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.

Thursday, June 21

wallingford backyard cottage




Backyard cottages are a great option for many seniors allowing them to live close to family or perhaps have a family member live close to them.  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  great granddaughter. How much closer, into her daughter’s back yard. We worked with her to design a comfortable place to live where she can be a more prominent part of her family’s life.  Her new kitchen window looks out on a garden shared with her daughter and her cottage features a loft for her great granddaughter to play in.  While the cottage is still under construction, She looks forward to taking her great granddaughter to the nearby woodland park zoo.

No doubt her family will appreciate the extra help as well.  Raising a child is expensive in no small part due to the cost of child care.  Many parents scramble to keep up a juggling act of work and child care schedules that result in children being raised by caregivers outside the family. In this day and age it seems the lucky exceptions that have family close enough to help out on a regular basis. 

Her backyard cottage will have another benefit as well.  She will pay to construct the cottage from her savings.  It will be her home but will also be an asset for her daughter’s property.  When she no longer lives in the cottage it will become a source of rental income for the family, or perhaps her great granddaughter’s college apartment. Because the cottage is being funded with her retirement savings cost savings were crucial.

To save money we worked with Mary K to make the cottage as efficient as possible. Because Mary K at one time lived on a boat she is familiar with living in small spaces.  In preparation for moving she has calculated the exact number of inches of shelving for her bathroom and the width and height for her closet as well as all of her other storage requirements. She is designing the kitchen cabinets herself.

We used a couple of strategies to make the cottage feel larger.  Our primary strategy is incorporating the landscape into the project through the abundant and careful placement of windows.  We have also added a vaulted ceiling over the main living space and exposed the ceiling joists in the bedroom and kitchen to make those ceilings seem higher.

The cottage has been designed to be accessible for Mary K as she ages. Because it is small grab bars and surfaces will enable one with mobility impairment to navigate throughout the cottage with a degree of comfort.  In the bath we again took the approach of making things smaller rather than larger so that grab bars are always within easy reach.  The shower is incorporated into the main space so that one can bath while sitting down on the toilet.