A one-stop source about accessory dwelling units, multigenerational homes, laneway houses, ADUs, granny flats, in-law units…
Check out environs llc’s ADU Profiles to see examples of their ADUs! For a more in-depth look, read Marenda Chamberlin & Heidi Lohman’s ADU: A Bright, Modern Loft.
“I love the challenge of small spaces that force thoughtful solutions and I like making better use out of underutilized areas.” –Holly Huntley
Holly Huntley, owner of environs llc, doesn’t recall how she first learned about ADUs, but she has loved them as long as she’s known about them. On a personal level, she appreciates that ADUs provide increased housing density in neighborhoods where the residents can have easy access to resources such as grocery stores, public transportation, and parks.
“ADUs often make use of garages or basements where people just store stuff otherwise. Or they are built in big backyards that people don’t use. I think making a home for someone is a better use of space than storing stuff.” –Holly Huntley
Holly needed no convincing that ADUs were a good addition to her design-build company’s offerings. In fact, ADUs have been part of her business plan from the start.
“I’ve been in business for six years and ADUs have been in my business plan since the beginning. They’re unique in their smallness, so you learn to pay attention to every single inch and look more critically at every single detail.” –Holly Huntley
As a design-build company, environs, llc works with homeowners throughout the entire process of envisioning, budgeting, and constructing their ADU.
“I want it to be obvious that the builder cared about function and form.” –Holly Huntley
During the design process, Holly’s primary consideration is maximizing functional space. During the build process, her main goal is to create a healthy structure that is easy to operate efficiently. Holly’s favorite small space design strategy is to double an item’s function. And her favorite way to do that is by creating “nooks and niches.”
“Providing enough storage is tricky and depends on the homeowner’s requirements and priorities. For instance, stairs can function as drawers. Benches can function as storage areas. A lot of times in traditional houses you’ll have a set of stairs and underneath it’s empty space. Making drawers or storage space under it is one idea to use that space. We also make built-ins for bookshelves and photos in a wall that you need to build anyway. Instead of covering the wall in drywall you make it into nooks and niches.” –Holly Huntley
Considering her appreciation for multi-functionality, it will likely come as no surprise that sustainability is a driving factor for Holly. She focuses on air-tight construction, healthy materials, locally sourced labor and materials, water-efficient fixtures, and good insulation. She also incorporates salvaged items if the client is interested and able to afford it.
“Often clients tell me they want to use salvaged materials. I ask them, ‘Is that to save money or because you like the look?’ I explain, ‘If you’re interested in saving money, we won’t be using any salvaged things unless you are open to sourcing them and rehabilitating them.’ I love salvaged materials and I’m happy to incorporate them if people want to pay for the time it takes to make it workable. However, we don’t use salvaged windows and doors, because they’ve often got lead paint and/or are inefficient.” –Holly Huntley
Holly says her greatest challenge – and her greatest success – in building ADUs is making small spaces feel “unsmall.”
“People have the expectation it’s going to feel uncomfortable and cramped. We use windows and skylights strategically to bring in more light. We incorporate built-ins. We size appliances appropriately. We scale everything appropriately and we don’t try to take up every square inch with things. The highlight for me is when people say, ‘Oh, wow! I thought it was going to be a lot smaller. It’s bigger than I imagined. This feels great!’” –Holly Huntley
For Holly, making a small space feel larger is what makes it livable. It’s affordable, resource-efficient, easy to maintain, and also functional and comfortable. That, in turn, makes the space sustainable.
“I think that’s part of what makes ADUs a sustainable long-term housing option. I’m not building tiny homes. ADUs – allowable up to 800 square feet – are smaller than the average home now, but we’re just going back to what we were building 70 plus years ago. We’re just getting back to where we were before we got out of control.” –Holly Huntley
Speaking of affordability, Holly has a few thoughts to share about whether ADUs can help with Portland’s housing shortage:
“In theory, if you create more housing, it should drive the cost down. However, I don’t think it’s that our rent is necessarily too high. I think it’s that we don’t have high enough wages. I think we really need to bring those up.” –Holly Huntley
So what advice does Holly have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“Plan way ahead. Contact your designer and builder at least six months before you think you want to start. You will get a better design, fewer unpleasant budget surprises, and a project that stays more on schedule. Start gathering images of things that inspire you, make a list of priorities, and have fun!” –Holly Huntley