Small is the new green

Increasing environmental awareness along with economic and demographic trends favor smaller house sizes. Many cities are doing their part by updating zoning codes to allow cottage housing and small backyard cottages (detached ADU's) on residentially zoned lots. Seattle and Portland are two cities which allow backyard cottages up to 800 sq. ft. in size. These small houses provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock, density and affordability. Continue reading for more information about small house design and Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage.

backyard cottage designs

At Microhouse we specialize in the design of small houses, backyard cottages, and cottage housing developments.  Our design and permitting services are available locally and world wide.  

We offer a series of standard small house designs can be used as is or customized to realize the potential of their individual sites.  These standard designs provide an affordable departure point to realizing our clients goals.   

Contact us for plan details and pricing.  Microhouse Contact


magnolia backyard cottage,  microhouse




eco cottage first plan



The eco cottage is an  800 sq. ft.  two bedroom, two bath backyard cottage. The main floor contains a kitchen and living room and study. The top floor contains two bedrooms and a bath.  This plan was developed to provide an economical rental unit for urban neighborhoods. The plan works for steeply sloped lots as shown in the above example.



microhouse atom prefab, microhouse live work

The atom live-work is a  450 sq. ft.  live work unit designed to stand alone or be part of a commercial row house development. The main floor contains a kitchen and living room and bath. The top floor contains a bedroom loft.  This plan may be modified to meet accessibility guidelines. 




backyard cottage, microhouse, service module



The microhouse 120 sq. ft. shelter module is part of a concept in D.I.Y. social advocacy. The service module provides a cost effective shelter containing all of the functions of a house on in a small scale suitable for most urban lots.  It allows for property owners to provide cost effective subsidized housing for volunteer or low income workers who would otherwise be priced out of urban areas.

backyard cottages, microhouse

The portland is a small inexpensive backyard cottage ideal for a rental unit or for a home office. The cottage contains a kitchen, living room bath and sleeping loft. The portland cottage is designed to provide a comfortable living environment that can be financed and built for less than the equivalent of market rate rent.  Costs for the portland will vary by site. Contact us for a detailed proposal.   









microhouse beta 1,200 sq. ft. cottage

The beta cottage design developed as a compact two bedroom house with a top floor home office and rooftop deck. The design is well suited to sloping lots with views and small infill lots.  It can be utilized in a row house configuration.






The dragonfly cottage is a versatile contemporary carriage house design.  The plan consists of 800 sq. ft. on two floors plus a loft. The main floor contains a kitchen and living room, bath. The basement contains a one car garage and utility room.  It is shown above with the smart module.










The microhouse smart module is an award winning prefab unit that contains the all basic elements of a contemporary home. Grouping the environmental systems, plumbing, cooking and sleeping in a small prefab unit reduces construction cost and maximizes space for work and play. The smart module can be combined with other prefab units, on site construction, existing structures. The smart module may also serve as a stand alone cabin or a starter cabin which may be added onto in the future.





atom prefab



The Atom prefab is a contemporary mash up of 1940's Manhattan Project worker housing. It's space efficient design and compact footprint make it suitable for small lots or environmentally sensitive areas. It is ideal for use as a backyard cottage, guest house, home office, or a rental unit. 


Pricing for the Atom prefab unit varies by location and fabricator. The plans may be purchased separately for a cost effective site built option. Contact microhouse for more for more information and a detailed proposal.















tangent 800 sq. ft. cottage



The tangent  cottage is ideal aging in place alternative. The original design was conceived and built by a son for his aging mother enabling her to maintain her independence while staying close to family. The cottage features traditional craftsman design details with accessible features. The cottage has been featured in a number of publications.












This versatile design has a number of configurations from 400 sq. ft. to 1,200 sq. ft.





The urban module is a contemporary design developed for multi-family urban infill lots. The versatile cottage can stand alone or be part of a matched pair and can contain two or three floors. The the two floor design contains 800 sq. ft. with the main floor containing a kitchen and living room. and a master suite located on the floor above. The urban module is well suited to sloping lots with views. It is currently being built as part of a 10 unit infill development on Seattle's capitol hill.