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Navigating the Backyard Cottage (DADU)

You may have heard quite a bit lately about the need for more housing in the Seattle area and we are seeing a plethora of new hi-rises under construction on both sides of the lake. Many residents are thinking about adding housing units to their properties for a variety of reasons. We talked a bit about this new trend in our April 2013 blog post  “Live Small Strategies” and the many reasons a homeowner might make the decision to build a Backyard Cottage. With this on-going growth in our neighborhoods, we want to discuss additional questions you may have if you are considering a BYC or ADU, and help you navigate the process.

Before we start, here are some acronym definitions:  a backyard cottage is a separate structure also known as a “detached accessory dwelling unit” or DADU.  An “accessory dwelling unit” is a separate living unit within your home that is also called a “mother in law unit” or ADU.

Of course, the first issue to be discuss is who the new home is for? Whether it is for a current use, or flexibility for a different use down the road, the lifestyle of the intended resident(s) will help determine size, structure and design.

Who is the new home for?

–older family member (does it need to be accessible for aging in place?)
–younger family member?
–all of the above at some point or another?

You’ll have to determine some basic background info before you move forward.

Some basic background info to look at:
–is your property eligible (most are)
–how large a unit would work for you?
–typically an additional parking space is required, is there room?
–will you be converting an existing structure such as a garage or building a new one?
–would you like to add a separate living unit within your home, such as your basement?

Next, you’ll need to determine costs and how you’ll pay for your investment.

what are the costs?
–permit fees
–design fees
–construction cost
–will you borrow money or pay for the investment in a different way?

Live-work-play will help you answer these questions and design a solution while collaborating with you based on your needs, the above background information, and the individual property  in your neighborhood to keep it in scale with the existing houses.  We’ll help you pull it all together…then the fun begins!

Further reading–if you would like more generalized national information about DADUs, check here.  Plus, an article about DADUs in San Francisco.

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Up, Down, or Out?

Did you just buy a new home? Or have you lived in your current home for a while? Perhaps you’re experiencing some life changes and realize you need additional space or reconfiguration of your current space.  What should you do? Live-work-play suggests you go out, down or up!

The decision lies not only on your current building structure, but on your personal needs and vision. Do you need extra space for an office, or perhaps another bedroom and bath? Are you looking for more live-ability, accessibility or room for an aging parent? We’ll help you assess your space, create a solution and determine whether to go out, down or up.

Choosing ‘out’ means adding on to the footprint of your home. Out to the side, back or even the front. A choice could also be made to add a basement below the new addition. Keep in mind, your property will need to be large enough to accommodate the additional structure within the lot or land available. Going ‘out’ can sometimes be the most expedient addition, but you need to determine if it fits with your home and lifestyle.  See some “out” examples here, here and here.

If choosing ‘down,’ the first question you should answer is whether or not your basement is dry. We can drain water away with an internal or external drainage system if it is not dry, in addition to renovating the space. Next, ask yourself: Is there enough headroom?  A minimum of  6 feet 4 inches is a good rule of thumb in an older home, but higher is a lot more comfortable. Beyond these concerns, does it makes sense to excavate underneath the home and possibly change the foundation?  It might, if the foundation is sub-standard to begin with. Your house could also be lifted to create more headroom.

Choosing ‘up’ could mean a second level addition, added dormers, or a renovation of the attic under the current roofline, if there is enough head room. Do you have upward stairs that are already in place?  If not, we can carve out space to insert stairs into your home. Going ‘up’ is potentially the lightest and airiest  option, but also potentially more expensive than ‘out’ or ‘down.’  You can view some “up” examples here, here, and here.

Consider all three options – out, down and up – when thinking about expanding, adding on or remodeling. Ask us at live-work-play to help you analyze and review your space before you go too far down the road in visualizing your ideal home. Our creative, innovative ideas will start you on the path to realizing your dream.

Contact us for more information at or 206-726-0077.

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Spring – a Time to Re-think/Re-purpose/Re-new

In this age of reuse/renew/recycle, we at live-work-play  strive to incorporate renewable systems and reclaimed materials.   What does this mean?

At the very basis, it means reusing your home!  Adding to, changing, repurposing your space.  Often older homes need system upgrades, and they were built at a time when people lived in their homes differently than they do now.  We design more open spaces with the amenities people seek now in their homes.  We like to blend additions into your home and the neighborhood.











More low-hanging reuse fruit:  reusing materials.  Maybe we can use a material again on your project– plumbing fixtures, cabinets, wood.  Or, items can be reclaimed and sent to REStore, Second Use for a new life in another person’s home.  You can be that person, and stockpile items from the many salvage companies for your project.  It’s a great idea to visit salvage yards frequently over time, and pick up items that appeal to you so they are on hand for the design and construction process.   It just makes sense: keep useable materials out of our landfills.  We used many salvage materials in this greenhouse, school cabinets and bleachers, and reclaimed siding.  Here are some great ideas for reclaimed wood from Houzz.  The REStore includes the REVision Division that makes furniture from materials they salvage.  Thanks Ventana Construction and REStore for sharing this photo of a cabinet made from salvage from a live-work-play project!


Beyond these ideas, there are new building materials that incorporate recycled materials into them.  Starting with a few examples on the outside,   Boral TruExterior durable trim made with fly ash-an industrial by product.     Andersen 100 windows use wood fiber leftover from other manufacturing.  Cellulose insulation is made from recycled newspaper fiber.  Inside, locally made Environite counters use recycled glass and Ecotop and Paperstone are made from recycled paper.  The Environite example shown here is from the West Seattle Sunporch. Plus there are Ecotop and Paperstone products that can be installed outside for panel siding!



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