13 ADU Floor Plans That Make the Most of the Backyard

These compact layouts create ideal guesthouses, tiny offices, art studios, and more.

There are endless possibilities for how accessory dwelling units (ADUs) can be used. From putting up visitors to fashioning the ideal work-from-home situation, these backyard structures can help homeowners expand their living situations without building an addition. Here are a few ADU layouts that will have you pondering your future backyard escape.

Five House by M Gooden Design

In Denton, Texas, this backyard guesthouse by Dallas-based practice M Gooden Design echoes the midcentury aesthetic of the primary residence. The homeowners were in need of extra space to host visitors, but instead of expanding the footprint of their two-bedroom home, they decided a separate dwelling was a better option.

A new outdoor area complete with a sprawling patio and pool was constructed along with the 672-square-foot ADU. The open kitchen and living room opens to a terrace, while a bedroom tucked behind the main communal space connects to a private deck.

When a family outgrew their two-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Los Angeles’s West Adams neighborhood, they were too smitten with the area to leave, so they decided to expand into the backyard. While renovating the existing residence, OKB Architecture designed a detached two-story dwelling that fits perfectly at the rear of the narrow lot.

The new ADU shares a deck with the main house, which gives the two structures the feeling of flowing together. The ground floor of the 924-square-foot dwelling includes a family room and a kitchenette that is tucked away behind a bookshelf. The upstairs level houses the wife’s office and a guest suite.

Architectural designer Grey Shaeffer of Willa Work looked no farther than her backyard in Portland, Oregon, to find her next project. The resulting 360-square-foot ADU accommodates guests, while a separate tree house fits a tiny office for herself.

The ADU’s entrance opens to the kitchen and dining areas, which are flanked by a bathroom and bedroom on either side. Grey utilized smart space-saving techniques, such as a sliding door in the bedroom that reveals a desk tucked away in the closet.

After buying a 1930s bungalow in Los Angeles’s Echo Park neighborhood, the homeowners—a designer couple who originally intended to renovate the home—decided to build an entirely new, two-story dwelling in place of the existing garage.

The 1,178-square-foot ADU replaced the existing garage’s 20-by-30 foot footprint. On the ground level, an open-plan, double-height living space is surrounded by sliding glass doors that open to a Japanese-style engawa deck. Upstairs, two bedrooms are connected by a bridge that overlooks the living room, and a rooftop deck creates additional space for entertaining.

OBY Cooperative designed affordable, turnkey prefabs for homeowners in California’s East Bay as a way to combat the housing crisis. "The idea is that OBY takes on the cost and hassle of building an ADU, and homeowners benefit from having extra room on their property available to rent," company representatives say. Built from carbon-light materials–such as wood sourced from ethically harvested forests and powered by solar panels—the homes are designed with sustainability in mind as well.

OBY’s preliminary concept is a 576-square-foot ADU that includes an open-concept living and dining area, two bedrooms, a galley kitchen, and a bathroom/laundry room.

In response to a new California that made building ADUs more affordable for homeowners, a family in Los Angeles’s Los Feliz neighborhood tapped architect Martin Fenlon to build a studio apartment above their garage. Martin crafted the 350-square-foot addition and also enlarged the garage to 400 square feet for extra storage space. 

A second-floor entrance leads to an open-plan living/sleeping area with a full bathroom tucked away in the southeast corner. Large windows make the studio unit feel lighter and more spacious, despite the ADU’s small footprint.

As his firm was expanding, Canadian architect Randy Bens needed more office space—and after working from home for a decade, he decided it would be best to just stay put. A crane dropped an industrial container in Randy’s backyard, and he outfitted the ADU appropriately.

A 19-foot desk accommodates three workstations in the 350-square-foot backyard office, and there’s a table for meeting with clients. Toward the back of the shipping container, there’s a kitchenette with storage space and a bathroom nestled behind it.

Inspired by the design of space capsules, Hello Wood’s Workstation Cabin is a timber-clad geometric pod that can fit up to six people. The uniquely shaped prefab ADU can be used as a guesthouse, office, or hangout—and it can be easily installed in a backyard.

The 91-square-foot pod can fit a double-size mattress to be used as sleeping quarters. Large windows and a skylight give the cabin a larger feel, and its geometric shape adds volume, so the small footprint doesn’t feel confining.

When Emma Pereira of Emmanuelle Design needed more space for her expanding family in Miami, the Venezuela-born architect and designer built a 400-square-foot guesthouse and studio in her backyard. The stucco-clad ADU gives Emma a place to meet with clients, and she and her husband, Carlos, also rent the tiny house on Airbnb.

The open-concept studio and guesthouse features double-height ceilings, big windows, and a skylight, which flood the ADU with sunshine that bounces off the white floors and walls. A window nook surrounded by built-in cabinetry helps delineate a cozy living area near a curved, open staircase that leads to the lofted bed.

Using one of their existing prefab models, Madrid-based architects Delavegacanolasso created a custom work-from-home situation for a small business that wanted an office in the backyard. The 215-square-foot ADU features floor-to-ceiling windows and a Cor-Ten steel frame that allows the structure to blend with its natural surroundings.

The Delavegacanolasso architects arranged the ADU’s floor plan so that the main area can accommodate an open-concept workspace for several people. A small kitchen, storage area, and bathroom anchor the back of the space.

On Washington’s Bainbridge Island, an architect father and his 12-year-old daughter built a small cabin that acts as a backyard studio for his practice and a bunkhouse for her sleepovers. To build the 80-square-foot structure, Jim demolished the family’s tool shed and used part of the foundation for the ADU.

The ADU sits less than 30 feet from the family’s home. Wide windows frame the architect’s built-in desk, which overlooks the water. Opposite the workstation, a single bunk that doubles as a couch folds down from the wall. A cast-iron woodstove heats the tiny cabin on dreary days.

With limited space and on a tight budget, London-based architect Richard John Andrews designed and built a home office in his pint-sized backyard. The ADU feels much larger than its actual footprint, thanks to large glass sliding doors and thoughtful use of space, as well as a minimalist design.

In the roughly 170-square-foot backyard studio, exposed beams are topped with polycarbonate roof panels that allow natural light to enter the workspace. Two built-in desks with overhead shelving span the back wall near a corner bathroom. The bespoke sliding door system conceals a small storage closet accessed from the outdoor deck. 

A coastal Massachusetts family used reclaimed materials to build this 168-square-foot multipurpose backyard space. The ADU doubles as an office for the dad, a playroom for the three kids, and when guests visit, it’s a place for them to bunk. The homeowners DIY’ed the construction almost entirely by themselves and completed the project for around $10,000.

A tiered mahogany deck wraps around the small rectangular structure, adding additional living space and seating outdoors. Smart space- and money-saving design choices are found throughout the open-concept backyard studio, from the fold-down desk to the retrofitted Murphy bed, which the couple sourced from Craigslist.


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