Why A Cottage?

We have designed, permitted and built many homes and cottages over the past 30 years, some less than 300 square feet others over 8000. All but a few were historically detailed and some were far too large to be called a cottage. But it has always amazed me how the tiny ones, particularly those based on historic architecture, are the ones most remembered; the ones most adored. Perhaps it’s the love of miniatures or maybe the cozy environment created, but it’s probably as basic as our evolution as humans. 

We’ve chosen the “Backyard Cottage” concept for many reasons, not the least of which are endearment and affordability, but I also believe it is a product appropriate for our times. The Backyard Cottage fills a niche that solves a number of our modern housing problems, while providing a great deal of value and enjoyment. The concept, of constructing functional dwelling space on property one already owns, has very significant monetary and environmental advantages. For good reason, Building and Planning Departments are now embracing the backyard dwelling.  We hope to encourage you to find out why.  Here are a few reasons why you might want to build one of our cottages for yourself:

These Cottages are versatile and affordable  as Guest Houses, Rental Apartments, Granny Units, Retirement Homes, Nanny Units, Offices, Studios, Man Caves, Teenager’s (or Mother’s) Retreat, Shops, Garden Sheds or even Wine Cellars. They can provide a source of revenue, a private room for weekend guests, an affordable retirement home for your elderly parents, an alternative to day care expenses or a place to write that novel you’ve been planning. The uses are endless.

Zoning Acceptability
Government has finally awaked to the fact that they need to allow more dwelling spaces. They have begun to realize that new housing projects in existing communities have become almost impossible to get approved for financial, environmental and political reasons, yet the nation keeps growing. In order to ease this crisis and help solve the high cost of housing, Government has begun to create policies that require municipalities to allow “Backyard Dwellings” and “Accessory Structures” (California enacted a statewide law in 2002). If you have a lot as small as 60 ft x 80 ft you can probably get zoning approval to put a Cottage on it. We have created a free “Site Assessment Questionnaire” to allow you to determine whether you can build a “Backyard Cottage” on your property. 

Financial Advantages
It is only logical that you should know what the cost of your project is before spending a lot of money on it. To help with that task, we have created a Do-it-Yourselfer's “Materials Price List” for each of our Cottages. This list includes an exhaustive description of virtually every piece of material that is required to build each of our plans. (wood, concrete, paint, windows, doors, insulation, air-conditioning, nails, tools, etc.)  The cost of each item is updated continuously and a list  these items and the source for each item is available to our plan buyers.  If you chose to build one of our cottages for yourself, here’s a general guideline of the expenses you should expect:

  • Materials Costs - Your “Backyard Cottage” material costs will run somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000.
  • Building Permit Fees - Permitting costs for a small cottage should be somewhere between $2000-$6000, if you are in any reasonable municipality.
  • Land Costs - Because you are building on your own property there will be no land costs.
  • Utility Fees - Because you are building as an “Accessory Structure” there should be no water, sewer, or electrical hook-up fees.
  • Utility Extensions - Because you are connecting to utilities on your existing house, there should be no expensive pavement, curb, sidewalk repairs or electrical line extensions.  You only need to connect to the main house service lines.
  • School Fees – If you are not adding a “Dwelling Unit”, there should be no “School/Library/Miscellaneous Fees.

Based on the above, the completed D-I-Y cottage would run approximately $17-$36,000. Your bank could probably fund the entire cost with a low interest, home equity line- of-credit on your existing home. The same cottage, if custom built in our community with Architects, Engineers, Environment Experts and a General Contractor, would normally cost the owner between $150,000 to $300,000. The financial incentive to build it yourself from our pre-engineered and documented sets of plans is obvious. 

Building Code Compliance
Although government has eliminated most zoning restrictions on backyard dwellings, they have not lessened the Building Code requirements. Frankly, the Codes have become too complex for any one professional to keep up with. For the uneducated owner-builder they have become nearly impossible. We have solved this problem for our clients by assembling a team of architects, engineers, environmental and energy experts to engineer and document all our plans with the details, schedules and calculations required for permitting under our complex building codes. All our designs come with a “Documentation Package” which can be customized for nearly any seismic, wind, climate or Green Code condition in the country.

Environment Sensitivity
Sustainability, ease of maintenance and minimum energy use are hallmarks of our Cottages. Designed to meet the stringent California "Green Code" standards, our cottages are models of energy efficiency, water conservation, VOC reduction and resource conservation. A Green Code conformance list and “Green” Punch List is included as a part of our “Documentation Package”. Green Code documentation is available with all of our plan sets.

Energy Efficiency
Designed to exceed the strict “California Energy Code”, our cottages come standard with extremely high efficiency heat pump systems for space heating and cooling and high efficiency instantaneous tankless heaters for hot water heating. Combining this with “cool roof” technology, super insulation packages, radiant roof barriers and state-of-the-art sealing techniques and our Cottages rank alongside the most efficient buildings in the country.  These buildings are so energy efficient it takes just a  single 20 amp electrical branch circuit to power the majority of our cottages.  All this high effeciency equipment is described and vendor sources noted in our "DIY Material Lists".

Our Classical cottages are small but you won’t have to apologize for living in them. They provide an elegant and tasteful addition that will enhance your backyard and will be appreciated in any community. Each unit comes in a number of different architectural styles, one of which should be compatible with your existing home style.

Our cottages are designed to be built by the inexperienced owner-builder. Our plans go well beyond what you would normally expect in a building plan set at any price. Extras include, 3D framing layouts, full size patterns of ornamental trim, waterproofing details, window and door trim-out details, cabinet plans and elevations, lighting plans, plumbing, HVAC details, fire sprinkler configuration, electrical layouts and much more. In addition, our PDF drawings are full of links to websites that provide “How to” information on a multitude of construction processes, as well as, safety tips to keep it safe. The drawings are loaded with suggestions to help you build more efficiently.

Joy of Ownership
Building a small classic cottage provides the opportunity to create a family treasure, a special place for your children and their children. An heirloom that will look better with age, as vines grow up the walls and as the paint fades. A home that will appreciate with age and hopefully, will pass on the wonder of the classical cottage. 

Some of our Certifications and Memberships