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.

aging in place

backyard cottage, seniors, backyard cottages


Aging in place 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 a 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 children 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, pictured above, 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 hobby. 

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 $2,000 per month and increases the value property.



 *Genworth Financial 2008 Cost of Care Survey