Alex, a homeowner in Berkeley, CA, realized that he could do more with his property. He thought he might convert his old garage into an office or an accessory dwelling, so he explored the possibilities.
After some investigation, he realized that he would have to demolish the garage. He also found out that his sister and brother-in-law were planning to move to Berkeley. “So I decided to jump in with both feet and build an ADU [accessory dwelling unit],” he said.
Designing a dream accessory dwelling
Alex met with a New Avenue designer to get started, and he knew he’d made the right choice. “I felt immediate confidence in the project after meeting with him,” Alex said.
Like most of us, Alex was concerned about staying on budget. He knew that construction costs in the Bay Area are always going up, so he would have to keep the budget in check from the beginning. At the same time, he wanted an accessory dwelling that he—and his renters—could be proud of.
New Avenue created a custom plan that used cost-effective design and materials without compromising appearance.
Although the building is a square, compact shape, the design is incredibly space-efficient. It flows so well and is a picture of luxury and comfort. Vaulted ceilings and plenty of windows make it feel spacious. The polished concrete floors, which are less expensive than other flooring materials, complement the natural wood trim and stainless steel fixtures.
The interior includes an open kitchen, dining, and living area. There’s also the option for outdoor dining on the private patio.
To keep the home comfortable and quiet, the washer and dryer are in a small hallway that keeps the sound away from the living and sleeping areas. The bedroom door is around the corner from the kitchen, which means a sleeping resident won’t be awakened by the coffee grinder. The bathroom door is hidden around a corner so it can’t bee seen from the common areas.
Working with the main home
The design works beautifully for Alex’s property. It complements the main home by using similar materials such as plaster and stucco.
Privacy for both homes was also important. Alex wanted the people living in the main house and the accessory dwelling to be comfortable sharing the property.
Each home has its own patio, and the spaces are separated
Alex’s designer made use of clerestory windows (windows above eye level) and frosted glass. The windows facing the main home are high and wide, while the windows facing the accessory dwelling’s private yard and patio are much larger and face west. This gives the renters great light in the evening and provides privacy for both homes.
A change of plans (and then another)
Alex had initially planned to rent to his sister and brother-in-law, but they moved away from Berkeley before the project was complete.
Fortunately, backyard units like Alex’s are incredibly flexible. An accessory dwelling can take on multiple roles in its multi-generational lifespan. It can be a home for an adult child or an aging parent. It can be a guest house for family or friends. It can be a private office away from the bustle of the main home. It can even serve as a place for the property owners themselves to live while renting out their larger home. Alex decided to rent his accessory dwelling to a couple or young professional.
Then came more changes. Alex’s family decided to move to Portland, which meant he had to be away for some of the construction.
“It was intimidating to think about getting the ADU built while I was out of state,” he said, noting that his team did “an amazing job at shepherding it through.”
Now that Alex’s family is living in Portland, they will rent out both the main home and the accessory dwelling, bringing in even more rental income.
Most construction projects meet with delays at the city offices, and this project was no different.
The New Avenue team worked to ensure the design met the city’s requirements. City inspectors questioned the roof height, which did, in fact, meet the letter of the law. There were also questions about drainage, which had previously been approved. New Avenue’s representatives worked with the city to ensure the project could move forward as planned.
Alex is pleased with the final result. “I’m blown away at the quality of the design and construction,” he told us. When asked if there was anything he would do differently, he said, “I wish I had started it sooner! The cost of construction is getting prohibitive, but it’s still a great investment.”
Renting out the homes on the property is a wise choice. A home like the main home currently rents for $5,000 per month in Berkeley, and an accessory dwelling like this one rents for $4,000. The mortgage on an accessory dwelling of this size is generally about $1,400 per month, so the new addition creates $30,000 per year income every year, forever.
The homeowner would like to acknowledge Martinez Painting Company, Monarch Plumbing, Thompson and Hodge Electric Co, California Plumbing and Radiant Heating, Big Waves Concrete, and SMI Pavers and Demolition.