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Why We Build: A Multigenerational Family ADU

Hear how Cottage built Barry and Kathy's Accessory Dwelling Unit to bring Barry's parents just a doorstep away.

Caleb LeeNovember 11, 2021

When their detached, 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath Cottage ADU finished up in the summer of 2021, Redwood City homeowners Barry and Kathy were finally able to realize their dream family situation.

A few weeks after the ADU wrapped up, Barry’s parents moved up from Southern California to live in the spacious 748 square foot Cottage, bringing their family together under two roofs—but one property. Just in time too, with Barry and Kathy needing childcare for their infant.

“One of my colleagues said to me the other day, ‘That's the American Dream isn’t it? To live close to your parents and to have grandparents to help with the kid,’” Barry said.

ADU Detached Exterior

Originally, Barry and Kathy had looked into renting another smaller home nearby for Barry’s parents to move into or purchasing a separate home for the parents. But with the parents unwilling to rent after owning their last home for decades and home prices skyrocketing across the Peninsula, neither option seemed realistic.

Through their research, building an Accessory Dwelling Unit quickly emerged as both the quickest and most financially responsible way to bring the family together. After Barry met Cottage founder and CEO Alex Czarnecki at an ADU webinar, the process began in earnest. The Cottage team helped guide Barry and Kathy through the design, permitting, and build process for their unique accessory dwelling unit, ensuring that it met the needs of each family member.

“Cottage helped us solve a problem where we can be with our parents, our most loved people, during their golden years,” Barry said. “Cottage is definitely making a huge impact on the quality of our lives."

Getting Started On the ADU Journey

Months ago in the spring of 2020, these Redwood City homeowners weren’t sure who to trust for their ADU. Their initial outreach started from their realtor, who recommended a designer and gave them some ideas. As a part of Barry’s initial efforts to find the best partner, he attended an ADU webinar online and sent a message to the group - ‘Hey, does anyone know any designers out there?’

One of the responders was Alex, Cottage’s founder and CEO, who started the conversation with Barry and Kathy about their ADU vision.

“Talking to Alex and [Cottage Head of Design and Delivery] Anamika and [Cottage Head of Growth] Kevin, we just felt like we were in really good hands,” Barry recalled. “We were one of the first customers at the time, but because of their work ethic and their high integrity, we decided it would be riskier not to go with Cottage. So we went with Cottage, and we've been really happy ever since.”

ADU Exterior Entry

A Custom ADU Design

In particular, Barry and Kathy were drawn to Cottage’s custom approach to ADU design. As a part of their extensive research, Barry and Kathy had looked into prefab homes but walked away unimpressed. “They were even more expensive than custom-built with Cottage!” Barry explained. “So it definitely made sense to go custom-built when we were looking for our ADU.”

Because the Cottage team designs for custom, stick-built construction, the family was able to brainstorm with the Cottage design studio to determine what would be best for the future occupants—Barry’s parents.

ADU Floor Plan Plan Set

One of the key spaces for the family was the kitchen and dining areas of the space. In order to help ease the transition for the grandparents, the team mirrored the kitchen from the grandparents’ previous Los Angeles home to make it like a “memory map” of her previous space.

ADU Kitchen and Living Room

“We were able to customize the kitchen just the way we wanted,” Barry said. “So there’s the oven if you turn to the right side, and if you turn to your left, that's the fridge. Even though grandma has moved here, her kitchen from her old place is very similar.”

ADU Kitchen

Now that the grandparents have fully moved into the space, those custom choices have been winners for everyone, with grandma and grandpa bringing over a meal “almost every day.” On top of that, the spacious design for the two grandparents has created the perfect combination of privacy and proximity.

“I think if my parents were to live in the same house with us, it'd be too much under the same roof. Like privacy issues—just not enough space,” Barry said. “But now that they're across the backyard, even though it's still on the property, we feel a lot of independence and privacy. It's almost as if it's a whole new house—as if there's no street separating us.”

ADU Living Room

Before the grandparents were able to move into the new ADU, there was the construction phase of the detached ADU. Having heard horror stories about construction and contractors before, Barry was nervous about the process. All he heard from neighbors and friends were stories of cutting corners, and going over budget.

However, that apprehension quickly disappeared as the ADU was built, stud by stud, in his backyard each passing day.

“The most memorable thing was that the contractor said they would be finished in 90 days, and they were finished in 90 days,” Barry said. “ My parents couldn’t believe it—usually projects like this take twice as long or cost twice as much.”

With Cottage standing by throughout construction to assist with finish selection, construction field revisions and clarifications, and to answer Barry and Kathy’s questions, the family was able to relax and enjoy the next stage of their lives growing in their backyard.

"Before going to Cottage, I was really scared. It’s such a scary project to take on. This is the biggest purchase we’ve made besides our house,” Barry said. “Cottage really helps make the ADU process accessible, approachable, and less intimidating.”

Building ADUs, Building Families

While the details have been important for Barry and Kathy’s ADU story, the most important motivating factor has been, of course, moving Barry’s parents closer to home. Previously, Barry, Kathy, and their child were only able to see grandma and grandpa during the holidays—even then, it was either a 6-hour drive or the hassle of a flight away.

“They previously had their lives down in Southern California, but separate from us,” Barry said. “They probably felt a little isolated. But up here with the family, it just feels really nice for them to live out their golden years.”

Barry has friends in similar situations, such as one whose mom is in Europe - but they can’t afford to buy another house in the Bay Area and their existing home doesn’t have enough space for an ADU. And their solution is to say, as Barry put it, “Tough luck.” On the flip side, being able to move his parents in so close has drastically changed the quality of life for Barry and his family.

ADU Bedroom

ADU Bathroom

“In the morning, it’s nice because we know that if we have a meeting at work, we can just walk over and have instant daycare,” Barry said. “On the other hand, it works both ways—they take care of the baby, and we can take care of them as they get older.”

Looking back at his family’s ADU journey, Barry couldn’t think of any part of the process he would have changed.

"Cottage was always very calm, professional, friendly, approachable, and kept us in the loop. They made us feel good every step of the way."

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