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Who Needs a Garage When You Can Build a Tiny Cottage?

Hard up for space, homeowners replace their sheds with jewel-box guesthouses.


Guesthouse, Berkeley. Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects.

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Guesthouse, Berkeley. Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects.

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As Bay Area housing grows ever scarcer, the traditional backyard is becoming a disposable luxury. Space-crunched homeowners are converting their unused sheds and garages into tiny, Airbnb-friendly lodgings. “The trend is in making your guesthouse as small as possible,” says architect Julie Dowling of Dowling Studios. “It’s less complicated, requires less maintenance, and lends this interesting, jewel box quality.”

Eric Haesloop of Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects recently demolished the detached garage behind his own 1908 Berkeley home to build this sun-flooded 432-square-foot cottage, which includes a compact bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and living room. “We’re used to doing bigger residential projects,” he says, “but there’s a certain art to going small.”

Ian Read of Medium Plenty went even smaller, replacing an Oakland client’s shed with a 370-square-foot guesthouse, complete with a Murphy bed and sliding glass doors that open to a backyard deck. With the benefit of generous windows and ample skylights, such makeshift studios feel surprisingly spacious.

Though Haesloop currently rents his cottage to Berkeley postgrads, “My rent-strapped kids will be eyeing it in a year or two,” he predicts.

Read more New Rules of Design coverage here.

Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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