In times past, a carriage house filled an important need in both homes in the city as well as in the country. Originally designed as a coach house, the carriage house was used to provide covered space for coaches and carriages when they were not in use. Often, the carriage house also included space for accessories and maintenance equipment related to the carriages. In some larger versions of the carriagehouse, space for horse stables were also included in one section of the edifice.
Depending on personal taste or the financial status of the owner, carriage houses could be elaborate structures, or something that was more simplistic and utilitarian. Victorian carriage houses tended to imitate the architectural detail of the main house on the property. This could include such features as bay windows and even some stained glass, as well as elaborate scrollwork on the eaves and other sections of the façade.
The area around the carriage house was often landscaped, as a way of continuing the general look of the yard. Large versions of the carriage house would also include an upper flow that provided housing for household staff charged with taking care of the horses and the coaches. Because of the graceful lines and attractive nature of the Victorian carriage house, the structures were often visible from the street, and accessed by way of a gracefully winding path that typically was paved with bricks or cobblestones.
In other examples, the carriage house would tend to be a very simple structure. Composed of a single room, the interior was accessed through two large doors that would allow the carriage to enter and exit the house. The design was often simpler than the main house, and often was located so that the simple structure was not easily seen from the street or road. With a focus on utility, the structure would normally not have more than one window, and usually the panes were made of plain glass.
Today, many old time carriage houses have been converted to other uses. Cozy guest homes are easily made from a carriage house. With the advent of the automobile, many carriage houses were converted into garages. The carriage house also found new life as a workshop or art studio, ideal for storing tools, woodworking equipment and other tools essential for the weekend hobbyist. In some instances, old time carriage houses have been converted into retail shops, small restaurants, and neighborhood bars.