Accessory Dwellings

A one-stop source about accessory dwelling units, multigenerational homes, laneway houses, ADUs, granny flats, in-law units…

Rambo Halpern’s ADU: An New Old-Fashioned Carriage House

Editor’s note: this ADU is featured on the upcoming ADU Tour…. As he began designing his old-fashioned new home, Rambo kept a few key design criteria in mind for his carriage house. He knew he wanted it to be detached, to have good sound separation from the garage, and to mimic the architecture of the house.

April 1, 2016 · 1 Comment

How to Buy or Sell a Property with an ADU (or ADU Potential)

When it comes time to buy or sell a property with an ADU (or ADU potential), there are a few important things you should know. I’ve drawn on the expertise of ADU aware Realtors in Portland, OR to identify some key considerations for each step: selecting a realtor, searching for a property, and listing your house with an ADU.

March 25, 2016 · 2 Comments

Jack Barnes Architect ADU Profiles

To learn more about this company, check out ADU Designer Profile: Jack Barnes Architect. For a more in-depth look, read Susan Moray’s ADU: Updating History in Ladd’s, Barbara Gundle’s ADU: A 2-Story … Continue reading

March 18, 2016 · 2 Comments

ADU Designer Profile: Jack Barnes Architect

Jack’s first ADU was Susan Moray’s ADU: Updating History in Ladd’s. The project was a garage to guesthouse conversion. The garage was a contributing structure in a historic district, so it involved a whole suite of challenges. Nevertheless, Jack decided to continue working on ADUs because this first one was such a success.

March 18, 2016 · Leave a comment

The Build Small Lecture Series: Educating and Connecting the Small Home Community

This is an announcement for a new presentation series being offered in Portland by Portland Alternative Dwellings, which will cover a range of small house related topics, including ADUs. -Editor April-June, 2016 … Continue reading

March 15, 2016 · Leave a comment

Tatiana & Rafael Xenelis-Medoza’s ADU: A Hidden Gem

As Tatiana and her husband Rafael looked for a new home, accommodating an ADU was a key criterion. As Tatiana and her husband Rafael looked for a new home, accommodating an ADU was a key criterion. For Tatiana’s expert tips check out How to Find a Property with ADU Potential.

Xenelis-Mendoza ADU from Street
Xenelis-Mendoza ADU from Street
“We were looking for a house with the potential for an ADU. This particular property is a corner lot and it has a backyard that was accessible from the side street. The house sat and faced forward on one street and the new door from the ADU is accessible from the corner street.” – Tatiana Xenelis-Mendoza
The house they purchased in Portland’s Portsmouth neighborhood had potential for a basement ADU, with one major caveat: they didn’t have the code-required ceiling height of 6’-8” for a basement ADU.

March 11, 2016 · Leave a comment

How Portland Became ADU-Friendly (And How Your City Can, Too)

Portland is probably America’s most ADU-friendly city. Portland has eliminated many of the Barriers to ADU Development in two big ways: by relaxing regulation and by offering generous financial incentives.

March 4, 2016 · 6 Comments

Birdsmouth Construction ADU Profiles

To learn more about this company, check outDesign-Builder Profile: Birdsmouth Construction. For a more in-depth look, check out Barbara Gundle’s ADU: A 2-Story Garage Conversion.    ADU #1 – Melrose ADU … Continue reading

February 26, 2016 · Leave a comment

ADU Design-Builder Profile: Birdsmouth Construction

Josh Salinger, owner of Birdsmouth Construction, had his first experience building an ADU when his company converted an unfinished basement into an apartment in 2011. Josh and his team pay careful attention to energy efficiency, wall assemblies, insulation, and heating and cooling systems.

February 26, 2016 · Leave a comment

Barbara Gundle’s ADU: A 2-Story Garage Conversion

As Barbara worked with Jack Barnes to begin 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.

February 19, 2016 · 12 Comments

Creative ADU Types

I didn’t realize that there were so many creative ways to make an ADU. Here are the 10 most interesting examples of Creative ADU Types I’ve encountered.

