Budget Breakdown: A Cozy Studio Tops an L.A. Garage For $220K

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By Lucy Wang
Spurred by a recent state law aimed at easing California’s housing shortage, a Los Angeles family turns to architect Martin Fenlon to add an ADU to their backyard.

When California lawmakers made it easier and more affordable for homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), it didn’t take long for a Los Angeles family to join the effort to relieve the state’s housing crisis.

$17,720
Site Upgrades
$16,350
Foundation
$28,800
Framing
$14,435
Windows & Doors
$17,790
Siding
$8,375
Roofing & Exterior Flooring
$1,760
Gutters & Rain Tank
$15,210
Wall Coverings
$1,485
Flooring
$2,235
Trim & Millwork
$7,055
Paint
$3,800
Mechanical
$5,420
Plumbing
$12,975
Electrical
$11,980
General Work
$10,220
Kitchen
$8,325
Bathroom
$36,787
20% Overhead & Profit
Grand Total: $220,722

The clients, a young couple with two small children, turned to local architect Martin Fenlon to create a compact and sustainably minded studio apartment atop their detached garage in Los Feliz, a hillside neighborhood where they have lived for over five years.

"Clad in economical fiber-cement siding, the ADU reaches down to the ground, while the stucco cladding of the garage reaches up, forming a semi-enclosed entry sequence," says Martin.

"Clad in economical fiber-cement siding, the ADU reaches down to the ground, while the stucco cladding of the garage reaches up, forming a semi-enclosed entry sequence," says Martin.

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Working with a tight timeframe of just a little over a year, Martin crafted the 350-square-foot addition—named Rodgers ADU after the clients—for a total cost of $220,722. He also enlarged the garage to 400 square feet for extra storage space.

Large Milgard windows face the south and west.

Large Milgard windows face the south and west.

Seven months were spent on the drawing and permitting process, and another seven months were spent on construction.

The enlarged garage and the new ADU addition comprise 750 square feet in total.

The enlarged garage and the new ADU addition comprise 750 square feet in total.

A timber door painted a vibrant red marks the sheltered entrance.

A timber door painted a vibrant red marks the sheltered entrance.

The most challenging part of the project was dealing with the existing garage, which was right on the property line, says Martin. "It was only during construction that we learned the garage had no footings!"

To create a spacious feel, Martin installed large, double-glazed windows and a Velux skylight. "The windows, together with the operable skylight, act as a solar chimney to passively cool the space," he notes.

To create a spacious feel, Martin installed large, double-glazed windows and a Velux skylight. "The windows, together with the operable skylight, act as a solar chimney to passively cool the space," he notes.

For privacy, the ADU is angled away from the main house, a Spanish bungalow built in the 1920s.

The kitchen countertop is Caesarstone quartz, and the IKEA cabinetry is melamine over fiberboard. The backsplash is glass tile.

The kitchen countertop is Caesarstone quartz, and the IKEA cabinetry is melamine over fiberboard. The backsplash is glass tile.

Inside, the light-filled studio apartment consists of an open-plan living/sleeping area and a full bath tucked away in the southeast corner.

Laminate flooring from the Home Decorators Collection was used for the living area. The ceiling slopes upwards towards the west.

Laminate flooring from the Home Decorators Collection was used for the living area. The ceiling slopes upwards towards the west.

Porcelain tiles line the bathroom. The countertops and cabinetry are ceramic and wood veneer over fiberboard, respectively.

Porcelain tiles line the bathroom. The countertops and cabinetry are ceramic and wood veneer over fiberboard, respectively.

"ADUs are exciting because they have the potential to be a small, controlled design exercise that can be turned over faster than larger projects," says Martin, who has designed four ADUs to date. 

A lesson learned is that a small building is just as complex as a large one, so the drawing set can't be thorough enough.

—Martin Fenlon, architect 

Rodgers ADU floor plans

Rodgers ADU floor plans

Rodgers ADU sections

Rodgers ADU sections

Rodgers ADU elevations

Rodgers ADU elevations

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Martin Fenlon Architecture / @martin.fenlon

Builder/ General Contractor: Preferred Home Builders

Structural Engineer: Martin Fenlon Architecture

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