Transforming problem houses into Dream Homes

Project in Progress: Berkeley Backyard Cottage

Before talking about this fun backyard cottage (an accessory dwelling unit) that I am working on for a client in Berkeley, let me explain why it’s been so long since I last posted.

For whatever reason somebody or some bot has been trying to hack my log-in for the past 4 months. At one point they were trying to log in every 90 minutes for over a month. My security software locks out all attempts to get into the site for 2 hours if you enter the wrong credentials. Not only was the hacker/bot locked out, so was I!

The attempts to hack my log-in have subsided, so I was able to get in to update the site today. But this is the first time I have been able to actually access my own site since my last update. I am hoping that it stays this way, I’ve got a some completed projects to add to the projects page, and some other updates to the site planned.


This little project in Berkeley is for a client in the flats near the Oakland and Emeryville border. It replaces an old, disused garage with a new 506 square foot studio cottage with 304 square feet on the ground floor and a 201 square foot storage loft.

View of the cottage from the driveway. The “tower” clad in wood aligns with the driveway, and draws the eye back to the cottage. Image copyright 2020, David Locicero

The studio is intended for the elderly parents of the owners. They will get their own space that opens out onto a shade dappled back yard, that is only feet away from the main family home. The parents will be able to participate in family life, or retreat to the cottage as they see fit, but benefit from the proximity of the family and the grandchild.

An overview of the ground floor of the cottage. The bed will be a Murphy bed to allow full use of the space during the day. Image copyright 2020, David Locicero

This cottage is designed to be entirely within the new AB68 rules so that we can apply for the permit to build “by-right” without any variances or administrative use permits. In Berkeley, designing a cottage entirely within the rules without requesting any exceptions can save 3 to 6 months or more on the approval process.

Overview of the storage loft level. There will be lots of space to store things, but the ceiling height will be a head-clonking 5′-0″. The two story section will help the cottage feel much bigger. Image copyright 2020, David Locicero

The tall two story section will help the cottage feel bigger, as will the big windows that open the cottage up to the backyard deck. In California we can spend a lot of the year out of doors, and having the backyard as living space is a terrific benefit. The bathroom is designed for aging in place and the kitchenette will allow the parents to make tea, and fix simple meals without having to come into the main house. The loft is intended for storage, though it could double as a sleeping loft if the grandchild wants to spend the night with her grandparents.

We are currently wrapping up the construction drawings for this project and hope to start construction this summer.

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