February 12, 2016 · 3 Comments

zenbox design ADU Profiles

To learn more about this company, check out ADU Designer Profile: Zenbox Design.  ADU #1 – House Divided ADU Square Footage: 240 Year Built: 2015 Architect/Designer: zenbox design Builder: zenbox … Continue reading

February 5, 2016 · Leave a comment

ADU Designer Profile: Zenbox Design

After living in a small space on the road, Jen and Bryan of zenbox design transformed their own garage into an ADU. Even before they completed their Garage Sweet Home, they were bombarded with compliments and questions. People wanted to know how they could do it, too, and whether Jen and Bryan could help.

February 5, 2016 · Leave a comment

Nancy Abens’ ADU: A Cluster & A Courtyard

Quick Facts Setting: urban Neighborhood: Grant Park, Portland, OR Type: detached new construction Use: owner’s mother’s primary residence Square Footage: 450 Year Built: 2015 Owners: Nancy Abens, Maggie Abens, Scott Bailey Designer: Confluence … Continue reading

January 29, 2016 · Leave a comment

ADUs Work for Multigenerational Families: The Hidden Value of ADUs

The hidden value of ADUs is particularly evident in the conversations I’ve had with multigenerational families who use an ADU to create greater housing flexibility and security. There are so many tangible and intangible benefits of creating a multi-generational housing situation that I can’t possibly catalog them all here. But I’d like to give you a sense of how ADUs are working for multigenerational families.

January 22, 2016 · 10 Comments

To DADU or Not To DADU–Seattle’s ADU Debates

There’s some lively discussion in Seattle these days about relaxing restrictions for Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs). There doesn’t appear to be strong opposition to DADUs, but some are expressing … Continue reading

January 19, 2016 · 1 Comment

Hammer & Hand ADU Profiles

To learn more about this company, check out ADU Builder Profile: Hammer & Hand and read Regan Gray & George Okulitch’s ADU: A Super-Efficient ADU.   ADU #1: Sellwood ADU Square Footage: 460 … Continue reading

January 15, 2016 · 4 Comments

ADU Builder Profile: Hammer & Hand

Sam Hagerman is one of the owners of Hammer & Hand, a construction and remodeling company with locations in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. As one of the early promoters of the ADU concept in Portland, Sam worked hard to bring it to fruition and he and his company now help their clients create energy-efficient ADUs.

January 15, 2016 · 4 Comments

Susan Eliot’s ADU: Two Stories & A Mezzanine Office

Susan was looking to create financial freedom for herself as a single, retired woman. The idea of going into retirement with no mortgage payment – by having the rent from the main house cover the mortgage on both the main house and ADU – was very appealing.

January 8, 2016 · 16 Comments

Options for ADU Owners: Rent One, Both, or Neither

ADU owners appreciate that having two dwelling units on their property provides a lot of options. In places where there are not owner occupancy requirements – such as Portland, OR – ADU owners can use their properties in any of the following ways…

January 1, 2016 · 14 Comments

ADU Case Studies 2016 Preview

Here’s what you can expect in 2016:

We’ll be sharing 20 brand new case studies of real projects. We’ll also be bringing you a set of profiles of Designers, Design-Builders, and Builders. Finally, I’ll be sharing a set of posts that address some themes I noticed as I talked with more than 80 people about their experiences creating ADUs.

December 23, 2015 · 3 Comments

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About (Part IV)

Over Thanksgiving weekend in late November, more than thirty Portland homeowners emailed the Administrator Humphrey of the Oregon Department of Revenue with a formal request to return to the common improvement tax … Continue reading

December 23, 2015 · 23 Comments Wants Your Contributions

Do you love ADUs as much as we do? Got an ADU story or insight to share? Then contribute an ADU post to the readership of this blog (over 50,000 … Continue reading

December 15, 2015 · Leave a comment

Tangible Ways You Can Support Space-Efficient Housing

At the Build Small, Live Large Summit on Friday, November 6th, the five panelists in the Space-Efficient Housing Policy Round Table and left the audience with tangible ways they could support space-efficient housing. A member of the audience asked us to make the list available online and we thought that was a great idea, so we’ve obliged. Read on and pick an action item to help us promote small housing choices!

