What’s an Accessible Dwelling Unit, Anyway?
Thanks so much for reaching out to me with your question! What you are looking to build is officially referred to as an “Accessory Dwelling Unit,” or ADU for short. An ADU is a smaller, independent residential unit that’s located on the same lot as a single-family home. ADUs go by many names in the U.S., including accessory apartments, garage apartments, secondary suites, mother-in-law apartments, and even “granny flats.” ADUs come in many varieties and configurations; they can be converted portions of existing homes (internal ADUs), additions to new or existing homes (attached ADUs), or new stand-alone accessory structures (detached ADUs). More and more people across the country are looking to build or convert such a space, either to house a college-age relative or older parent, or simply to rent out for some supplemental income.
Start by Checking Your Local Building Codes
As a traveler, you’ve discovered how fun it can be to live like a local. Other travelers or short-term residents in your area are sure to be attracted to the option of staying in an accessory dwelling unit on your property! But be advised – renting out residential space on your property is very different than simply adding on a guest room for private use. Before moving forward with your idea, you should check the applicable laws and codes of your particular municipality or location. Talk with a licensed contractor, architect, or designer for more details and ideas. Generally speaking, all the rules that apply to building a new house or remodel will also apply to an ADU, and there may be some additional regulations as well. These include meeting certain standards for insulation, heating and ventilation, structural integrity, proper plumbing and electrical wiring, etc.
But don’t let the potential threat of regulations scare you away from taking on an ADU project, either! Because ADUs have the potential to increase housing affordability and availability within a community, many locations are now much more welcoming of ADUs, and have adopted zoning regulations that allow for ADUs even in low-density residential areas.
What Should Your ADU Include?
If the space you have in mind for an ADU is not connected to the main house, you really should add a full bathroom. A residential space without its own private bathroom isn’t going to attract many renters! Your plans should also include a kitchen with all the basic amenities. If you don’t have space for a full kitchen, at a minimum you should include a kitchenette with sink, along with a small refrigerator, coffeemaker and microwave. This is a nice plus for a traveler or vacationer and is an essential feature for anyone who’s going to be staying in your ADU for more than a few days.
When Planning, Try to View the Space from Your Renters’ Eyes
You mentioned in your note that you had lived in an apartment you really loved when you were younger. Think back about your experience in that apartment – what worked well in terms of its design, and what made you fall in love with it in the first place. Now, try to duplicate those positive features as best as you can in your own ADU space! A comfortable bed is an absolute must, but so is an additional seating area, a dining table that can function as a desk, plenty of electrical outlets for a TV, media player, computer, and phone charger, Wi-Fi access, and some designated closet space for hanging clothing.
Now, Let’s Decorate!
The décor is where the fun really starts! Choose a calming-but-welcoming color scheme for the bedroom; grays, blues or pale sage greens all work well. You can go with brighter colors in the living areas. Fluffy towels, cozy robes, quality bedding, and some nice throw blankets will really help your guests feel at home. Another nice touch is to include a few emergency extras in a basket, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and razor. Including some easy-to-find cleaning supplies is something your guests will appreciate, too.
Before You Rent, Give It a Test Run Yourself
Once you think you’ve got it all set up, try staying in the unit overnight yourself. That way you’ll be able to experience what your guests will experience first-hand, and you’ll also quickly learn whether you’ve forgotten anything important! I’d love to learn how everything goes for you; please send pictures!
Check Out JenniferAdams.com for More Ideas!
As you’re planning and furnishing your ADU, I invite you to check out my Home Journal blog page for more home décor tips, as well as for some strategies on how to maximize the sleep environment of your ADU. We also offer some amazing Luxury Bedding and other signature items that will make your ADU really feel like home for your guests, too!