How to Design Residential Garages and Parking Pads

Our San Antonio Interior Designers and Architects Explain How to Design Residential Parking for Easy Access and Seamless Transitions Inside  

When building or renovating a home, homeowners and their design teams typically get the most excited about laying out the kitchen, choosing furnishings for the living room, or selecting paint colors for the exterior. Aside from the occasional car enthusiast, few homeowners pay much attention to the garage or parking pad. However, this is a crucial transition space that can turn the dreaded trek from the car into a relaxed saunter to the front door. Our San Antonio interior designers and architects explain how to design residential garages and parking pads that provide easy access and seamless transitions into the home. 

Design Parking with the Intimacy Gradient in Mind

In order to design a home with easy transitions, interior designers and architects make sure to keep the Intimacy Gradient in mind for all spaces, including the path from the parking spot to the door. Architect Christopher Alexander defines the Intimacy Gradient in his 1977 book, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. He explains that the home’s spaces should be ordered from the most public in the front (the parking space) to the most private in the back (the bedroom), with transition cues guiding the movement through each. 

Modeled after human behavior, the Intimacy Gradient lays out the distinct areas of a home as a sequence of events people can travel through like a story. Alexander says, “In a modern home, the place where car and house meet is almost never treated seriously as a beautiful and significant place in its own right.” Our designers agree that parking connections are far too often ignored. Residential parking can be attractive, accessible, and functional with the right design. Like a front foyer, a home’s parking spot should be treated as a welcoming room that invites you inside. It’s time to give garages and parking pads the attention they deserve! 

How to Design Residential Garages and Parking Pads 

Consider Your Routine and Lifestyle 

The homeowner needs to consider their routine and lifestyle to design practical residential garages and parking pads. First, consider how you use your home and where there are opportunities to make transitions easier. For example, what do you typically unload from the car on a daily basis—groceries, kids, work projects? Where is the best entry point for drop off—the front door, kitchen, butler’s pantry, mudroom? These considerations should be defined before designing begins.  

Pattern Language Parking Pad Driveway Walkway Transitions
The homeowner needs to consider their routine and lifestyle to design practical residential garages and parking pads.

Define a Point of Entry 

The placement of the garage or parking pad should be close to a defined point of entry. The best entry points will vary depending on the homeowner. In some cases, additional parking pads can be created for guests. For example, the family may benefit from parking along the side of the home close to the kitchen, while guests would be better served with a circular driveway connecting to the front door. 

Make a Path to Connect Parking to the Home

To create a welcoming front walkway, make sure the path connects the parking area to the door, offers easy access, and looks visually appealing. Pathways should be beautiful as well as practical. Consider creating multiple access points, connecting the parking area to side entrances like the kitchen and the main front entryway. 

Treat Parking Spots Like Actual Rooms 

Garages and parking pads should be treated in the same way as interior rooms. These spaces should be clearly defined, beautiful, and functional. For an enclosed garage, finish the room as you would any interior space—selecting paint colors, flooring materials, and built-in storage options. For an open parking pad, connect it to the home through landscaping and material selections. Grounding a parking pad with an outdoor feature wall effectively ties it into the house as well. 

Thoughful Driveway Design
Garages and parking pads should be treated in the same way as interior rooms.
Photo by DK Studio

Face North 

In warm southern climates like Texas, position the parking area on the north side of the home to keep the car out of harsh sunlight. Placing parking to the north and adding shade structures will help keep the car cooler in the summer months. 

Different Types of Residential Parking 

Driveway 

A driveway is a short road leading from a public street to a private home’s parking pad or garage. While driveways may seem simple to design, they should be done with care and attention to detail, as they are one of the first transition zones defined by the Intimacy Gradient. Using a different material from the public road, like cobblestone or gravel, will help signal to guests that they have entered a separate and more private space.   

Parking Pad

Parking pads typically extend off or are incorporated into driveways. As uncovered structures, parking pads can be difficult to tie into the overall exterior of the house. Consider using materials related to the home’s exterior and define the space with landscaping, fencing, or a half wall. 

Carport 

Carports are covered structures with open sides that connect to the main house. They provide shade and shelter from the elements but are still exposed to the outdoors. Carports are commonly seen in mid-century modern design. Often, they connect to a side entrance of the house leading to a mudroom or the kitchen. 

Carport Example
Carports provide shade and shelter from the elements but are still exposed to the outdoors.
Photo by Amity Kett

Porte-cochere

A porte-cochere is a covered entrance large enough for vehicles to pass through. Typically, these structures are seen on the side of older homes. They are intended to be used as unloading zones and connect to secondary entrances. Once unloaded, the vehicle can continue to drive through along the driveway, typically leading to a detached garage. 

Porte Cochere Photo Patrick Ahearn by Boston Design Guide
Porte cocheres are intended to be used as unloading zones and connect to secondary entrances.
Photo by Patrick Ahearn of Boston Design Guide

Enclosed Garage

Enclosed garages are walled structures that are either connected to the main house or detached. They offer the most protection for vehicles and are perfect for climates where snow and heat are concerns. When building an enclosed garage, consider placing it close to the home’s kitchen or mudroom and finish the interior of the space. A well-finished garage can offer more than parking, serving as a workshop or recreation space.    

Enclosed Garage
Enclosed garages offer the most protection for vehicles and are perfect for climates where snow and heat are concerns.
Photo by DK Studio

The Intimacy Gradient Improves Residential Parking Design 

Like any space of the home, garages and parking pads have the opportunity to be beautiful and functional with the right design. Considering the Intimacy Gradient allows us to think about how parking connects to the home, transitions into a new space, and improves our quality of life. Make sure to take the time to create an intentional parking area for your home. Your car and family will thank you! 

Need help designing parking for your home?     

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