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.

Tuesday, March 26

backyard cottage open house - garage conversion

Sunday April 7th from 1-4 pm
6335 Wilson Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
(Entrance from Blair Terrace S.)



Have you been thinking about converting your garage into a backyard cottage? Join microhouse and Ncompass Cottage Company for an open house on April 7th from 1-4 pm  to view this recently constructed backyard cottage.



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.

Monday, March 25

a retirement cabin on Lake Washington

A retirement cabin complete with a granddaughter loft by Seattle design collaborative microhouse.  The design takes advantage of sweeping views lake Washington and Mt. Rainier. Location - the backyard of the owner's daughter.




A project that we are currently working on that is quite exciting.  The design features a nice living room and open kitchen with views south to Mount Rainier and east to Lake Washington.  One bedroom and bath are located on the main floor and a granddaughter loft is located above.  The deck faces south and is sheltered by a large roof overhang. The overhang will allow winter sunlight deep into the house while shading the windows during summer months.  The primary heat source will be a gas fire place.  The cabin will have a rain feature and cistern to celebrate and store rain water.





One of our first challenges is working within an environmentally critical area (ECA).  The City of Seattle determines which areas are environmentally sensitive based on a number of criteria including the presence of a steep slope, liquifaction prone soils and others.  In this case we have a site adjacent to a steep slope with poor fill soils deposited during the construction of the primary residence. Fortunately our team members have a strong background in Civil Engineering and perhaps because of this a large percentage of our projects are located in ECA areas.  We are working with landscape architect, Anri Rapelje, on a landscape and planting plan that will enhance the natural function of the site as well as providing native edible plants.

Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2013.






Thursday, March 14


learn about backyard cottages and meet other backyard cottage enthusiasts

We design homes that are easy to live in.  Cottages that allow their occupants to live at home close to family even if their mobility becomes impaired.   Come and learn about how we approach designing for a lifetime and what ideas make for great homes.    This is a great opportunity to talk with experts in the design and construction of backyard cottages and also learn about options for in home care.  


Matt Long from Husky Senior Care will be joining us to discuss in home care and the needs of seniors and their caregivers.



backyard cottages and stay-at-home strategies for seniors   

March 20th, from 7:00 to 9:00pm, Blue Building Room #3 
Phinney Neighborhood Center 6532 Phinney Avenue North

Microhouse, Ncompass Cottage Company, Husky Senior Care
$20 PNA member, $25 Public
To register call 206.783.2244