December 11, 2015 · 4 Comments

The Accessory Structures Zoning Code Update Passed

Good News for Detached ADUs It is great to see incremental improvements being made to regulatory ADU codes across the country. Austin, TX recently made some improvements to their ADU … Continue reading

December 2, 2015 · 8 Comments

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About (Part III)

Commissioner Loretta Smith from Multnomah County, District 2 stepped up last week as the first of Multnomah County Commissioners to speak out against the unfair tax re-MAV issue that has been … Continue reading

November 23, 2015 · 39 Comments

The Accessory Structures Zoning Code Update- The Vote

What seemed to be a ‘slam-dunk’ set of great, proposed code updates for detached ADUs and other accessory structures have experienced yet another potential setback, so to speak. The day before the vote … Continue reading

November 18, 2015 · 6 Comments

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About (Part II)

(This is Part II of The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It. Part I, Part III, Part IV, and Part V are also available.) Action Items … Continue reading

November 2, 2015 · 35 Comments

Preview of Some of the ADUs Featured on the Fall, 2015 ADU Tour

The City-wide ADU Tour is just two weeks away.The ADUs on this tour are beautiful and we can’t wait for you see them in person. Here’s a preview of some of the ADUs you’ll be seeing.

October 25, 2015 · 4 Comments

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It

(Update: Part II , Part III , Part IV and Part V are also available.) This post is complicated, thick, and heavy – it’s about property taxes. Ick! For the purposes of retaining readers’ interest, I … Continue reading

October 22, 2015 · 123 Comments

Fall 2015 ADU Tour Information

Registration for the November 7th ADU Tour is now live; early bird sales end on October 24th. For those seeking design inspiration for small houses, the ADUs on this upcoming tour are exceptionally beautiful. Here’s a sneak preview of a few of some of them.

September 17, 2015 · 6 Comments

Alan Durning Keynote Speaker at the Fall Build Small Live Large Summit

Conference is Sold Out!  Alan Durning, a long-time sustainability leader in the Northwest, is newly fired up—and for good reason. Since founding Sightline Institute in 1993, he has written more … Continue reading

August 21, 2015 · Leave a comment

Berkeley ADUs and Perceptions of Density

by Alberto Benejam, Based on a report by Sonia-Lynn Abenojar, Alberto Benejam, and Tamar Nativ Throughout the past year, the city of Berkeley, CA has been considering changes to the city’s … Continue reading

August 3, 2015

Accessory Structures Zoning Code Amendments – An Overview and Assessment

Introduction The City of Portland (Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) regularly reviews and updates planning and zoning codes through a process called RICAP (Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Project). Part of … Continue reading

July 27, 2015 · 11 Comments

Lay Explanation of Conventional ADU Financing Options

Financing is, by far, the biggest barrier for most homeowners seeking to build an ADU on their property. Recently, I was trying to gain some clarification about three conventional loan products that can be used to help fund the construction of an ADU: First Mortgage Cash Out Refinance- taking out extra money when refinancing your ‘first mortgage’ .

June 27, 2015 · 5 Comments

Follow up to the Spring, 2015 ADU Tour

The spring, 2015 ADU Tour was amazing! Here’s a few snapshots that will provide a sense of what the event was like.

On Friday evening, 349 people attended a 3-hour ADU 101 workshop.

June 2, 2015 · Leave a comment

Save the Date for the 2015 Build Small Live Large Summit: Friday, Nov. 6!

