ADU  Decision Guide

The Homeowners guide to ADU design decisions


Introduction to ADU Decision Making

Building a backyard cottage can be a great investment. But let's be honest, it involves lots of decisions.

The amount of decisions can be daunting.

A very rough estimate:

  • 10-20 high-level decisions (such as ADU type, budget, contractor selection)
  • 50-100 design-related decisions (like layout, materials, fixtures, finishes)
  • 20-50 decisions about furnishings and decor
  • 20-40 project management decisions (like schedule, response to unforeseen issues)

This adds up to around 100-210 decisions you'll be making on your ADU.

Don't let this scare you, there's help with experienced ADU professionals. ADU experts can guide the decision-making process and help weigh out the pros and cons.

The more prepared you are, the smoother the project can go. We're here to guide you. We'll help you make smart choices, and dodge those pricey mistakes.


Big Picture Decisions

First, you've got to nail the big stuff. Decide what type of unit you want. Work out your budget. Pick an architect. Choose a contractor. Decide how you'll finance the project.

Next, think about what you'll use your unit for - a rental, a home office, or maybe a cozy guest house? It's crucial you understand the local building codes too. Make sure your plan is all above board.

And don't forget about the utilities. Will they be shared with the main house, or separate? Also, think about your yard. Any landscape or demolition needed.

Most homeowners work with an Architect to help you navigate these decisions.

ADU Decisions and Time Estimates

ADU Style: 1-3 weeks

Interior Design Theme: 1-2 weeks

Color Scheme: 1 week

Materials and Finishes: 2-4 weeks

Lighting Atmosphere: 1-2 weeks

Furniture Style: 2-4 weeks

Layout and Flow: 1-3 weeks

Landscaping: 1-3 weeks

Sustainability Features: 1-2 weeks

Storage Solutions: 1-2 weeks

Art and Decor: 1-2 weeks

These time estimates include time spent researching options, consulting with professionals, visiting showrooms or stores, discussing decisions with other stakeholders (like family members), and making the final decision.

Many of these decisions may overlap in time, as they are most often interdependent.


Design Choices

Now, let's talk design. It's not just about looking good. Your choices here affect the unit's functionality and feel.

Think about the layout. Where will the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom go? How about the doors and windows? You also need to decide on the heating and cooling system. And, of course, storage. Everyone loves a good closet.

You might also want to consider energy-saving features. Around 30% of homeowners choose to install solar panels on their ADU. Some cities even require solar panels on new homes.

  1. Floor Plan: Determine the layout and flow of the rooms within the ADU.
  2. Exterior Design: Choose the exterior style, materials, and colors.
  3. Roof Design: Decide on the shape, material, and color of the roof.
  4. Interior Finishes: Choose the materials and finishes for the floors, walls, and ceilings.
  5. Kitchen Design: Select the layout, cabinetry, countertops, backsplash, sink, faucets, appliances, and finishes for the kitchen.
  6. Bathroom Design: Choose the layout, fixtures (shower/bathtub, toilet, sink), faucets, vanity, mirror, and finishes for the bathroom.
  7. Bedroom Design: Determine the size, orientation, window placement, and storage solutions for the bedroom.
  8. Lighting: Decide on natural (window placement, size, type) and artificial lighting (recessed, pendant, chandelier, wall sconces


Qualitative Decisions

Get creative, get spacious, set the best space for your needs!

Then come the fun decisions. This is where you get to inject your personality into the project!

Decide on the style and theme of the unit. Maybe you love modern minimalism. Or perhaps rustic charm is more your thing. Choose your color scheme. Pick your materials and finishes.

Think about lighting. It can really set the mood of a space. Pick your furniture style. Plan the layout.

Green thumbs, listen up! This is your moment. Plan out your landscaping. Are you into native plants? Or maybe a lush, tropical feel?

And don't forget storage. Around 67% of homeowners regret not adding more storage to their ADU. Lastly, choose your art and decor. This is the finishing touch that makes the space truly yours.

In the context of building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), qualitative decisions refer to those that are more subjective and based on personal preference, aesthetics, comfort, and lifestyle needs. Here are examples of some qualitative design decisions a homeowner might need to make:

  1. ADU Style: The overall architectural style of the ADU should it match the primary residence or have its own unique design?
  2. Interior Design Theme: Will the interior follow a particular design theme, such as modern, traditional, farmhouse, or industrial?
  3. Color Scheme: What will be the primary and secondary colors for the interior and exterior?
  4. Materials and Finishes: What types of materials and finishes will be used for the floors, walls, countertops, and cabinetry?
  5. Lighting Atmosphere: What kind of atmosphere should the lighting create? Warm and cozy? Bright and airy?
  6. Furniture Style: What style of furniture will be used? This could range from minimalist to ornate, vintage to contemporary.
  7. Layout and Flow: How should the space be arranged for optimal flow and convenience?
  8. Landscaping: What style and type of landscaping would best suit the ADU and the surrounding property?
  9. Sustainability Features: To what extent should the design incorporate sustainable or "green" elements, such as solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, and water-saving fixtures?
  10. Storage Solutions: What kinds of storage solutions are needed for the inhabitants' lifestyle? This could include built-in shelving, under-bed storage, a pantry, or a large wardrobe.
  11. Art and Decor: What type of art and decor items will enhance the aesthetic of the ADU?

Each of these decisions contributes to the overall feel, functionality, and aesthetics of the ADU, and often, they need to be considered in relation to each other for a harmonious design.


Making it happen

You've got a lot of decisions to make. It may feel overwhelming. But we're here to tell you it doesn't have to be.

Take your time. Research your options. Consult with professionals.

This is why we started our company. We know that building a home involves more decisions than you make on any other purchase in your life. As ADU experts, we help you every step of the way.

By partnering with Dwellito, you not only gain access to industry experts who know how to keep a project on track and within budget, but also a compassionate team who understands the emotional weight of turning your dream into reality. Let us handle the details so you can enjoy the process of creating your perfect ADU.

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