22 ADU Floor Plans That Make the Most of the Backyard

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

Adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your backyard opens up possibilities. It can provide a place for visiting family or guests to stay, generate income as a rental, or serve as a work-from-home office paces from your back door. Whichever route you’re leaning toward, let these exceptional ADUs and their accompanying layouts help you come up with the perfect plan for your backyard.

Northwood ADU by T+E+A+M

Using industrial materials in an inventive, DIY method, Michigan architecture practice T+E+A+M sought to make efficient living a priority with the group’s newest housing project: a modest accessory dwelling unit (ADU) that will serve as a backyard rental in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The one-bedroom, one-bathroom backyard residence marks one of the first ADUs to be built under the city’s new zoning regulations that were approved in June 2021.

Using industrial materials in an inventive, DIY method, Michigan architecture practice T+E+A+M sought to make efficient living a priority with the group’s newest housing project: a modest accessory dwelling unit (ADU) that will serve as a backyard rental in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The one-bedroom, one-bathroom backyard residence marks one of the first ADUs to be built under the city’s new zoning regulations that were approved in June 2021.

The walls, roof, floors, and foundation of Northwood ADU are all prefabricated. T+E+A+M selected the building materials based on their production and panel sizes to minimize waste and increase efficiency. The choices also take heavy snowfall into consideration.

The walls, roof, floors, and foundation of Northwood ADU are all prefabricated. T+E+A+M selected the building materials based on their production and panel sizes to minimize waste and increase efficiency. The choices also take heavy snowfall into consideration.

When Bo Sundius and Hisako Ichiki of Bunch Design began imagining an accessory dwelling unit to place in their friends’ backyard, they found unlikely inspiration in the form of Stop Making Sense, the beloved 1984 concert movie documenting the Talking Heads’ performance at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.

When Bo Sundius and Hisako Ichiki of Bunch Design began imagining an accessory dwelling unit to place in their friends’ backyard, they found unlikely inspiration in the form of Stop Making Sense, the beloved 1984 concert movie documenting the Talking Heads’ performance at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.

The goal was to make the 750-square-foot ADU in Los Angeles’s Atwater Village seem larger than it actually is. The rectangular plan comprises four 12-foot-long rooms: a living room and office, a kitchen and dining room with a bathroom bump-out, and a bedroom at both ends. Dark blue sliding doors section the boldly painted rooms, allowing for privacy when needed.

The goal was to make the 750-square-foot ADU in Los Angeles’s Atwater Village seem larger than it actually is. The rectangular plan comprises four 12-foot-long rooms: a living room and office, a kitchen and dining room with a bathroom bump-out, and a bedroom at both ends. Dark blue sliding doors section the boldly painted rooms, allowing for privacy when needed.

Max Kuo, the cofounder of AllThatIsSolid, a practice based in both Kuala Lumpur and L.A., wanted to create a well-designed setting that would accommodate a mix of households sharing a single-family lot. With a budget of roughly $538,000, the team converted the original back house and attached garage into a white-gabled duplex with a 900-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment on the ground level and a 700-square-foot studio upstairs.

Max Kuo, the cofounder of AllThatIsSolid, a practice based in both Kuala Lumpur and L.A., wanted to create a well-designed setting that would accommodate a mix of households sharing a single-family lot. With a budget of roughly $538,000, the team converted the original back house and attached garage into a white-gabled duplex with a 900-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment on the ground level and a 700-square-foot studio upstairs.

While retaining the initial footprint, the architects nudged the structure’s square footage to fit the top unit by building a new roof that is pitched higher and also cantilevers over the front of the first floor. Both rentals have significant natural light, clean-lined cabinetry, black fixtures, and terrazzo tile.

While retaining the initial footprint, the architects nudged the structure’s square footage to fit the top unit by building a new roof that is pitched higher and also cantilevers over the front of the first floor. Both rentals have significant natural light, clean-lined cabinetry, black fixtures, and terrazzo tile.

Cleverly repurposing an existing garage, this flexible ADU in Santa Monica, California, allows a creative couple to work, recharge, and host family and friends. Wedged with precision between the existing garage and pool, the new structure is only 13 feet wide.

Cleverly repurposing an existing garage, this flexible ADU in Santa Monica, California, allows a creative couple to work, recharge, and host family and friends. Wedged with precision between the existing garage and pool, the new structure is only 13 feet wide.

In the newly constructed volume, the living room of the ADU would double as an art gallery, connected to—or closed off from—the rest of the residential wing via a pocket door. Separate entrances to the gallery and living/sleeping zones would allow private access for a future renter or caregiver, or the couple’s adult children when they visited.

In the newly constructed volume, the living room of the ADU would double as an art gallery, connected to—or closed off from—the rest of the residential wing via a pocket door. Separate entrances to the gallery and living/sleeping zones would allow private access for a future renter or caregiver, or the couple’s adult children when they visited.

