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 diversity. 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.

Wednesday, May 16

treehouse cottage

backyard cottage, carriage house


One of this season's backyard cottage projects, the treehouse's design is a response to the unique requirements of our client and his lot.  The owner is a carpenter by trade who wants to build a new shop and living space above. When the project is complete he plans to rent out his existing residence and live in the new cottage.  His prized possessions include two beautiful mature fir trees located in the middle of his lot.  The design seeks to put the inhabitants at the level of  and surrounded them by the largest branches.  The orientation of the building will enable it to take advantage of passive heating and cooling strategies.  


To protect the trees the footprint of the building is held back outside of the dripline while a covered work area will provide shelter for another prized possession a vintage pickup truck.  The truck doesn't move often and a thick layer of bark mulch will be placed to protect the soil from compaction. The covered work area will be surrounded by a cedar rain screen which extends upwards to form the siding of the second level. 


Carriage houses are a common use of backyard cottages. In Seattle garage space is included in the allowable 800 sq. ft. so accommodating two cars is often a challenge. This design maximizes the living area by creating moving one of the required parking spaces into the covered work area.

remodeling with water

rain garden,








Big houses need love too. This is a view of draft plan for a remodel that is under construction on Mercer Island. The existing house features a large three car garage prominently located on the street with the front door hidden behind.  The design seeks to accentuate the entry and sustainability.   


We have included a series of over sized concrete pavers access to the street and driveway. The large pavers are one element used to balance the scale of the auto oriented street, garage and drive. As one approaches the entry the scale is reduced by the addition of a pond that compresses the space without enclosing it.  At the same time, the rainwater from the roof is gathered via a rainchain that feeds the pond. The pond outlets to a rain garden located right up at the street. A suitable celebration of our abundant rainfall and a nice statement about sustainability.



Tuesday, May 8

beacon hill cottage housing starts construction

beacon hill cottage housing

Construction has begun on the beacon hill cottage housing project on a steeply sloping ECA infill site. This cottage housing development is unique in that the four small houses are connected by an elevated walkway with the lower units entering from the top floor. This enables us to take best advantage of the sloping site and minimize construction cost.  The unit vary from 2 to 3 bedroom and start at 1,200 sf in size. They will all have decks with nice views to the east. Completion is scheduled for the end of this year.