Three generations of Mary K's family live in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. She now lives a number of hours drive away but hopes to move closer to her new great grand daughter. How much closer? Into her daughter's back yard. Seattle's recently expanded backyard cottage ordinance allows her to do just that. Mary K plans to build a tiny house that will give her a comfortable place to live where she can be a more prominent part of her families life.
Working with Mary K is the kind of challenge that we relish. With a limited budget and relatively small back yard every square inch has to count. Mary K is no stranger to living in small spaces as her and her husband built and lived in a small vacation cottage on the Oregon coast. She is inspired by the design of ships and their efficient use of space. Together we are developing a 320 sq. ft. cottage design. The cottage will feature a small kitchen a living room, a bed nook and a bathroom. To save space and for ease of cleanup, the bathroom will feature a wall mounted toilet and sink a center drain and a shower mounted in the same space. The bed will be mounted in an alcove designed to fit a queen sized mattress over storage with built in shelving to double as a daybed or be screened off when company is over. A loft accessed via a ships ladder will provide extra storage space, an additional bed and a play area for the great granddaughter. From the sink the kitchen window will look over the shared yard towards the main house. In place of expensive cabinetry the kitchen will feature a band of open shelving and provide a nice cottage look. Ample natural lighting will be crucial for the small house and we will max out the glazing on main facade facing the house.
To save on construction costs, Mary K and her family will do a portion of the finish work while relying on the contractor to perform the coordination and rough work.
Ben and January in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood are also on a tight budget as they plan on using their cottage as a rental unit. The compact footprint of the Eco cottage ended up being well suited to their steeply sloping site. Utilizing one of our standard designs saved them money in design fees and allowed them to get detailed pricing information at the beginning of the design process before they had spent a lot of money on consultants.
The two floor two bedroom unit squeaks in at just under 800 sq. ft. the maximum allowed size for a backyard cottage in Seattle. The gable roof design is not only energy efficient, and affordable to build, but the simple form gave us an opportunity to play around with the overall style of the building. Slight modifications to the siding and windows transform this design from contemporary to craftsman.
Aging at home
The Wheelocks are an example of a son building a cottage for his aging mother adjacent to his house. The 800 sq. ft. Tangent Cottage designed by Anne Van Dyne, provides a beautiful and functional home with a traditional craftsman flair and vaulted ceilings and a large deck for entertaining. The local zoning and sloping site allowed for the cottage to be built over a workshop used by the son for his business.
Beyond the immeasurable benefits of having family close by, there may be real financial incentives as well. In home assistance is much less expensive than assisted living or a nursing home care which runs in the range of $3,000 to $5,000 per month*.
Mark and Alice converted their existing garage in to a backyard cottage to add more room for their growing family. The family placed a high priority on sustainability. To this end, we worked to maintain as much of the existing structure as possible. The result is a 440 sq. ft. one bedroom 1 bath cottage suitable for someone with poor mobility.
Garage conversions have their own unique benefits and challenges. To be used as a backyard cottage a garage must be brought up to the standards of the current building code. When evaluating whether a conversion is cost effective, rather than starting with new construction, our first consideration is the condition of the foundation. Many garages are built with minimal foundations that do not meet current design standards. If the existing foundation is in good condition, as it was for Mark and Alice, we can focus on other important considerations like updating systems and insulation.
One benefit of converting an existing garage in Seattle is that special considerations are given in the zoning code for these existing structures. These considerations can be departures from standards including lot size and setbacks. Contact us to find out more about the permitting process and these departures.
North Seattle backyard cottage over garage
Ravenna single family residence
Wallingford Backyard Cottage