When the pandemic prevented Claudia Buchanan and her family from spending time with her mother, Alice Marozas, they all decided it was time to rethink the way they live. Their solution was to add a 900-square-foot prefab ADU by Cover to their Brentwood backyard, allowing Alice to be close by while still enjoying some privacy.

When the pandemic prevented Claudia Buchanan and her family from spending time with her mother, Alice Marozas, they all decided it was time to rethink the way they live. Their solution was to add a 900-square-foot prefab ADU by Cover to their Brentwood backyard, allowing Alice to be close by while still enjoying some privacy.

With ideas of spaciousness in mind, Cover created an open-plan kitchen, living, and dining area to give Alice’s ADU a voluminous feel. The two-bedroom ADU features built-ins in every room.

With ideas of spaciousness in mind, Cover created an open-plan kitchen, living, and dining area to give Alice’s ADU a voluminous feel. The two-bedroom ADU features built-ins in every room.

Having lived in their 1917 bungalow in Hancock Park for over 20 years, Joanna and Steve Vernetti decided they needed more space for their growing family. They turned to David Thompson, a founding principal of Assembledge+, who replaced their detached backyard garage and extended the rear of the old house to create a new main bedroom, with French doors that lead out to a new deck.

Having lived in their 1917 bungalow in Hancock Park for over 20 years, Joanna and Steve Vernetti decided they needed more space for their growing family. They turned to David Thompson, a founding principal of Assembledge+, who replaced their detached backyard garage and extended the rear of the old house to create a new main bedroom, with French doors that lead out to a new deck.

The garden makes the ADU feel connected to the existing house, but it still retains a measure of privacy with a living area positioned perpendicular to the primary structure.

The garden makes the ADU feel connected to the existing house, but it still retains a measure of privacy with a living area positioned perpendicular to the primary structure.

Architect Valery Augustin of DNA Architecture + Design and his wife, Kim, an art historian, set about transforming the existing garage of a 1940s bungalow in Ladera Heights into the ADU of their dreams. Natural light and privacy for their family and renters were among the couple’s priorities when designing the space, and since they were working with a tight budget, they needed to make cost-effective choices.

Architect Valery Augustin of DNA Architecture + Design and his wife, Kim, an art historian, set about transforming the existing garage of a 1940s bungalow in Ladera Heights into the ADU of their dreams. Natural light and privacy for their family and renters were among the couple’s priorities when designing the space, and since they were working with a tight budget, they needed to make cost-effective choices.

The new ADU sits within the garage’s original footprint, and it offers renters 390 square feet of cleverly designed living space. The ceiling lowers as you enter the kitchen and bathroom spaces, to provide room for air conditioning ductwork. "It also defines that space," Valery notes. "The unit is designed in thirds: The doors line up with the middle third, and the kitchen and bathroom are lined up under the drop ceiling."

The new ADU sits within the garage’s original footprint, and it offers renters 390 square feet of cleverly designed living space. The ceiling lowers as you enter the kitchen and bathroom spaces, to provide room for air conditioning ductwork. "It also defines that space," Valery notes. "The unit is designed in thirds: The doors line up with the middle third, and the kitchen and bathroom are lined up under the drop ceiling."

Furniture designer Ash Dipert transformed three disused structures behind his parents’ Craftsman home in Bakersfield, California, into a fun and functional accessory dwelling unit. The goal was to turn the space into a guest suite that "feels like an out of body experience; a Willy Wonka vacation hideaway," says the designer, who now lives in the ADU.

Furniture designer Ash Dipert transformed three disused structures behind his parents’ Craftsman home in Bakersfield, California, into a fun and functional accessory dwelling unit. The goal was to turn the space into a guest suite that "feels like an out of body experience; a Willy Wonka vacation hideaway," says the designer, who now lives in the ADU.

The main living space was previously two separate volumes with different floor and ceiling heights. Ash maintained the front room as a large changing space that can be used by pool guests and layered the bedroom and living area with small-space storage solutions, each an Easter egg waiting to be discovered.

The main living space was previously two separate volumes with different floor and ceiling heights. Ash maintained the front room as a large changing space that can be used by pool guests and layered the bedroom and living area with small-space storage solutions, each an Easter egg waiting to be discovered.

Sisters Amanda and Melissa Shin, the cofounders of Shin Shin Architecture, worked together to execute a gut renovation and redesign of a 1923 bungalow in Los Angeles, transforming the structure from a single-story, single-family residence into a two-story home with a separate accessory dwelling unit that can be rented out for added income.

Sisters Amanda and Melissa Shin, the cofounders of Shin Shin Architecture, worked together to execute a gut renovation and redesign of a 1923 bungalow in Los Angeles, transforming the structure from a single-story, single-family residence into a two-story home with a separate accessory dwelling unit that can be rented out for added income.

In the ADU, a multipurpose, greenhouse-inspired sunroom serves as both a dining patio and an extension of the kitchen, with new millwork concealing a washer/dryer station.

In the ADU, a multipurpose, greenhouse-inspired sunroom serves as both a dining patio and an extension of the kitchen, with new millwork concealing a washer/dryer station.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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 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.

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.

Published

Last Updated

Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.