Not all municipalities allow ADUs, but some cities have updated regulations to make it easier to add one. As with any building project, check local building codes and with your city or county zoning ordinances before getting started (and work with an experienced pro). If you’re thinking about adding an ADU or a guest cottage to your lot, let the following well-designed ADUs inspire some clever small-space design ideas.
Location: Portland, Oregon
Size: 515 square feet (48 square meters)
Designer: Alan Armstrong of Strongwork Architecture
This modest-sized ADU sits behind a 1920s family bungalow, whose homeowners were looking for a way to expand living space without changing the charm of their primary house. With a $160,000 budget, they converted the former garage to a multiuse cottage space. Now, a loft-style bedroom offers space for guests while an open-plan living space and full kitchen can be used as bonus living space for the family.
One can see how the glass doors and wall of windows in the front of the cottage let in plenty of natural light, making the interior feel light and spacious.
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Idea to borrow: Replace a solid door with a glass one to let in more light and make interiors feel larger. You don’t have to worry about structural considerations of adding a wall of windows and will instantly gain about 20 square feet of glass per door.
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Location: Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles
Size: 850 square feet (79 square meters)
Designers: Bo Sundius and Hisako Ichiki of Bunch Design
With high ceilings and ample natural light, this ADU feels far more expansive inside than its 850-square-foot size. Husband-and-wife design team Bo Sundius and Hisako Ichiki created the ADU to serve as a rental property behind their Los Angeles home.
Idea to borrow: No view? Set windows above eye level. Clerestory windows on either side of the living space and kitchen let in light without relying on a view. This was useful for this ADU, as both sides are bordered by external walls.
For storage, there are built-in closets along the wall behind the viewer in this image. The second smaller bedroom is located across the hall.
Tour more of this bright and airy ADU
Size: 430 square feet (39.9 square meters)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Designer: SHKS Architects
While expecting their third child, a Seattle family looked to the backyard as a place they could add an extra bedroom and more living space. At the time of construction, local building codes required new ADUs to have a designated parking spot and for the total square footage of the ADU to not exceed 800 square feet.
SHKS Architects came up with a plan for an ADU to sit cantilevered above a 360-square-foot (33.4-square-meter) garage in order to comply with building codes, maximize living space inside and keep the backyard space as open as possible.
Size: About 480 square feet (45 square meters)
Location: Lower Division neighborhood of Portland, Oregon
Designer: Homeowners Bryan and Jen Danger, now founders of zenbox design
Returning from a yearlong trip in a van to Central America, a couple from Portland realized they were happy living with less and preserving the rental income that came from renting out their five-bedroom house. They came up with a plan to convert the two-car garage behind the house into a city-approved ADU and did most of the renovation work (save for electrical and plumbing) themselves.
The success of their garage conversion prompted the couple to start their own business, zenbox design, where they now help others design ADUs, cottages and tiny homes.
Watch on Houzz TV: See how they turned a garage into a home