Accessory Dwellings

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Kol Peterson’s ADU: A Backyard Home

Kol's ADU ExteriorQuick Facts

  • Setting: urban
  • Neighborhood: Alberta Arts District, Portland, OR
  • Type: stand-alone detached unit
  • Use: owner’s full-time residence
  • Square Footage: 799
  • Year Built: 2011
  • Owner: Kol Peterson & Deb Delman
  • Designer: Studio Eccos
  • Builder: Design Build Portland
  • Total Cost: $110,000

 “Work with an architect who has a passion for designing small spaces. The craftsmanship of the ADU comes with very careful planning.” – Kol Peterson

Kol's Dining & Kitchen

Kol’s kitchen and dining room are spacious and comfortable

After living in shared housing for several years, Kol Peterson was ready for a place of his own. As he researched various options, Kol discovered ADUs and learned they could provide the kind of financially sustainable living arrangement he was seeking. He explains, “I really liked the idea of living in a small, beautiful, comfortable space as opposed to a large house.” Kol, who has a background in environmental planning and design, felt that a smaller custom-crafted abode could embody his values.

Kol’s plan was to purchase a piece of property with an existing house, which he could rent out, and build a 400 square foot ADU that he could live in himself. Kol looked at more than 60 properties in the Alberta Arts District before he found a site that would accommodate his dream home in the backyard. Kol then worked with Heather McGarry at Green Mortgage Northwest to finance the property so that he would have funds to build the ADU.

“I had a huge learning curve while building my ADU. The amount of information you have to know is enormous for people who are not professionally involved with land development.” – Kol Peterson

Kol's Storage Under the Stairs

storage space is tucked under the winder staircase

Meanwhile, Kol was dating a woman who had converted a garage into a beautiful ADU on her own property. Since her ADU was only large enough for one person, Kol quickly realized that it would be wise to redesign from the original plan of a tiny 400 square foot cottage for one person to a design that could accommodate both him and his partner. In fact, Kol ended up building an 800 square foot ADU on his property and, in the process, deployed some tricks for making spaces seem larger.

  1. Use tall ceilings to create spaciousness
  2. Provide long diagonal views across the space
  3. Place French door or a bank of windows on first floor that lead out onto green space
  4. Use a great room (a combination of living room, dining room, and kitchen)

Kol’s greatest challenge was that he was unfamiliar with the process for new construction. He worked with Studio Eccos on the design to create a home that balances environmental sustainability with artistic and elegant comfort.

Kol's Stained Glass Window

afternoon sunshine cast rainbows on the vaulted ceiling

The ADU features an efficient hydronic radiant heat system in the slab-on-grade concrete floor and a high performance wall system. Thick, air-tight walls with blown-in fiberglass insulation and a heat recovery ventilator helped earn the ADU the first certification as a Northwest Energy Star home. Meanwhile, Kol and Deb’s love of art is evident in the tiled shower, the winder staircase, and stained glass window in the sleeping loft that casts rainbows across the vaulted ceiling when the sunlight streams through.

“Though small, it feels very luxurious. I love the tall ceilings, the movie wall, the salvaged metal handrail, the stained glass sound wall, and the radiant heat.” – Kol Peterson

Kol's Winder Staircase

this beautiful winder staircase was the result of the 18 foot height limit for ADUs

At the time Kol built his home, there were few resources for homeowners considering developing an ADU on their property. There were no books, no how-to videos, and of course, no Kol meticulously documented his process on his blog Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit in Portland, Oregon to help other homeowners interested in developing ADUs on their properties.

After completing his ADU, Kol began teaching a one-day ADU class to help prospective ADU owners save money and build a better design. He explains, “I want to see more ADUs built, so in my class, I try to cover all the things I wish someone had told me before I started my project.” (You can read more about Kol’s 1-day class on This Is The Little Life.)

Kol and his now-wife Deb have been living in their ADU since 2011. They love that they have a place of their own, but also have the ability to share wifi and an outdoor hot tub with the renters in the main house. Kol appreciates that the ADU provides flexibility when he and his partner host guests. He has also been pleasantly surprised that the ADU has penciled out better than he’d originally anticipated. Rental income from the main house covers the mortgage for the property. By building an ADU in his backyard, Kol was able to create a financially sustainable living situation and a beautiful home for himself and his spouse.

About linamenard

Hi. My name is Lina Menard and I'm a small house dweller, designer, blogger, and builder. I'm currently collecting ADU Case Studies for Through my company Niche Consulting LLC, I help people design and build the home (and life) of their dreams! I also tell my stories about simple living in small spaces - like a travel trailer, a yurt, a backyard cottage, and tiny houses on wheels - at Niche News.

9 comments on “Kol Peterson’s ADU: A Backyard Home

  1. William Hines (Billy)
    December 23, 2013

    Hi Lina, I am William Hines aka, Billy, I own a three bedroom home in the Alberta Arts district in NE Portland. 8 years ago I turned my 500 square foot carriage house into a cute adu, one bedroom, one bath. I lived in the cottage for 8 years. It was a very nice home. I recently moved back into my 3 bedroom home to better take care of my new dog. I currently rent my adu. I have lotsa picts and a story of maddening government red tape I had to navigate thru to get the permits and plans approved. Would be glad to share this with you. sincerely,

    • Martin John Brown
      December 28, 2013

      Hi Billy, we’d love to hear your story. I’ll send you an email. –ed.

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This entry was posted on December 20, 2013 by in 600-799 SF, Case Study, Detached, New Construction, Projects and tagged , , , .
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