seattle backyard cottage blog

Backyard cottages (DADUs) provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock density and diversity. Continue reading for more information about Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage..

Tuesday, May 21

Fisherman's Cottage in Ballard

Wednesday, May 15

living in a backyard cottage

What is it like to move out of your house and into a backyard DADU?  Jenna Spesard of Tiny House Giant Journey interviewed Paul and Caroline about planning and building their backyard cottage. Watch her video to learn about their experiences. 

Monday, May 13

seattle ADU code changes - finally a decision

The Seattle Hearing Examiner has ruled that the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) in regards to the proposed code changes for backyard cottages (DADUs) and attached accessory dwelling units (ADUs), is adequate. Now the proposed code changes will go to city council for debate.

Tuesday, May 7

backyard cottage tour - full

Our annual spring backyard cottage tour on May 11th is now full. Coming up there will be an opportunity to see two of our DADU's on the AIA ADU tour on June 15th. Contact us for or sign up more information about upcoming tours and open houses.

Tuesday, April 30

DADU bike tour, Saturday May 11th

Join us for our fourth annual backyard cottage bike tour and informal cottage discussion. This will be a unique opportunity to see inside a number of cottages and speak with their owners and designers. The tour will will encompass Fremont, Greenwood, and Ballard, neighborhoods. Email us for more information and to RSVP.

Monday, April 8

Seattle DADU code changes - almost there?

Closing arguments will be submitted on April 21st, and responses due April 26th, in the hearing concerning proposed land use code changes affecting backyard cottages and other ADUs

this backyard cottage provides a home for proud grandparents in Ballard

Two years ago the City of Seattle proposed a number of code changes intended to promote the construction of DADUs and ADUs. Those changes include:

  • Allowing two ADUs on one lot
  • Removing the off-street parking requirement
  • Removing the owner-occupancy requirement and requiring one year of ownership when creating a second ADU
  • Modifying development standards that regulate the size, height, and location of DADUs
  • Increasing the household size limit for a lot with two ADUs
  • Establishing a new limit on the maximum size of single-family dwellings equal to one half of the lot size (FAR = 0.5)
The city contends that the proposed changes will be radical enough to spur a wave of new construction in residential neighborhoods while not adversely impacting them. Others disagreed. In hearing an appeal brought by the Queen Anne Community Council, the Seattle Hearing Examiner ruled that City's original SEPA response was not adequate. This ruling launched a full blown study (EIS) into the potential environmental impacts of the proposed code changes. The Final EIS was issued last fall and the findings were again challenged. The appellants claim the EIS does not fully assess the impacts of increased development in residential neighborhoods. For the appeal, Tree PAC (concerned with the potential loss of urban tree canopy due to increased development), have joined the Queen Anne Community Council.

Whats Next?

If the Hearing Examiner rules that the EIS is sufficient, the City Council will consider legislation to implement the proposed Land Use Code changes as early as this May. 

Friday, March 22

Pingpong, Prince, and Permits: Microhouse Collaboration Yields Cozy Cottage

“Where’s the bed?” That’s what most people ask upon entering Paul and Caroline’s 400 sq. ft., backyard cottage. (Spolier: It’s a queen-sized Murphy, tucked neatly away in a poplar wood cabinet constructed by Paul).

the living and bedroom

But you’d be forgiven for first noticing the spoons and forks—purchased from Goodwill and serving as drawer pulls and cabinet handles. Or the hanging cheese grater light cover in the kitchen. Then there’s the small shrine to the musician Prince (to say Caroline is a huge fan is an understatement).

silverware from Goodwill is creatively re-purposed

the light filled kitchen features a tree top view

No matter where your eyes alight, it’s clear that this home is unique to its owners. And it all started with a pingpong table.

 the garage is all set for a Purple Rain screening in observance of parking day,

In 2014, after several years living in their Fremont house, Paul decided to tear down the garage in the backyard and create a space for his pingpong table. During that renovation process, he and Caroline got the idea to add a second floor to use it as their living space. Paul, a skilled builder, would design and build the structure. Caroline liked the idea of a change after several years in their current house on the property.

With all of the skill and purpose between the couple, why did Paul and Caroline hire microhouse?

Paul puts it simply: “Bureaucracy.” Despite his ability to create the plans and build the home from top to bottom—doing all the framing, electrical and plumbing himself—he was hesitant to deal with the City of Seattle permitting process. Enter Bruce Parker of microhouse. “Bruce is so helpful because he's good at [dealing with the bureaucracy],” says Caroline. “It makes for a good team.”

Having lived in their backyard cottage for two years, is there anything Paul and Caroline would change about it? “I might not make the roof as steep,” says Paul, who designed it with Caroline to be consistent with neighboring homes. Now, he says, flat roofs have popped up all around them.

paper mache was used as the floor covering for the living room

“I don't have room to put big ladders and scaffolding up around here,” he says, worried for the day he’ll have to do roof maintenance or repairs. “I would have thought about roof access a little bit more.”

recycled tiles were used for the shower surround

The bath countertop is a laminate of scrap wood

For Caroline’s part, she’d go with a quieter heating system. While the convection heating works well, the loud fan bothers her. Paul comments that it’s too late to change it, then reconsiders.
“Well, it's not too late. I can replace that with a radiant panel.” He pauses. “But then I'd need a bigger wall space.Caroline laughs at this prospect. And Paul seems to agree with her sentiment. “When you're in a small space, everything affects something else,” he says. But what the couple loves about their home far outweighs any regrets. 

For Paul, his favorite thing about the cottage is the light.When you wake up, the morning light glows. It doesn't actually shine through our windows onto us, it just glows.” Caroline agrees that the light is their home’s best feature. A close second is the color. While her natural inclination was to paint the cottage purple, a neighbor had expressed negativity about it. So she waited for new inspiration. It came during a trip to her native San Francisco. “I was walking through the Alamo Square neighborhood and I looked up at the blue sky. I thought. Wow. This is it. So I went down to the Sherman Williams and looked at their color palette.” She points out the window to the exterior color. “This is it!” (It’s officially “Quench Blue,” but Paul refers to it as “the pool.”)

the stair railing was welded by a neighbor

In a more subtle ode to Prince, a purple bistro table and chairs sit outside the home, where Caroline enjoys her morning coffee and solitude. And a Prince-themed Little Free Library on the parking strip greets friends and neighbors. For Caroline, it’s these details—like the spoons and forks and the hanging cheese grater—that make the cottage home. And well worth the trade-off for a smaller living space. 

Her advice to anyone thinking about moving into a backyard cottage is simple. “You have to downsize. It’s doable, but you have to think twice about ‘stuff.’ I got rid of a lot of books, and I’m still figuring out where to store my clothes.”

Paul, as the builder, has two contradictory pieces of advice to would-be cottage dwellers. “One: it's all certainly possible. I mean, if one guy can build this, it can be done. You don't need PhD to do it. But you need to do it. People think, ‘Oh I'll get in an hour or two every weekend’. It's like, you're never going to have a house. That's not going to happen. So along with the, ‘Anybody could do it’ advice, it takes a lot more time and effort than you think. So you either get after it or stop dreaming. One of the two.”