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“Creatively carving out a 220-square-foot ADU from the main floor of our house saved on design and construction costs. It provides an opportunity for rental income, with no significant compromise to the livability of our home.” –Joan Grimm
Joan Grimm and Rita Haberman were familiar with ADUs, but they had not seriously considered creating one on their own property. Over ten years, they had extensively remodeled their 1.5-story, 1,500-square-foot 1924 bungalow in the Richmond neighborhood of Portland, OR and it was a comfortable amount of space for the two of them.
In 2013, a few events got them thinking differently about an ADU. First, Dee Williams, Joan’s business partner in Portland Alternative Dwellings, LLC, challenged workshop students to start paying attention to the spaces they use and don’t use in their homes. When Joan and Rita reflected on this, they realized that a main floor bedroom was underutilized. Weeks later, Joan and Rita participated in the Build Small, Live Large Summit and were inspired, especially by information shared by local ADU expert Kol Peterson.
“Kol Peterson really helped us connect the dots. He presented compelling ADU investment-payback scenarios that helped us recognize the potential within the footprint of our existing house. “ – Joan Grimm
Inspired by the possibilities, Rita started designing the space. After several months of sketching, drawing plans, and researching, they met with a City of Portland Bureau of Planning staff to review initial design concepts. During that consult with the city staff, the feasibility of their concepts was confirmed, but they also learned that the proposed new entry porch would require approval of a setback variance. First, they secured approval of the setback variance, then they began the building permit process.
The carve-out ADU entailed creating a new entry on the north side of their house, and separating the ADU from the main house by building a wall in the former hallway leading to an existing full bath and the underutilized bedroom. The kitchen-dining-living area is the located in the front of the original house with a large bank of windows offering natural daylight and garden views, and the more private bed and bath areas are located toward the back.
“As much as possible, we designed the ADU to leverage and complement the existing architectural elements and style of our 100-year-old home. For example, the new entry is a timberframed, Craftsman style covered porch, and the original bank of three front windows was retained and restored to be again operable. “–Joan Grimm
Joan explains that, as they developed their ADU plans, they were inspired by Eli Spevak and Ross Chapin, two designers each with an impressive and diverse portfolio of creative and beautiful pocket community projects.
“Eli, especially with his Sabin Green project, helped us realize that what we were looking for in terms of a building community and aging in place was right under our noses. Remove a fence and create a shared open space. Build a wall and create a second dwelling unit. It doesn’t have to be complicated.” – Joan Grimm
They financed the project through savings and a small home equity line of credit (HELOC). They contracted Richard Wallace of RS Wallace Construction to do the lion’s share of the work. The RS Wallace crew completed the new porch and entry, framing, electrical, plumbing and drywall/acoustics. Jim Alan of Artisan Woodworking built the kitchen cabinets. Joan and Rita completed the finish work.
“Working with RS Wallace Construction was a highlight. They did a beautiful job. We are especially pleased with the porch, which is built primarily with Restoration Juniper harvested from Eastern Oregon. –Joan Grimm
To finish out the space they salvaged and repurposed all of the existing base board, door casings, and doors. Rita built all of the shelves and storage cabinets, primarily out of salvaged wood, including a two-sided bookcase-wardrobe to provide essential storage and a movable separation between the living-dining and sleeping areas. They installed a suite of high-efficiency appliances, including a refrigerator/freezer, dishwasher, stove, and clothes washer-dryer combo unit, as well as a ductless mini-split heat pump for heating and cooling.
The project was completed in May 2015, and no one has yet moved in. When asked about their plans for the space, Joan explains there are lots of possibilities.
“We plan to start out as a short-term rental until we find our dream long-term tenant. At some point down the road, we might live in the ADU and rent the big house.” – Joan Grimm
They’re pleased they’ve been able to create a bright, efficient dwelling using resources that were right under their own roof. At this point, Joan can’t identify anything they would have done differently.
“We went into it with a well-thought-out design, detailed drawings, and an excellent contractor who helped us navigate the process. Sound transmission across the dwelling units, however, is one of our concerns. We took reasonable sound control measures. On the shared walls and ceilings, there are two layers of 5/8” gypsum mounted on an acoustical clip system, but we’ll see how well it performs.” –Joan Grimm
So what advice does Joan have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“Spend the time and resources necessary to develop a good design, meet early in the process with BDS to review your design, and choose a contractor you know and trust.” – Joan Grimm