Transforming problem houses into Dream Homes

Berkeley Cottage Complete

It is with great pleasure that I share the completed Berkeley Cottage. I started this project with New Avenue Homes – I am a New Avenue Homes architect partner – in January of 2018.

The owner wanted to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) that she could rent for a while, and, perhaps, move into herself in the future.

The major design challenges were:

  • a tight budget (only $130,000 for construction, which is tight for Bay Area Construction)
  • two mature trees that she wanted to keep.

We addressed her budget in two ways: keeping the cottage small, and keeping the cottage simple.

This was our initial schematic design. During design development, we moved the kitchen, pushed the cottage closer to the main house, and revised the entry doors. Image copyright 2019, David Locicero architect

The cottage is only 350 square feet. It has two rooms and a bathroom. She felt it was important to have a separate bedroom, so one of the rooms is a bedroom, the other is a combined kitchen/living room.

I love how the cottage seems to snuggle into the yard. Keeping the mature landscaping really makes a difference. Photo copyright 2019, David Locicero architect.

We elected to keep the form very simple: it is a rectangle with a simple sloped roof. The sloped roof allows us to vault the ceiling making the rooms feel larger, but also is the easiest roof type to build.

This is the cottage as you approach it. The final front terrace has not yet been built. Note how providing a gable roof at this end helps to soften the transition as the corner is turned. That tall wall at the left would be overwhelming without the little gable. Photo copyright 2019, David Locicero architect

Another way to keep things simple: we designed the cottage so it could be built “by right”, meaning that we met all of the zoning restrictions without requiring any exceptions or additional design reviews. This means that we met all of the set back requirements, the height limit, the open space requirements, and so on. This saved us months on the schedule and several thousand dollars in City fees.

The vaulted ceilings help the small rooms feel larger. There is also lots of natural light. The floors are bamboo. Photo copyright 2019, David Locicero architect

My client was fortunate in having a large-ish lot, and that her existing house had never been expanded, so there was plenty of room to locate the cottage in such a way as to minimize the impact on the two mature trees, one a maple tree, the other a fig tree. Keeping those trees, and several other mature plants, allows the cottage to appear to settle into the landscape and look quite at home.

The owner wanted to plan ahead. The entire cottage is accessible. The doors are sized to allow wheel chair use, as is the bathroom. Consequently, the bathroom is bigger than it might have been. Photo copyright 2019, David Locicero architect.

The local utility has determined that they need to replace the 110 year old transformer that serves the street. This needs to be completed before the client can rent the property. This process could take a couple of months to happen. In the mean time, she is looking forward to the completion of the final touches: primarily building the walkway from the street and building the terrace outside the cottage front door.

I think the place looks great!

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