Budget Breakdown: A Trio of Friends Build a Backyard ADU in Los Angeles For $252K

By Melissa Dalton / Published by Dwell

The 1,000-square-foot dwelling mixes raw and refined materials in a cost-effective strategy.

For many years, homeowners Reggie Vinokur and Matthew Deters discussed the possibility of adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU, to the backyard of their Los Angeles home.

By 2017, that goal was complete, thanks to a collaboration with their close friend, architect Hunter Knight of Weather Projects. Knight’s firm took on architecture and construction management duties, while the couple also chipped in considerably, doing much of the landscaping and fabrication work themselves.

Site Prep
General Conditions
Overhead & Profit
Structural Steel
Rough Carpentry
Rainscreen Membrane
Exterior Cladding
Windows & Skylights
Steel Doors
Wood Flooring
Shower Glass
Door Hardware
Stair Treads & Guardrails

Grand Total: $252,463

"Matthew by trade is a metal fabricator, and Reggie is a graphic designer, and they both contributed to many aspects of the project," says Knight. "Reggie has an incredible eye for landscaping and interiors, and Matthew is a very talented metal fabricator with a great knack for furniture."

The 1,000-square-foot ADU is two levels with a footprint that allows the owners to retain plenty of outdoor space for their dogs to play. The facade "is a rain screen system, so the heat gain on the Brazilian hardwood is minimized by being physically separated by an air gap between it and the membrane behind it," says Knight. "So, the wood heats up when sun hits it, and this is not directly translated into the wall on the interior; it is instead buffered by this air gap." The large doors and second-story skylights then work together to pull a nice breeze through the house.

Photo by Hunter Knight

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At the outset of the design process, says Knight, "The home needed to maximize indoor/outdoor spaces, have low-maintenance materials, preserve open space for their dogs to run, and be cost-effective with an efficient layout." His solution was a "structurally simple box" that adjoins the existing home. Stacking the larger volume atop the bottom creates protected outdoor spaces that flow easily with the interior, and are accessed by large sliding glass doors, fabricated by Deters. 

"Since the structure was quite simple, we focused on maintaining a simple material palette and focused the more costly materials in high-touch zones, like the kitchen, stairs, and bathroom," says Knight. 

A detail of the facade shows the combination of materials and textural contrasts. Metal accents mix with Cumaru slats at the upper level, and grey stucco at the lower level.

Photo: Hunter Knight

A covered patio just off the living room is accessible via custom doors. "The use of the large steel sliding and stacking doors allowed the volume to open up and make the home feel much more expansive that it really is," says Knight.

Photo: Hunter Knight

The main floor hosts the open-plan living areas and a full bath. In the kitchen, black walnut cabinets are topped with counters composed of Baltic birch plywood with Fenix laminate. The floor is honed gray concrete throughout.

Photo: Hunter Knight

Indoor and outdoor spaces merge. The stacked wall tile is from the Marcato Craftsman Series and the floating shelves are rough-sawn Douglas fir.

Photo: Hunter Knight

The view of the protected patio from the living room.

Photo: Hunter Knight

Much of the metal fabrication work was done by Deters, including the stairs, which combines raw steel with solid black walnut tread. 

Photo: Hunter Knight

"There is a contrast of these scrappy and rough elements with the more refined materials that allows the house to not take itself so seriously, and makes the vibe much more relaxed and comfortable," said Knight.

Photo: Hunter Knight

Shop the Look

Object Interface Brass Rail Shelving

You might not think of bookshelves as décor centerpieces, but that’s only because you haven’t seen the Brass Rail Shelving system yet. Think golden brass bars paired with rich brown wood and a splash of minimalism. Designed and handmade in Canada by Object/Interface, this unit also features the studio’s obsession with functionality. The shelves can be mounted in up to 21 combinations to help you display your favorite art books, vinyl records plus turntable, or anything else your way. And if you have a 100lbs sculpture (or a really heavy collection of books), go for it – one shelf will take it. Plus, you’ll never need another shelving system ever again, because this one’s built to last a lifetime. Photo Courtesy of Gessato


Hasami Planter + Dish

An elemental example of fine ceramic craftsmanship, the Hasami Planter + Dish roots living things in perfect simplicity. The straightforward, cylindrical form complements the richness and organic nature of the glazed porcelain, which can develop a beautiful patina over time with handling and use. Made in Hasami, Japan. Photo Courtesy of Schoolhouse


Knight took on the challenge of creating privacy for the pair while maximizing indoor/outdoor connections and managing the budget. The upper floor hosts a bedroom, second bath, and an open mezzanine area that can sleep guests or act as a secondary living room. High clerestory windows and operable skylights aid air circulation, ensure privacy, and let natural light pierce the interior and the kitchen below. "This move in section also expands the vertical volume of the spaces, which, again, helps make the small footprint feel expansive," says Knight. 

Leaving the ceiling unfinished adds to the material contrasts and saved money. Says Knight, "One example of a cost-effective strategy that also balanced the aesthetic qualities of the house is how we chose to forgo drywall on the ceilings. We paid more for the insulation to go above the rafters at the roof, but we gained this back in not using drywall and venting in the second-floor ceilings."

Photo: Hunter Knight

The bedroom maintains the simple palette with windows fabricated by the homeowner and Brazilian walnut flooring.

Photo: Hunter Knight

More Budget Breakdown:

This Hip Multifamily Pad in Austin Cost Under $515K

A 1920s Guest House Bathroom Gets a Bold Revamp For $34,800

A Raleigh Colonial Is Reinvented for $259K

Project Credits:

Architecture: Weather Projects / Hunter Knight

Builder: Reserved Builders / James Speilman

Structural Engineer: Jose Nieto

Steel Fabrication: deter fabrik / Matthew Deters

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