Painting garage doors to reduce their sidewalk impact can be a first step towards bringing the garage back into an appropriate visual relationship to the house.When a house has a large garage, in front and prominent, the eye will focus first on the garage. It may not even get around to the rest of the house. All the work you put into making the house pretty will be for naught.
The tactic of subduing the garage to the rest of the house will help bring into balance the relationship between the house and the garage. There are three interlocking aspects to this technique. First, you make the garage less of an eye magnet. Second, you give it a path directing the eye elsewhere. Third, you give the eye a destination.
Painting garage doors a shade or two darker than the rest of the house will keep the eye from resting on the garage. The lighter colors of the house draw the eye away from the garage door.
Painting the trim to match the garage door will also lead the eye to other places, in this case the trim.
Similarly, if the driveway is concrete, staining it a darker color keeps the driveway from becoming a focal point. A bright, fresh concrete driveway stands out and leads the eye right up to the ugly garage doors.
A big problem with the garage door is its size. It’s just a big blob. It blocks out the sun. Okay, I exaggerate. The point is, if we can make it appear smaller it won’t be so intimidating to the eye. Painting garage doors is part of that "make it smaller" solution.
Part of the reason that they eye gets stuck on the garage door is that it is overwhelmed. You can borrow from the “Deceive” technique and paint the garage door in a way that makes it appear to be two or three smaller panels. While this complicates the surface of the door, making it more interesting, the door loses its ability to shock-and-awe the eye.
Managing the Outline of the Garage
The shape of the door is also a problem. If we can break up the borders of that shape our eyes will be more easily drawn out of the rectangle to where we want them to go. Avoid the temptation to highlight any molding boards around the garage. Instead enlist a little help from your nursery man. A planting next to the driveway that will partially obscure the edge of the garage door frame will help as much as any architectural solution. This may require frequent clipping so that it won’t become a hindrance to the drivers, but it is a relatively cheap solution to the problem.
If concrete completely covers the area where you would need to do your planting you can bring in a container plant, or train a vine to grow over to where you need it. A vine on a trellis has an added advantage in that the trellis itself can break up the garage shape.
An idea that I have rarely see is to cover the front of the garage and part of the driveway under a trellised arbor. This not only breaks up the borders but makes the garage door seem recessed. The garage is no longer dominant. If anyone has a picture of something like this please send it my way. The picture attached doesn’t fully achieve the effect I am looking for, but the product itself, by Auer Jordan, is very well made.
You can make something similar yourself. There are lots of plans available. My friend Ryan Campbell has something to say on building a pergola, which is essentially what this is.
For such a solution the right type of vine would be very important, as we want it to look good in winter and summer. For that same reason the trellis itself should be pleasant to look at.
Which reminds me of a quote I recently came across. Frank Lloyd Wright said "A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines."
The picture below is a variation of this idea. Here the architect subdued the garage by covering it with a projecting eave. This house dominates its garage.
Creating a Path to a New Focal Point
Once our eyes have left the garage door we want them to go somewhere, and for that we need a path to get them there. The destination should be something of architectural interest. The entryway is a logical choice. It could also be a bay window, or a front porch. If we make it interesting the eyes will probably get there eventually, but we want to guide them, so that they will get there more quickly.
A walkway to the front door is a logical path for the eye to take. It this is how you will redirect their gaze then do not shroud it in bushes that will hide the walk. If a wide driveway is part of the problem, have the walkway branch off at an angle. Make sure that the walk is readily visible from the road. You want to direct their eye off of the drive and up the walk, and it will do this more readily if it doesn't have to take any sharp turns to get to the walkway.
A line of windows lining the side of the garage might also do the trick, as might a row of boxwood bushes. There are multiple ways to make this happen. With some houses a route will be provided by the architecture of the house. In other cases changes to the façade or the landscaping may be required. Whatever the means, the path must be considered from the viewer’s vantage. Usually this means this means the view from the street or the sidewalk.
The focal point itself will either naturally stand out, based on the architecture, or will need to be highlighted and brought into prominence. A door shrouded by a porch roof may hide back in the shadows. Paint it red and put a carpet runner out to the porch steps and it becomes much more visible. At night, make sure it is the porch that is lit and not the garage.
I started out talking about painting garage doors to subdue them and ended up talking about painting your front door to enliven it. The strategies I outlined above won’t make a big garage smaller. They simply compensate for a deficiency in the design. They will help make your house more attractive and add to its curb appeal. The people passing by may never comment on the changes made, but relative to the other houses around you, the appearance of your house will move up in the estimation of your neighbors.
Okay, its a little silly to keep talking about painting garage doors when that was only one of the items I mentioned, but consider how few take this step. Walk down your neighborhood. How many houses still have garage doors in the original builder's colors? How many are bright white? See my point? Painting garage doors is at least a first step in righting the wrongs of the world.