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Furnishing an ADU: How to Pack it All into Your Backyard Unit

What Is an ADU?

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a structure built as an addition to a larger home. Although these buildings are considered separate from the house itself, they are still technically part of the same lot and must be bought and sold together.

An ADU can be built completely independent from a home or connected to a larger building. Still, ADUs typically have their own separate entrance and include a kitchen, living room and bathroom.

Also known as secondary-dwelling units, in-law units and carriage houses, these buildings offer many advantages, including money savings, increased space, and boosted home value:

  • Savings: Often, people will build ADUs to house in-laws or older family members who could benefit from being closer to those who can help them. Instead of paying nursing home fees, family members can live in an ADU for free, which can save a lot of money in the long run.
  • Space: An ADU also offers more space — if you frequently have guests, an ADU could be the perfect solution to that confining feeling in your home. Guests can have their own space and sleep soundly in an independent, fully-furnished building apart from your home. Both you and your guests will appreciate this option.
  • Home value: ADUs can also increase your home value. Since it's still part of your property, you may gain square footage, and your house will become even more appealing with a new addition.

Because of these benefits and others, ADUs continue to be an attractive option for homeowners everywhere.

Types of ADUs

ADUs offer a lot of flexibility — ultimately, you get to decide what type of accessory dwelling unit you create, as long as it's within the bounds of legal requirements. These range from detached types that stand entirely apart from your home to convenient garage or basement conversions. Here are the most common types of ADUs.

Detached

An ADU completely separated from the main house is known as a detached ADU. These could be small structures with simple furnishings or elaborate cottages that hold formal dining rooms, living rooms and multiple bedrooms. The size of your ADU and its complexity depend on your needs. Detached ADUs can be excellent for those who host guests frequently or long term.

A detached ADU gives people the privacy they need to be on their own while also having that convenient option to get help from the central home when they need to. For older parents or in-laws, it's an ideal option.

Garage Conversion

You could also opt for a garage conversion. An ADU conversion usually involves taking space already on your property and transforming it into a separate living space. One of the main spaces people convert is their garages. Whether you have an attached or detached garage, you can easily renovate this space to make it a livable, insulated area that's separated from your home. It's usually best to add a separate entrance so guests can come and go as they please.

Conversions like these also offer a more affordable option for ADUs, as you won't have to acquire completely new materials to build your structure from scratch.

Basement Conversion

Even basements can be a potential option for attached ADUs. Though you might think that finished basements and ADUs are similar, local laws typically specify what you need to include for your basement to legally be an ADU. This usually involves things like plumbing, ventilation, and specific entrances. Basement ADUs are a type of attached ADU that offers convenience and added space.

Where Are ADUs Popular?

ADUs are most popular in areas that have a high price of living. Cities with many ADUs include:

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Austin, Texas
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Portland, Oregon

These separate structures offer affordable ways to house guests and increase home value. States that continue to loosen their ADU laws will likely see an influx of ADUs.

The popularity of ADUs has grown in the past decades. From 2001 to 2019, the national share of active real estate listings with ADUs rose from 1.6% in 2001 to 6.8% in 2019. Recently, ADUs have become more popular in the northeast. More legislation is being passed, making it easier and more attractive to build ADUs. As these laws are reformed, and the price of housing continues to rise, ADUs will likely become even more popular.

ADU Design Ideas

Once you decide what type of ADU you want, it's time to start thinking about your design. One of the exciting things about building an ADU is that you can design it however you like, creating a certain atmosphere and feel that's unique to your specific needs. Here are some design ideas for your ADU.

Rustic Guest House

A rustic feel is excellent for those building a backyard cottage ADU. With elegant, textured tables and deep-colored furniture, you can create a homey, safe feeling in your ADU. This rustic design is very popular in the western coastal cities and can be just as effective in the northeastern area. Using natural colors and wood, you can build something that feels completely different from your main home.

Cozy Suite

For extended family or in-laws, you may be looking to build a cozy, welcoming atmosphere in your ADU. For this, you could add some plush, comfortable furniture and plenty of places to lay down and rest. Soft lamplight and walk-in showers with grab bars can all help build a safe, comfortable ADU where your guests can be satisfied living.

Modern and Minimalist

Today, the modern and minimalist style is popular, characterized by simplicity, sharp angles and muted colors. Make your ADU into a contemporary, luxury getaway with bright lighting, simplistic furniture colored gray, white or beige and innovative technology that can allow you to control temperature, security and lights with the tap of a button.

