and provides the best outlooks.

Do I need planning permission?

Adding a detached garage to an existing property generally won’t require planning consent, as long as it is set behind your home’s front elevation and adheres to the guidelines set out for permitted development (PD). It should be a single storey with a maximum height of 3m (or 4m with a dual-pitched roof), but if you’re building within 2m of a property boundary, it can only be 2.5m tall.

Learn more: Beginner’s Guide to Planning Permission 

If your project falls outside of these rules, you’ll need to obtain formal permission from the local authority. And if you’re building a garage as part of a new self build, the designs for this should ideally be submitted alongside the plans for your dream home (although it is possible to seek a separate approval).

You don’t need to apply for Building Regs approval when adding a detached garage as long as it’s single storey, with a total floor area of less than 30m2 and the building has no sleeping areas. However, it will need still need to be constructed to the minimum standards laid out in the regs, so be sure to use reputable trades.

You may not need planning permission for an attached garage extension, but you are likely to need Building Regs approval – always check with your local authority.

Garage door opening options

Up-and-over: Whether retractable, sectional or roller-shutter, these designs draw up into the ceiling of the garage, taking up no external space, as well as leaving the aperture and internal sides fully open.

Side-hinged: Great for maximising storage space inside the garage, these open outwards. Make sure there’s enough room for them to swing out – they will be large, so are not ideal for short driveways.

Round the corner: Retracting back into the wall inside the garage, this is a great solution if you want to have the ceiling free for any overhead storage – eg to keep big items that aren’t used regularly, such as ladders.

Bifold: These designs concertina back meaning they don’t need as much space to open as side-hung doors – they’re great for wide openings.

Detached garages

Garage door by Arridge

Arridge Garage Doors supplied these open-for-infill doors, which the homeowners then clad in a timber of their choice

Many self-builders and renovators choose to keep their garage separate from the main dwelling. Doing this means the structure doesn’t impact on the visual appeal of the house as much as an attached design could.

Bear in mind that proportions and aesthetics will still need to be thoroughly considered, especially if it’s easily visible from the street. It’s important for the building to be big enough to accommodate the changing shapes of cars – you may be intending to keep your small vintage vehicle in the space, but a future owner might want to store a 4×4 or even minivan, for instance.

Also make sure there’s ample internal room to get in and out of the car, as well as space for opening the boot and unloading shopping etc.

Provided it’s not used as accommodation, a detached garage is generally exempt from Building Regulations. This is as long as it’s a single storey, under 30m2 and either built from non-combustible material or positioned no less than 1m from the property boundary (similar, but slightly different, rules apply in Scotland).

However, any electrical installation must comply with safety requirements in Part P of the regs. You might be able to build a garage without formal planning consent thanks to permitted development rules – visit the planning portal for more info.

Multi-use buildings

Garage by English Heritage Buildings

This multi-purpose oak frame garage by English Heritage Buildings features a sunroom, living space, garage and log store

If you’re thinking of adding a separate structure to host your car, then think about whether the outbuilding could have a dual purpose. It’s popular to position a room above the garage – being detached from the house makes this a great location for a home office, art studio or even annexe. An external staircase will keep the additional living space separate from the storage zone.

Alternatively, if you’ve got enough space, having multiple rooms on the same level as the garage will mean the living area can benefit from full-height glazing and adjacent decking. With outbuilding complexes like these, positioning the garage entrance on the opposite side of the structure will enable it to be completely unseen from the other zones.

However, bear in mind that in order to come under permitted development rules, the building needs to be kept as ancillary to the main dwelling, meaning it must be supplementary to the main house and cannot be sold separately – if not, you’ll need to make a full planning application.

Top image: Available from Garador, this contemporary design features foam-filled insulated panels to enable excellent thermal performance.

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