Transforming problem houses into Dream Homes

Project in Progress: Berkeley Cottage

I kicked off a new project about a month ago. It is for a backyard cottage, an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), in Berkeley. We have been working on getting the plan arrangements right. Still in Schematic Design, I’m starting to look at what this little house might look like.

The cottage will be just under 750 square feet, built on two floors. The maximum height is 14 feet, so the lower level will be recessed into the ground. I’m looking at massing and window placement primarily. In order to keep under the maximum height limit, the roof will have to have a very shallow slope.

The image below is looking at the face of the cottage that will face the existing house. This face needs to provide the occupants with some privacy from the residents of the existing house and establish a clear entry, as any visitors will be arriving through a narrow side yard. The clients are eager for the cottage to be light and bright, so there needs to be a balance between big windows for light and window placement for privacy.

This was a quick sketch. It only took me about 15 minutes, including the time it took to find my colored markers. You can see the “tracks” of my thought process in the layout lines, including corrections when I lowered the roof just to the right of the door.

First pass at what this little cottage may look like. Image copyright 2017 David Locicero | architect.


The entry is at a level between the lower level great room and the upper level bedrooms. It is about the only place we have an opportunity for some drama inside, with a ceiling height of around 12 feet at the entry. I think the design needs a lot of work before it’s ready to show to the client as a serious option. The entry needs a roof to shelter the landing/porch outside the door. And as much as I like the the verticality at the entry (its kind of tower like), I think it may be too much for the relatively small scale of the cottage.

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