Michael Cavanaugh's client wanted access to the garage from her house via a covered walkway. This seems simple on the surface, except zoning requirements stipulate the garage is a non-conforming structure that can't be enlarged, altered, or have anything attached to it. Cavanaugh designed a roof structure over the stairs and landing that will attach to the house but doesn't touch the garage. He will remove the existing deck, which he says is “too big, too ugly, and doesn't allow for landscaping.” He hopes the zoning board will allow him to add a door on the garage.

The pie-wedge-shaped three-tiered roof covers the new walkway and deck and doesn't touch the garage (bottom left), a zoning stipulation for this non-conforming structure.
The pie-wedge-shaped three-tiered roof covers the new walkway and deck and doesn't touch the garage (bottom left), a zoning stipulation for this non-conforming structure.

Cavanaugh wants the structure to be “sculptural,” a pergola frame holding up the pie-wedge-shaped, three-tiered roof. The largest wedge cantilevers out from the new deck over to the corner of the garage.

It's a challenge to work in a 12-foot-square space with so many restrictions; the client needs a fence for her three dogs, an area for trash, and covered access to the garage. “You need to do a thorough survey of existing conditions and get the client to tell you what's most important to them,” says the Gaithersburg, Md.–based Cavanaugh, who provides design services for the remodeling industry. “You need to prioritize your design problems because you may not fix all of them.”