ADU Furniture Ideas

One of the most important parts of building your ADU design is choosing the right furniture. When furnishing your ADU, keep these tips in mind:

  • Maximize space with multipurpose furniture
  • Open up a room with a storage mirror
  • Utilize vertical space with wall-mounted cabinets and closets

Furnishing an ADU: How to Pack It All Into Your Backyard Unit

There's abundant information out there on ADU building costs, financing, construction, and design but there are few that help with the furnishing process. That is, until Mighty Buildings debuted its latest ADU pop-up, furnished with several multifunctional furniture pieces from the Resource collection to maximize comfort and functionality.

Resource partnered with LA-based manufacturer of high-tech 3D-printed ADUs, Mighty Buildings, to furnish their latest pop-up installation.

ADUs and the Backyard Housing Boom

Granny flats, in-law suites, casitas — you may have heard these phrases without knowing the industry's umbrella term: accessory dwelling units. ADUs have become more and more popular in recent years, especially in localities where eased zoning regulations have made them easier to build.

Homeowners are taking greater advantage of the relaxed rules. In 2016, after the California state legislature eased restrictions on ADU construction, applications for permits skyrocketed, setting off what came to be known as the Backyard Housing Boom. Many built ADUs to earn rental income, to use as a home office or guest house, or to provide a space for adult children or aging parents to live nearby.

As interest in ADUs grows, so too has the building technology. Mighty Buildings — an LA-based manufacturer of prefabricated homes and ADUs — utilizes patented 3D-printing technology and robotic automation to create luxury units at a fraction of the cost and with significantly shorter lead times compared to traditional construction methods. Mighty Buildings' ADUs are pre-approved by the state of California and can be personalized to suit any lot size or budget.

While there are plenty of resources available for those interested in building an ADU, there are few that get into the nuts and bolts of how to furnish an ADU to maximize space and comfort. Mighty Buildings sought to change that, partnering with the space experts at Resource Furniture to design their latest pop-up ADU in downtown Los Angeles. The studio features a number of luxury amenities and transforming furnishings that make it look, feel, and function like a home twice its size. 

If you are looking to furnish your ADU or tiny home, here are some tips and product recommendations to keep in mind, straight from the design experts at Resource Furniture:

1. Maximize Space With Multipurpose Furniture

The Penelope Sofa wall bed allows this space to double as a comfortable living room and a bedroom.

Choose furniture pieces that serve more than a single purpose. The idea that furniture should serve only one purpose has virtually become passé. Whether you occupy a small studio apartment or a four-bedroom home, everyone can benefit from the added flexibility that multipurpose furniture provides. When square footage is particularly limited, like in an ADU, multifunctionality is essential. Outfitting your ADU with multipurpose furniture will allow you to live with all the comforts and amenities normally reserved for much larger homes — like an extra guest bedroom, a home office, space for a home gym, or even a large dining room table for holiday hosting. 

Among our most popular multifunctional pieces are our transforming tables – consoles or coffee tables that are height-adjustable and extend in length and/or width, so you can guarantee guests a seat at the table for special occasions. Many models, such as the DynamicPasso, and Genie, are specifically designed to stash neatly under our wall beds, so there is never a need to move your table come bedtime.

Wall beds can also perform multiple functions when you choose a model that incorporates a sofa, desk, or dining table. Depending on the needs of your ADU, you can get double-duty out of a bed that would otherwise take up a considerable amount of floor space during the day, when it's not being used. The Penelope BoardNuovoliolaSwing 0, or Oslo Sofa can work well in an ADU thanks to their built-in second function.

2. Open up a Room With Storage Mirrors

Mirrors can help small spaces look much larger – and our mirrors do more than reflect. Mirrors are an age-old design trick; they create the illusion of more space while serving a useful purpose. AmbrogioBetty, and Box are three unique wall-mounted mirrors that also double as organizers. While Box is designed to store table leaves for our Goliath or Voile expanding tables, Ambrogio opens to reveal a hidden storage unit perfect for stacking books, hanging coats, or storing toiletries. And Betty is not just a mirror, not a coat hanger, absolutely not a standard drawer unit — it is all three in one. This stunning multifunctional wall mirror features four removable coat hangers and five sliding drawers.

3. Utilize Vertical Space With Wall-Mounted Cabinets and Closets

Adopt creative storage solutions. Where floor space is at a premium, many ADU owners look for opportunities to configure built-in storage — for example, under-stair storage drawers or storage lofts above a free-standing closet. Another space-saving option is to consider modular, wall-mounted storage units like our Tetris Wall Cabinets. These clever cabinets can be oriented in any direction with hinges on either side for a vertical orientation, or top or bottom for a horizontal orientation.

Find Quality Furniture Today

Resource Furniture offers quality products for both dwellings of all sizes. With a wide selection of products, including sofas, beds, and tables, you can find everything you need at Resource Furniture to make your dwelling unique. Start building your design today with Resource Furniture. Browse our online selection or visit us in person. We're ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today!