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Barbara Gundle first learned about ADUs when her friend took Kol Peterson’s ADU Class for Homeowners and advised her to take the workshop, too. She enrolled in the class in June of 2014. She also had the chance to see Susan Moray’s ADU, which is a historic garage converted into a guest house. (Read Susan Moray’s ADU: Updating History in Ladd’s for more on that story!) Barbara was inspired by Susan’s ADU because their circumstances were similar.
Barbara realized that it would be possible to convert her own garage in the historic Irvington neighborhood into a short-term rental to bring in additional income. She began looking at her garage differently.
“The building already existed. It was a garage with a studio above it and it was not being fully utilized. I got divorced five years ago and I have some retirement but not much. I realized I could turn it into an income-producing entity so I can ultimately quit working and retire.” – Barbara Gundle
The garage is a unique structure. It was constructed as a garage in 1991 and a second story studio was added by Barbara and her ex-husband in 1996. When they added the second story to the garage twenty years ago, they were required to go through a historic design review since their property is located in the Irvington neighborhood.
After hearing about Susan’s challenges converting her garage in a historic district and her success working with Jack Barnes, Barbara contracted with Jack to do the design work for her ADU, too. (You can read more about Jack Barnes at his ADU Designer Profile: Jack Barnes Architect and see more of his work at Jack Barnes ADU Profiles.)
As Jack and Barbara began noodling through the design considerations for her guest house, they decided to work with the existing conditions whenever possible. Working within the existing shell was both an efficient use of materials and a way to avoid possible complications from the historic design review process.
“The historical review wasn’t as stringent in 1996 when we added the second story as it is now. The second story of the garage already matched the house. Jack said it needed trim around the windows, which was obvious. I don’t know why we didn’t have that before! He added the roof over the door on the first floor, which helped because it was tall and it helped bring the scale down. He also added the corbels to support that little roof. It was important to Irvington that the ADU match. I wanted to do Hardi panel, but they said it had to be cedar just like the house. That was an additional $14,000. Also, the bathroom was designed it to be an open shower with no curtain or walls, just a sloping floor. They said ‘No, you have to have a curtain. If whole bathroom is a shower then you have to have different electrical outlets, rated for outdoor use.’ So we added a curtain and it looks nice, so I’m happy.” – Barbara Gundle
As they figured out how to create a comfortable living space within the existing structure, there were two major design decisions. The first was how to get from one floor to another without going out in the rain.
“There were already stairs, but they were outside and we couldn’t figure out how to enclose them. There wasn’t room for a standard staircase, so that’s why we chose the spiral.” – Barbara Gundle
The second major design decision was whether to put the bedroom and bathroom on the first or second story.
“We put the bed and bath down because it’s darker downstairs. It also means if I ever need a no steps bed and bath at some point in my aging process I’ll have it. Besides, the upstairs is nicer. It’s very light-filled. Putting the bedroom and bathroom downstairs also allowed for a bigger closet. It was going to be tiny before. Now it’s just small.” – Barbara Gundle
Barbara contracted with Josh Salinger from Birdsmouth Construction for the remodeling project. As they reviewed various options, Jack and Josh coached Barbara through considerations for balancing budget and comfort.
“I had wanted to do radiant heat in the floor, on-demand water, and have gas appliances, but the expense was too great. Instead, we polished, stained, and sealed the garage floor and put bamboo flooring upstairs. I invested in energy-efficient appliances, a low-flush toilet, a ductless mini-split heat pump and LED lights.” – Barbara Gundle
For Barbara, the highlight of her ADU design-build process was that it went so quickly. Barbara had her garage to ADU conversion complete in just over a year.
“It went really fast. We spent four months in design and four months in permitting. It took four months to build and another month for me to furnish it.” – Barbara Gundle
Barbara lives in her main house and her plan is to rent her guest house out as a short-term rental – at least to start. (You can book your stay on Barbara’s Airbnb page.)
“It became pretty clear right away that Airbnb was the right way to go. I have to pay back the loan and that’s the fastest way to do it. Airbnb can bring in twice as much as a long-term rental. Of course, that depends on occupancy rates, but I think my location will be good. Once it’s paid off I will reevaluate and I may live in it. I built it so I would be happy living in it. I put a full kitchen in for me because I even though I don’t think short-term guests will need it, I’ll need it. I also put in the washer and dryer since I may live there someday myself.” – Barbara Gundle
Barbara notes that the ADU should have sufficient storage space for short-term guests, but that she’ll also reevaluate the storage if she becomes the occupant.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I’m having a custom bed built, which will have some storage underneath.” – Barbara Gundle
Barbara explains that her biggest surprises related to the ADU have to do with never having been a developer before.
“There were lots of things I’d never thought through because I’d never done it before. The locations of light switches you need to know early on. The cost was more than I thought it would be, too, but it always is. It was 30% more. I thought I could do it for $100,000 and it was over $150,000.” – Barbara Gundle
Barbara has a few things she’d do differently if she had it to do over again.
“I would make the kitchen slightly bigger actually. I would have done some lights differently since I’m not that happy with those big overhead lights. I would have done radiant heat, too. If I had the money I would have definitely done that. I would have loved to do the on-demand water with the gas cooking, too. Other than that, I’m pretty happy.” – Barbara Gundle
Barbara is pleased with her ADU overall and especially with the kitchen and bathroom.
“I’d say the kitchen is my favorite part. I love the way it looks, even though it’s very small. I also love the way the bathroom turned out.” – Barbara Gundle
She’s also looking forward to gardening to create an outdoor space as well. She also plans to install a washer and dryer someday, but not until she’s ready to call her ADU home.
“One of the things I haven’t done yet is finish the courtyard. I’ll be using troughs as planters, which I think will make it really nice. I also wired and plumbed for a future washer and dryer, but they are not installed yet. I will need them if I live there, but don’t feel short term renters need them.” – Barbara Gundle
So what advice does Barbara have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“I would definitely look at your tax situation. I’d really plan ahead as much as possible and save money. Getting ideas from other people is really the best. I would definitely look at a lot of different examples.” – Barbara Gundle