Backyard Cottages

Phinney Ridge Backyard Cottage / Carriage House

This project, in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle, added a backyard office / guest room above an existing garage and workshop. The owners wanted their new cottage to match the style of the existing house.

There were several challenges. The garage was nonconforming on the rear and side, i.e. the existing structure was too close to the property lines. The new second story had to conform to the setback requirements, so on both the side and back it had to be offset from the garage walls below. The design balances this asymmetry by means of a “false front” on the north side of the garage, through which the stairs to the new upstairs DADU are accessed.



The existing garage had some structural issues, and had to be reinforced to support its new upper story.

The site was small, and the buildable area limited – for this reason the backyard cottage had to be very compact. And because it was limited by code to 800 s.f., including the existing garage and new exterior stairs, there wasn’t much space to work with. In the end the design met the owners’ goals, and is functioning well as a home office (and occasional guest bedroom). Incidentally the limited size also helped keep the project within a tight budget. The total square footage is 658 s.f. (378 s.f. garage, 280 s.f. upper unit).

By the way “Carriage House” originally meant a small outbuilding to house horse-drawn carriages. Today it generally means an accessory structure which contains a garage below, and a living unit above.








garage plan







upper plan






front elevation







side elevation








The City of Seattle is considering changes to the Land Use Code to facilitate the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in single-family zones:

By |2017-12-07T16:40:07+00:00December 7, 2017|Architectural Design, Backyard Cottages|0 Comments

Seattle Backyard Cottages an Affordable Housing Alternative

Just over two years ago, legislation was passed which allowed detached accessory dwelling units to be built in Seattle. Detached accessory dwelling units are commonly known as backyard cottages, and between late 2009 and May 2011, 57 permits have been granted for the building of such a structure. Seattle’s growing population means that affordable housing alternatives are becoming necessary, especially to avoid redesigning certain neighbourhoods, and, more importantly, to prevent urban creeping into the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Backyard cottages certainly provide more options when it comes to housing issues. Perfect for extended family or visiting guests, backyard cottages can also be rented out, so long as the landowner lives in the main property. Or vice-versa, with the property owner living in the backyard cottage, and renting out the main house. While many people were worried about the impact which backyard cottages might have on single-family neighbourhoods, a survey carried out last year showed that eighty-four percent of respondents said the backyard cottages hadn’t had any discernible impact on their neighbourhoods. Many people didn’t even realise that they were living near a backyard cottage.

If you’ve been dreaming of some extra space, wondering where your child can live after college or need the extra income which renting out a property can bring, get in touch with our Seattle architects to discuss your ideas.

By |2012-04-16T10:57:43+00:00April 16, 2012|Backyard Cottages|0 Comments
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