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Cooking Up Your Perfect ADU Kitchen

By law, all accessory dwelling units must include a kitchen space. Learn more about the different options you have and how you can maximize your ADU kitchen space.

January 31, 2023

Choosing the Right ADU Kitchen for Your ADU

The kitchen space can be easily overlooked when designing your ADU. But the Cottage team doesn’t think that it should be!

By law, every accessory dwelling unit must have a dedicated bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom/studio living space. Whether you’re a part-time chef or looking to maximize the future rental income from your ADU, spending time thinking about your ADU kitchen space can pay dividends in the future.

Before we go over the various types of kitchens to choose from, let’s familiarize ourselves with the standard kitchen requirements for ADUs.

ADU Kitchen Requirements

It's important to know about state regulations in place that will determine the layout of your kitchen. For example, the California Department of Housing and Community Development lays out a set of requirements, which might differ depending on if you’re hoping to build a Standard ADU or a Junior ADU (JADU).

Typically, however, all ADU kitchens must measure in at at least 50 sq.ft. and contain the following facilities:

  • A countertop for food preparation;
  • Cabinetry for proper food storage;
  • A sink with running water and a drain; and
  • A stove or stove hookup.

The above are all necessary for a suitable ADU kitchen. Other heating appliances, such as microwaves and ovens, cannot be substituted for a stove.

JADUs in particular have a few more specific requirements. Because they are under 500 sq.ft. and contained within a single-family residence, they are typically outfitted with an “efficiency” kitchen. JADU kitchen sinks are typically no more than 16” x 16” and all appliances must operate at under 120V without propane or natural gas.

Whether you’re a fan of fluid spaces and open-concept or prefer a bit more privacy when cooking, our design experts at Cottage can work within building requirements and help you plan your ADU kitchen exactly how you envision it.

Check out some of the layouts we’ve made possible:

The Kitchenette Minimalist

If space is a premium, then a kitchenette may be right for you. For homeowners that aren’t looking to host dinner parties or have limited backyard space, minimizing the kitchen space in the ADU in favor of other spaces can be the way to go.

Cottage completed a 227 sq.ft. attached ADU studio in Palo Alto, CA that proved a kitchenette can accentuate a space and add to the charming character of the unit. All without taking up too much room:

The Standard Kitchen

The standard ADU kitchens we recommend here at Cottage are full-sized kitchens: four-burner stoves, full refrigerator, dishwasher, and sink. For most ADU spaces and homeowners without a strong cooking affinity, the standard kitchen works out well.

This works out well for smaller ADU spaces as well. For example, this 400 sq.ft. garage conversion ADU floor plan devotes one wall to all the plumbing utilities, including both the kitchen and bathroom:

The result? Minimized plumbing construction costs and a lower utility bill in the future. All without sacrificing a full kitchen space. The one trade-off of a kitchen like this: less upper and lower cabinet space than the next example below.

If storage is a must-have for your ADU, an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen might do the trick well. By spanning two different walls, this allows for more upper and lower cabinet space in your ADU kitchen. In addition, this layout tends to work well for open floor plans, as it nicely frames a small dining table or kitchen island space in the center. Check out this floor plan example:

In tight spaces, this type of layout can also come in handy. For this rental ADU property with limited backyard space, the U-shaped kitchen fits efficiently in the floor plan:

The Spacious Kitchen

For larger ADUs, having a larger kitchen space with extra upper and lower cabinet space for storage can balance out the space nicely. This floor plan below makes sure to give ample storage space to support the 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom ADU, and the U-shaped kitchen nicely frames a potential dining room table in the center of the room.

Leveling up your kitchen space can help add to the appeal of your ADU space, even if you don’t necessarily intend on cooking in the unit right off the bat. Future renters and even the next person to purchase your house will be looking for features like these to add to the “wow” factor of the space.

The Eat-In Kitchen

Who doesn’t love the idea of cooking and eating with ease?

For homeowners building an ADU with future guests in mind, choosing an eat-in kitchen with a permanent island or peninsula may be the right decision. Adding in a dedicated kitchen island space along with a full kitchen and upgraded appliances can turn a nice space into an incredible space.

Check out this 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ADU space—with an open kitchen/dining/living room space, it’s perfectly designed to host dinner parties. Combine that with the double French doors to give off a true California indoor-outdoor feel, and you can almost imagine the dinner parties happening already:

If your space can’t accommodate a full kitchen island, a peninsula can be an effective way to add in a small bar seating space for those quick breakfasts or midnight snacks. Because they’re attached or extend from your existing kitchen countertop space, they can be a budget-friendly to add a great dining room amenity to your ADU unit.

This shows in this Cottage 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom ADU in Castro Valley, CA:

Kitchen peninsulas are also a great option for smaller studio and 1 bedroom ADUs that aren’t quite big enough to have a full dining room space (or you’d rather use that square footage in a bedroom or bathroom space).

For spaces where there would only be one or two residents at any given time, having a peninsula or island is a great way to keep your space as efficient as possible. This 1 bedroom Cottage ADU design is a great example:

A Kitchen Built to Last

The Cottage design team takes pride in designing efficient, elegant spaces for you to cook and host in your ADU. After designing hundreds of custom ADUs with homeowners, we’ve seen which common kitchen layouts work for most homeowners--plus, the right add-ons you might want to add to upgrade your kitchen space without breaking the bank.

Ready to talk to a Cottage ADU expert about your ADU? Click the "Get Started" button on the top right hand corner to get a Free Consultation and Estimate Today.