Conference is Sold Out!  The Build Small Live Large Summit is back by popular demand! This unique, one-day event will convene leading small home designers, builders, developers, realtors and policy … Continue reading

June 1, 2015 · 1 Comment

Real estate rage in Portland! Or, ode on a purple shed

Up for rent in Portland, February 2015: a tiny purple structure in someone’s backyard, apparently a converted garden shed. At 165 square feet, it had the same area of 5 … Continue reading

May 27, 2015 · 10 Comments

Joan Grimm & Rita Haberman’s ADU: Carving-Out a Studio

Joan and Rita’s 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.

May 25, 2015 · 5 Comments

Spring, 2015 ADU Tour – Final Week Updates

*Update as of 6/3/2015. Read a follow up post about the tour here:*

May 24, 2015 · 2 Comments

John & Stephani Hayden’s ADU: An Expertly Executed Basement Conversion

John and his wife Stephani decided to use their savings to purchase a house with potential for a basement ADU. This investment would provide flexibility in terms of both their finances and their housing options.

May 22, 2015 · 11 Comments

Bob & Adrienne Stacey’s Future ADU: Well-Planned Beforehand

Adrienne and Bob developed a creative multi-generational housing solution that will allow them to share space with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids, while operating a home-based business. They knew they couldn’t have an official fully self-contained accessory dwelling unit as long as Adrienne is operating her pottery studio. However, when Adrienne retires from teaching, the plan is to renovate the addition to make it officially an ADU by adding a kitchen. In the meantime, they knew that as long as they were sharing the house with their family members, it would be no problem to have the addition dependent upon the kitchen in the primary dwelling.

May 21, 2015 · 4 Comments

Updates for the Spring, 2015, ADU Tour

The city-wide ADU tour is almost here. There will be 12 ADUs to tour in NE Portland on Saturday, May 30th, and 13 ADUs in Portland SE on Sunday.

The inaugural ADU Tour in the spring of 2014 sold out a week early at 850 tickets, and drew attendees from across the country, showing the surging interest in small housing.

April 1, 2015 · 5 Comments

Nan Haemer’s ADU: Crepe Myrtle Cottage

Nan Haemer’s neighbor convinced her to build an ADU on her property and she spent the next several months salvaging materials at the nearby ReBuilding Center.

February 4, 2015 · 12 Comments

Regan Gray & George Okulitch’s ADU: A Super-Efficient ADU

Regan Gray and her husband George Okulitch were looking for a way to increase the value of their rental property and landed on building an ADU on the alley in the backyard. Regan likes that with the ADU they created more housing without changing the look and character of the neighborhood.

January 21, 2015 · 4 Comments

Amanda Punton & Das Chapin’s ADU: Starting in the ADU

Quick Facts Setting: urban Neighborhood: Buckman, Portland, OR Type: daylight walk-out basement Use: long-term rental Square Footage: 700 Year Built: 1899 Year Basement Converted to ADU: 2013 Owners: Amanda Punton Designer-Builder: Das Chapin & Amanda … Continue reading

January 7, 2015 · 2 Comments

Ten ADU Aspirations for 2015. Let the countdown begin!

As we all know, New Years is a time to conjure up lofty ideas.  Here are a few great ideas that we, the editors of, probably won’t have the time to … Continue reading

December 31, 2014 · Leave a comment

SAVE THE DATE—Portland’s 2nd Annual Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour – Spring, 2015

SAVE THE DATE: May 29th- May 31st!

I’m very excited to announce Build Small, Live Large: Portland’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour – Spring, 2015.

December 23, 2014 · 4 Comments

Billy Hines’ ADU: Modernizing the Carriage House

The first time Billy Hines saw his three bedroom house in Portland’s Alberta Arts District, he decided that someday he’d make the old carriage house into an apartment. In 2006 he went through the process of converting the existing accessory structure into a permitted ADU.

December 17, 2014 · 5 Comments

Innovative “Junior” accessory dwelling unit Zoning Ordinance Passed in Novato, California

Novato, California will allow a simpler, lower-cost style of accessory dwelling unit starting in 2015 — the JADU or “junior accessory dwelling unit.”

December 14, 2014 · 2 Comments