How to Create a Luxurious Accessory Dwelling Unit

 If you are thinking of creating an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), there is a lot to consider. These units can bring extra space to your home, more freedom to your life, and an interesting architectural variation to your property. An ADU can help families better accommodate changes and transitions in their members' lives and can sometimes be a source of rental income. 

You have so many options when it comes to planning the details of your ADU, but before moving forward, look at some of the practical aspects of design.   

What is an ADU?

An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary dwelling space within -or on the property of - a standard residential dwelling. This description covers things like renovated attics, basement apartments, outdoor buildings like cottages and carriage houses, and tiny houses.       

Thanks to the trend toward multigenerational families, at-home work, and other factors, ADUs have begun to crop up in more and more places and do not seem to be going away anytime soon. 

ADUs vary in size and complexity. Some people choose to build a minimalist prefab ADU that is small and compact without any frills or add-ons, while others want a mini-villa with all the luxuries of the finest home. Which one you choose depends on your budget, space, and time demands. However, remember that an ADU must be a liveable space. These are legal living quarters that need to meet state codes and regulations. The regulations include rules for structural soundness, fire safety, electrical wiring, heating, cooling, and other basic features. 

Why Choose an ADU? 

There are many reasons why you might choose to design and build an accessory dwelling unit. One of the more common reasons is to add more space for a new member of the household, for example, an elderly parent or grandparent who no longer can live on their own or an adult child returning to the nest. 

Sometimes, an ADU can add extra space for the primary members of the household. These units can afford extra privacy for people who want to work or live separately from the main house. An example would be a professional writer who wants their own separate mini home to escape to when the creative drive is in full swing. 

Lastly, an ADU can function as a source of income. You can rent ADUs, or in some cases, they can be listed on online house-sharing sites, which is an attractive option for many homeowners who would like to have extra income. In many cases, the cost of building an ADU is relatively low and can be made back in rental profits over a reasonable period. 

Making The Most of Your ADU

Whether for practical reasons or a profit motive, your ADU will serve you better in the long run if you put time and effort into its planning and design. While you may be tempted to cut corners in the short term, you will likely end up paying for it down the road. That is one of the reasons why many homeowners plan for a higher quality, luxuriously appointed ADU that will last them for years to come. 

The Basics 

  • Space. When considering building an ADU, the first thing to look at is space. Where do you have room for building or adding on? You may not have a large enough property for an outdoor cottage, but you might have an attic or basement perfect for converting into a wonderful living area. 
  • Special Needs. The next thing to consider will be if you need any special features for your unit. If your ADU will be housing an elderly loved one or someone with special needs, it will need certain accessibility features.  
  • Style. Yes, appearance matters! Some homeowners want their ADU to match the style of their home, while others want it to be its own individual oasis. This part of the process is where the homeowner has the most leeway and reactive license. Some architectural styles are more conducive to an ADU than others, but for the most part, this is between the homeowner and the builder. 

A search for ADU plans online can be a good place to start. Using specific keywords, you can look up the specific size and style of the unit you want, along with any special features you may need. 

Unless you’re an experienced contractor, you will need to hire someone to build your unit. That’s the next step of your planning process. ADU’s have been  growing in popularity over the last 5 years, and more contractors are advertising their eagerness to help people build their dream ADU’s. 

It can take time to interview and hire a contractor you feel comfortable working with. Make sure you check all licensing and references and listen to your intuition. A contractor should care about your vision for your building and be open to listening and cooperating with you.  

Heating and Cooling 

Heating and cooling methods are of paramount importance when planning an ADU. Your unit should not just meet basic standards; it should be a comfortable, welcoming space for whoever spends time there. Maintaining a regular air temperature can also help prolong the life of the building materials of your ADU. 

In many cases, PTACs are the best choice for regulating the temperature in an accessory dwelling unit. A packaged terminal air conditioner or PTAC is a compact self-contained air conditioning unit used in small spaces. A properly sized PTAC AC unit  can both heat and cool a room (or in this case an ADU) effectively and economically. 

Those chilly days of fall and winter can be made cozier when you’re sipping your cider in an ADU warmed by a  PTAC with a heat pump. It blows warm air into the building while drawing cold air out by regulating the flow of freon via a valve in the system, creating a nice, even, comfortable warmth.

When summer comes, the small space of your ADU can heat up fast. It makes sense to invest in a good cooling system. Luckily a PTAC cools as well it heats! A PTAC a/c unit (the kind often found in hotels) can be used to cool your space much like a regular air conditioning unit. The PTAC has a more streamlined appearance than a standard window unit and doesn’t have any parts that hang outside the window. Some also include a dehumidifier that eliminates excess dampness. 

The cost of a PTAC varies depending on the size, brand, and features. To potentially save money, you can look into refurbished PTACS

Other Appliances for Your ADU

While you can have standard-size appliances in some ADU’s, others require compact appliances. These appliances are smaller than standard ones but should be just as attractive and efficient. Compact appliances aren’t always easy to find. You can ask your local appliance dealer or do an internet search to find a dealer near you. 

Beautifying Your ADU

Interior decor can add so much to the comfort and ambiance of your ADU. The decorating process can be a lot of fun and help your unit come to life! While there are so many things to think about when decorating your ADU, the top consideration is maximizing space.

The average ADU ranges from 600 square feet to up to 1,200 square feet. When considering furniture for your ADU, keep in mind that larger pieces or heavy fabrics might make the space seem cramped and busy. You’ll also want to add space-saving hacks like storage drawers and bins that go under beds, on walls, or wherever they’re out of the way. Multipurpose furniture (furniture that doubles as storage) can also be a great investment. 

Wisely-placed mirrors can trick the eye to make your space look much larger. Mirrors can lend a sophisticated, luxurious look to your rooms as well. 

Many people tend toward lighter colors of paint, curtains, and carpeting for their ADU. These light colors can help the space seem more open and airy. However, some prefer to use darker hues for a cozier, more cottage-oriented look. 


If your ADU is a free-standing building, you’ll want to consider landscaping. The right arrangement of bushes, trees, and plants can help create a welcoming space and allow you to express your personal style on your property. Some bushes and shrubs can help create a privacy shield if your ADU is in the direct line of sight of another house. Certain types of landscaping can also help delineate a separate backyard space for your unit as well. Small plants that don’t overwhelm the unit are a good choice for most ADU’s, but overall, the choices are virtually unlimited. 

Building and styling a best prefab ADU (California) can be an undertaking with a lot of challenges, but ultimately, there are many rewards to enjoy once the job is done. With the right research and professional support, you can create the perfect ADU for your lifestyle. 

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