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Posts from the ‘ADUs’ Category

Multi-Faceted Remodeling for Your Multi-Generational Family

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Design by Kristyn Bester.

Historically, there has always been a visible connection between socioeconomic trends and architectural trends. One such example is the current boom we are seeing in multi-generational living.

With an aging population and sky-rocketing property values, more and more families are opting to live together under the same roof.

Perhaps you have an elderly family member who wants to age in place, or young children who need a play space. Maybe your adult child has moved back home and needs an apartment-style living space. It may even be that all of these things are true!
It can certainly be a challenge. You want to stay in the home you know and love, but it needs to evolve with the changing needs of your family.

Here are some remodel ideas that will allow kids, parents and grandparents to enjoy the benefits of living together, while still maintaining privacy and independence.

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Design by Kristyn Bester.

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Design by Kristyn Bester.

A master bedroom suite can provide a private sanctuary from the rest of the world. Here, we used a soft, neutral color palette and maximized daylight access, enhancing the feel of calm and serenity.


Design by Anne De Wolf.

With the right design, your basement can be converted to an inviting play space for the kids, or serve as an additional informal family room. