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Backyard Cottages

Backyard cottages are detached accessory dwelling units, also called granny flats, laneway homes and ECHO housing. They are  small houses on the same lot as, but physically separate from, a primary residence. Increasing number of municipalities have or are in the process of updating their zoning codes to allow backyard cottages.

At microhouse we specialize in backyard cottage design and permitting and we are quite excited about this trend. Backyard cottages provide opportunities for families and may accommodate many uses including a growing family, a home office, or a rental unit. Backyard cottages increase housing options allowing people to live where they work and play and will have a positive impact for generations.

Because of their small size backyard cottages lend themselves to careful site consideration.  In the best examples the landscape becomes an integral part of the design. Think of living room where the sofa and chairs are arranged around a coffee table. The area used by the furniture may be 10 ft x 10 ft but a living room that size would feel cramped. By opening up walls with windows and creating a usable open floor plan that suggests interior boundaries the intimacy is enhanced while the apparent size of the room is expanded to include the larger interior and the landscape beyond.

The City of Seattle allows backyard cottages in all Seattle neighborhoods on single family zoned lots that are at least 4,000 square feet in size and a minimum of 25 ft in width. There are other site specific requirements as well including lot coverage and setbacks. Will a backyard cottage work on your lot? Contact us to find out.

A short list of Washington cities that allow backyard cottages;

  •  Bremerton, Burien, Kent, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, North Bend,  Redmond, Sammamish,  Spokane, Seattle, Vancouver.

Other northwest cities;

  •     Portland Oregon, Vancouver British Columbia.

Other cities considering backyard cottages;

  •    Bellevue Washington, Denver Colorado, Madison Wisconsin.



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