Precursors of the modern day garage, carriage houses typically call to mind quaint little edifices; and historically, they were located beside much grander structures. Since there are very few people these days who need to park their horse-drawn carriages next to their homes, these outbuildings now serve very different purposes, and often stand alone, surviving long past the mansions they once supported.
The size of some carriage houses may surprise you. In 2008, world-famous architect David Adjaye transformed a sprawling 1897 carriage house on New York City’s Park Avenue into a home for a billionaire art collector and his family. At about the same time and just a few miles south of that project, in Manhattan’s West Village, Christoff:Finio Architecture turned a much more modest 19th-century structure with a 20-by-28-foot footprint into a unique, and distinctly contemporary, urban dwelling.
Here, Interior Design spotlights several recent carriage house conversions that create exceptional spaces to live, work, stay, study, and shop.
1. Firm: Burdifilek
Project: Pink Tartan
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Standout: The designers at Burdifilek created a showcase for Canadian Desginer Kim Newport Mimran’s Pink Tartan collection in one of the city’s most exclusive shopping districts. The boutique, Seventy-Seven, also houses a highly curated selection of goods from a number of niche labels inside the building’s unique marriage of a stone-fronted historic structure and a modernist glass-box addition.
2. Firm: Svigals+Partners
Project: Yale Univeristy Dept. of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Standout: Svigals+Partners converted an old carriage house on the campus of its neighbor in New Haven, CT, Yale University, into a secure, state-of-the-art laboratory for the sensitive study of mutated butterflies in the school’s Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. The space had to meet stringent USDA rules for containing transgenic species, such as air curtains and vestibules. It is also full of natural daylight, both to encourage butterflies to breed and to inspire the scientists at work.
3. Firm: gkkworks
Project: Architects' office
Location: Pasadena, California
Standout: The architects at gkkworks tackled the conversion of a 1906 saddle livery structure for their own Pasadena, CA office. Acknowledging the history of the building, they preserved components wherever possible. Exposed brick walls are topped off by the original Douglas fir roof, and in the rear of the office, Dutch-style doors open to the sky. Directly beneath the doors are the exposed workings of an open elevator that was once used to lift horses. The individual horse stalls are still there, although the horses have been replaced by desks and computers.
4. Firm: Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects
Standout: Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects took a deteriorating two-story carriage house that had been used as storage and a wood shop on the lower level and a one-bedroom apartment above, and made a single dwelling unit, providing internal access between floors. A tight budget forced the owners to do much of the work themselves. The gracious lower-level kitchen and dining space was configured to accommodate regular dinner parties, hosted by the owners and catered on-site by professional chefs.
5. Firm: Kohler’s Architecture and Interior Design Department
Project: American Club Resort
Site: Kohler, Wisconsin
Standout: Some carriage houses are grand indeed. In Kohler, Wisconsin, the luxurious American Club Resort recently completed the last phase of a multi-year renovation. Completed internally by Kohler’s Architecture and Interior Design Department, 55 stately guestrooms—each named after a famous carriage or carriage manufacturer—were unveiled above the Kohler Waters Spa in an historic carriage house. The rooms incorporate dark wood accents, elegant furnishings, and rich draperies, and like the spa, are a brilliant showcase of the company’s plumbing and interiors products.