ADU's: living large in small spaces

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By Wright / Published by Wright
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You might recognize an Accessory Dwelling Unit or ADU by one of its many other names like granny flats, in-law units, laneway houses or sidekick house to name a few. Regardless of what name you choose, building an ADU has become a popular way to gain income via rent or to house a family member.

An ADU is defined as having a second small dwelling right on the same grounds (or attached to) your regular single-family house. Typically these take on the form of an apartment over the garage, a tiny house on a foundation in the backyard, or a basement apartment. The rules vary by jurisdiction, but typically these buildings are required to be less than 800 square feet or a percentage of the existing home's area. Sometimes people design and build their ADU with the purpose of moving into it themselves and then renting out their main home.  If you're thinking about taking the leap and building an ADU on your property consider visiting some examples to make sure you are comfortable with downsizing. Many cities have ADU tours, such as Portland's annual Build Small, Live Large Tour in September. Take a look at some creative ways people have incorporated small living into their lives.

This modern ADU sits in the corner of the backyard, the exterior paint colors reflect the palette of the main home and creates uniformity.

This modern ADU sits in the corner of the backyard, the exterior paint colors reflect the palette of the main home and creates uniformity.


Wide French doors extend the indoors out to a gracious patio and fire pit. 

Wide French doors extend the indoors out to a gracious patio and fire pit. 


This 460 square foot addition to a Cape Cod home houses adds much needed space for additional family members.

This 460 square foot addition to a Cape Cod home houses adds much needed space for additional family members.


Efficient kitchen design is the hallmark of a successful ADU, where every inch of usable space counts.

Efficient kitchen design is the hallmark of a successful ADU, where every inch of usable space counts.


This ADU in Bend, Oregon takes it's roof cues from the main house at the front of the lot.

This ADU in Bend, Oregon takes it's roof cues from the main house at the front of the lot.


A 16 foot wide wall of folding glass doors welcomes you into the warm wood kitchen of this alley-fronting garage turned ADU. 

A 16 foot wide wall of folding glass doors welcomes you into the warm wood kitchen of this alley-fronting garage turned ADU. 


The kitchen features a moveable wood slab island on wheels that accommodates a variety of dinner guests in this 480 square foot space.  

The kitchen features a moveable wood slab island on wheels that accommodates a variety of dinner guests in this 480 square foot space.  


A wood trellis offers coverage and marks the entry to this 700 square foot cottage ADU.

A wood trellis offers coverage and marks the entry to this 700 square foot cottage ADU.


The tall space over the main room features timber detailing and ample natural light from high windows offering privacy from the main house. 

The tall space over the main room features timber detailing and ample natural light from high windows offering privacy from the main house. 


This ADU serving as a guest house/yoga studio sits over an existing garage totally recreated. Fusion Landscape Design worked with PATH to remake the backyard into a grown-up playground. Under the stairwell sits a tiny custom cedar sauna and an outdoor shower—just a literal hop, skip, and jump away from the sprawling in-ground eight-by-ten-foot hot tub. 

This ADU serving as a guest house/yoga studio sits over an existing garage totally recreated. Fusion Landscape Design worked with PATH to remake the backyard into a grown-up playground. Under the stairwell sits a tiny custom cedar sauna and an outdoor shower—just a literal hop, skip, and jump away from the sprawling in-ground eight-by-ten-foot hot tub. 

Strips of white-oak flooring line the interior of the studio, created by designer Jeff Vincent and PATH Architecture.

Strips of white-oak flooring line the interior of the studio, created by designer Jeff Vincent and PATH Architecture.