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..

Friday, October 29

best lots for backyard cottages

What are the best lot for backyard cottages? The simple answer may be a lot meeting the minimum lot requirements, relatively flat with alley access and ready access to water and sewer. The true answer is much more nuanced.  A flat site may minimize site costs and alley access certainly provides parking options but challenging sites may ultimately inform and result in the best designs. A case in point is the eco cottage we are designing in Seattle's magnolia neighborhood. Here the steep slope provides an option for an attached tower with a bonus room that can be part of the cottage or used by the primary residence as a home office connected by a bridge. The slope also provides a nice separation and privacy for the residents of the two structures even though they are located on a fairly small lot.

Beyond the physical aspects of the site there is a social component as well.  A lot close to amenities such transportation, family and work will be a better value for anyone who lives there.

Thursday, October 28

ECHO housing and backyard cottages

Elderly Cottage Housing Opportunities ECHO for short generally refers to temporary prefab housing units placed behind a home to provide a home for an elderly parent or a caretaker. They have been around since the 1970's and have been gaining popularity recently. No doubt in part because of the rising cost of care.

Most people hope to age in place, a catch phrase for seniors living at home as long as possible.  And why wouldn't we want to grow old near the families and the communities that support us? ECHO housing because it can incorporate universal design and health monitoring systems is able to prolong the period of in-home residence. Because it can be located on the same lot as a family member's house, or can be lived in by family member, they can provide a invaluable part of a multi-generational living experience.

The recent expansion of backyard cottage ordinances is an exciting development for aging in place and ECHO housing advocates.  Unlike temporary housing units available the past, increasing numbers of municipalities are allowing site built backyard cottages.  These cottages can be an attractive addition to a home that will add to the properties value. Temporary structures on the other hand, have a short life span and become a long term liability for the homeowner. Site built backyard cottages may also be financed with an inexpensive equity line of credit often available to seniors who have built up equity in their homes but have limited incomes.

To view a partial list of municipalities that allow backyard cottages check out our backyard cottages other cities page or contact us directly.

Can I build a backyard cottage on my lot?

Many municipalities particularly on the west coast are revising their zoning codes to allow backyard cottages (Detached Accessory Dwelling Units) on residentially zoned lots. In general there are restrictions requiring minimum lot size, building lot coverage, setbacks, building height and area. Some jurisdictions limit the occupancy to a family member. For a partial list of municipalities that allow backyard cottages view our backyard cottages other cities page.

In Seattle you can determine if your lot meets the requirements by checking your lot on the DPD GIS web site as outlined on our backyard cottages Seattle page and giving us a call or email.  We can usually assist you in making this determination on the phone.  

Lots with less than 4,000 sq. ft.  existing accessory structures and those located in environmentally critical areas (ECA) are two situations that require extra attention.  Fortunately, we have a great deal of experience with these projects and can assist you in determining what your options are.

Wednesday, October 13

my kid could design that - backyard cottage design challenge

MY KID COULD DESIGN THAT- backyard cottage design challenge 2010

artwork by The Sketcher

Announcing the first annual international  MY KID COULD DESIGN THAT- backyard cottage design challenge.  A backyard cottage  is a small house that shares a lot with a larger primary residence.  The challenge will be to design a backyard cottage that you would like to live in for your own back yard, or a suitable location near where you live.  The cottage should accommodate the functions of a house, including living, sleeping, eating, and cooking, and fit within a 20 ft. x 20 ft. x 20 ft. volume. It’s not an easy task. Design ideas may be expressed in any medium from paint on paper to cardboard to gingerbread and hand drawing and physical modes are highly encouraged.  This is a great opportunity to use supplies readily found around the house including leftover holiday packaging.  The competition will be a showcase for the creativity of  those ages 8 - 18. And not only will the competition be fun, its free.  All entrants will be featured on the seattlebackyardcottage blog.  In conjunction with the competition, Architecture 101 will be hosting a design classes over the Thanksgiving holiday and again in late December 2010 and will host the awards ceremony in January 2011.


most creative, popular vote, sustainable, most fun, best site response, best overall, jury award

Entries Due:  January 4th, 2011

Awards Announced:  January 2011

Entry forms: Located on the kids design competition page

Class Information:


You and your friends
Bruce Parker - Microhouse
Dora Taylor - Architecture for Kids
J. Crone- and works
Sharon Khosla - 16th Workshop
Stefan Ha

To be determined

This competition is loosely patterned after the Prefab Backyard Cottage Design Challenge held in Seattle this past spring. To see what the adults came up with check out the method homes  prefab cottage design challenge.  To see what students have come up with in past

Friday, October 8

aging in place - backyard cottages

Aging in place (also aging at home) is a catch phrase for seniors maintaining independence by living at home as long as possible, a goal most of us share. Unfortunately, many factors may conspire against this dream. Typical houses and living environments often don’t often favor seniors. In many instances our homes are not accessible for those with mobility impairments and may be located away from family and services.
Backyard cottages are an great option for many seniors. On one hand, families may be able to build a backyard cottage on their lot enabling all the benefits of multi-generational living. However, unlike moving into a room in the main house, seniors and their parents are able to maintain their independence. Because new cottages can incorporate universal design standards that facilitate mobility they may be cheaper than remodeling an older house to say add a downstairs bath, or a residential lift. There are many other considerations like efficient environmental controls, easy to use hardware and appliances that will enable a senior to live and function comfortably in their 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*. The cost of a cottage financed through an equity line of credit is in the range of $1,000 per month and increases the value property.

*Genworth 2008 cost of care survey

Monday, October 4

backyard cottages at seattle home show

A Microhouse representative will be at the Seattle Home Show, Friday October 8th from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. We will be answering questions about backyard cottages and catching up with our partners at the Homeowner's Cooperative in their booth #507.  Also be sure to check out the Ecohaus booth where you can learn more about the sustainable materials featured in our projects.