Today, in its place, is a modern guest cottage. The tin roof and wood from the old garage was used for the back awning of the new home and century-old Douglas fir salvaged from another project was remade into window sills.
Franson, a writer, and Timby, a graphic designer and art director, moved to their property in North Portland’s Arbor Lodge neighborhood 13 years ago. On the 4,792-square-foot lot was a bungalow built in 1926, which they live in, along with the detached garage.
The couple wanted more living space, but they didn’t want to trade up or expand their 1,100-square-foot home. Still, room for visitors and an office space larger than a closet for the two freelancers to work side-by-side would be nice.
The solution: A separate, small dwelling with a multipurpose open floor plan, high ceilings and double doors that open to a patio and garden. The 515-square-foot house could also be rented to generate income to offset the high cost of building, which was $160,000 or $310 a square foot.
The building industry calls these rentable, self-contained shelters “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs). Owners prefer words based on the purpose of their extra abode — to be used as a guest cottage or in-law flat — or the location on the property, from an alley home to a garage suite.
Second homes sharing a city lot with an existing house are being created by homeowners adding an apartment wing to the original house, carving out space from underused rooms inside the residence or converting an unfinished basement or structurally sound garage into new living quarters.
In any configuration, second homes are finding their place in Portland and other cities encouraged by local government and squeezed by housing shortages.
To motivate homeowners, the City of Portland has been waiving expensive system development fees for ADUs since 2010. The waiver, which has saved owners up to $19,000 in building costs, expires in July 2018.
Critics don’t like ADUs’ added density and parking issues as well as the decrease in gardens, trees and creature habitats. Privacy can be intruded upon when single- or second-story windows look into a neighbor’s house or backyard.
Despite these and opponents’ other concerns, Phil Nameny of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability says the city sees accessory dwellings as a viable component of its housing strategy.
MAKING THE MOVE
Franson and Timby prepared for the project by taking a tour of legal tiny houses — the Build Small, Live Large: Portland’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour — and attending an ADU development workshop. Both informational events were organized by Portland-based small housing advocate and educator Kol Peterson, who released his comprehensive, how-to book, “Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development,” in January.
After conducting online research — AccessoryDwellings.org is a good source — and reading books such as “What Your Contractor Can’t Tell You,” they interviewed general contractors and design-build firms. They selected Joe Robertson of Shelter Solutions to build the guesthouse.
MEETING THE GOALS
The couple, who are gardeners, permaculturalists and outdoor lovers, wanted to erased the boundaries between inside and outside. “Anyone who has lived in the Northwest long enough knows that light is a scarce resource for nine months of the year, so why not let it shine in?” she asks.
Even the bathroom has a window and glass pocket door.
Most of the windows and doors are south- and east-facing. To improve energy efficiency, they added three inches of spray foam to the blown-in insulation in the ceiling cavity. They also installed an electric Mitsubishi mini-split for heating and cooling as well as LED surface mount ceiling lights and LED bulbs.
An electrical conduit was laid in the utility trench to accommodate future solar panels.
Shelves in the kitchen and bathroom are made of reclaimed Douglas fir from Salvage Works, with iron brackets made by Cascade Iron Co. IKEA’s new line of 99 percent recycled cabinets were purchased for the kitchen.
“We wanted a space that could be used as a long- or short-term rental, a guesthouse for family and friends, an office, a community gathering space, and an open community space for teaching small workshops and gathering friends,” says Franson.
They rent their two-story garden retreat with a sleeping loft on AirBnB for up to 15 days a month to cover the costs of the construction loan and increase in property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities and property maintenance.
Two percent of profits is donated to five local nonprofits.
“Ultimately, our longer-term vision is to leave Portland to live more rurally, rent out our main house long-term and keep our ADU to use when we need to come back to town to meet with clients,” says Franson, a graduate of the University of Oregon with an advance degree from Portland State. Timby attended Lewis Clark College.
But she focuses on what she calls the “intangible benefits” of small, secondary units that extend beyond the immediate ne of short- or long-term rentals.
— Janet Eastman