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, 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.”

Tuesday, March 12

SB 1582 - the DADU bill passes the Washington State Senate

Senate Bill 5812 Passes the Senate (SB 1797) and advance to the House for debate. 

Amended language changes the requirement for owner occupancy to apply only to cities with populations of greater than 100,000 which do not have an ADU ordinance in place. In case you are curious as we were how many Washington State Cities there are with populations greater than 100,000, there are ten.  All ten of them have ADU ordinances. 

Read the Bill

To comment on the Senate Bill


Wednesday, March 6

backyard cottage workshop tomorrow

Backyard cottages can be used for many things including housing a family member or as a short term rental.  Join Bruce Parker from Microhouse and Stefan Hansmire from Hansmire Builds to learn more about how to plan for and establish a realistic budget for your cottage. Bring your ideas, after the presentation we will have plenty of time to answer questions about the specifics of your project. We will also discuss proposed local and state code changes for DADUs.

Thursday, March 7,  7:00 pm 

Phinney Neighborhood Center
Blue Building Room 6
6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
Admission Price $15 member/ $25 general public