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What Is A Carriage House?

What is a carriage house? If you're thinking this sort of building has something to do with horses, you're essentially on the right track.

"If you hear the term 'carriage house,' it’s probably the real thing: an historic building that at some point housed horses and carriages," says Joshua Zinder, principal of Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design in Princeton, NJ.

And while horse-drawn carriages haven't rolled down most streets for years, the architecture that accommodated them still exists in houses today. Just as homeowners like to preserve crown molding or other unique architectural details, many carriage houses have been restored and modified for another use. From guest suites to home offices, renovated carriage houses can add a lot of value to a property.

The original carriage houses were popular in the Northeastern United States and served dual purposes. These two-story structures housed the horses and their gear downstairs while their caretaker resided above them on an upper floor.

"This was a self-sustaining structure with a small kitchen and bathroom," says Michael Menn, principal of Michael Menn Ltd., based in Northbrook, IL. "The stableman typically resided in the carriage house."


The carriage houses you see today are either updates on the old structures or new homes built in the style of a carriage house. The living space will be in either the actual carriage house on the second floor, or an adjacent building. You might also see carriage houses renovated as garages with a residential space above—perfect for multigenerational families, a kid who comes home from college for the summer, or an in-law unit.

"The carriage house has become somewhat disassociated with its original purpose as it's taken on new and more useful purposes," says Jay Kallos, vice president of architecture for Ashton Woods in Atlanta.

Sellers often include "carriage house" in their listing information because it can be a selling point. An extra space that potential buyers can transform into a home office, spare bedroom, or even a glam room is an enticing amenity and worth noting.

"The carriage house really gives homeowners the opportunity—architecturally or designwise—to have some fun," Kallos says.

What is the difference between carriage house and carriage home?

The words "house" and "home" are often used interchangeably, but if you come across the term "carriage home" in a listing, don't expect to see a carriage house when you roll up to the showing. A carriage house and a carriage home are very different structures.

While a carriage house is large enough to accommodate a horse-drawn carriage, a carriage home is a single-family dwelling that sits on a lot not much bigger than the structure itself. They're similar architecturally to condos or townhouses in that they share a wall. They're structures that are sometimes called patio homes or zero-lot-line homes.

These types of homes have small or no setback regulations—rules that keep houses from being built too close together—which set them apart from other single-family homes, according to Greg Smith of Palisades Home Improvements in Nanuet, NY.

"Generally, there is a small private patio that serves as the only outdoor living space," Smith says.

As you can see, one word makes a world of difference in the type of home you get both in square footage and architectural style.

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