Pictured here is one of my projects-in-progress: a 500-square foot Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU, in Ashland’s college district. This 1 BR/1 BA house features an open plan for the living/dining rooms and kitchen and vaulted ceilings throughout.
ADUs are popular in Ashland, and becoming more so. An ADU offers flexibility: it can serve as a rental or lodging for an aging parent—or a returning adult child. I’ve even known couples who decided to move into their ADU and rent out their main house. Since the Recession, I believe people are looking at how they can use their property to generate income, especially as they near retirement.
But there’s something else going on. Though ADUs are highly pragmatic, that’s not all they are. Little houses spark the imagination. “It reminds me of a boat!” is a comment I’ve heard more than once. It’s not so much that a small house looks like a boat, but being inside one gives you the same delighted feeling as being inside a boat. And no surprise: A well-designed boat is a stunning example of utility and beauty. There’s no wasted space. It’s elegant.
Some of my favorite projects have been small homes. They pose the ultimate design challenge: how to cram all the essential features of a house into 500 square feet? Though each is unique, I do follow a few rules of thumb. Vaults are critical for creating a sense of volume; I like to use arches convey grace. I almost always incorporate features that perform more than one function, such as a kitchen peninsula that doubles as an informal dining area.
BrookSea Construction is building this particular ADU. It’s built on a simple slab and will be heated with a mini-split—which brings up another point: small houses require less energy to heat. This project should be completed by the end of the year, so look for updated pictures soon!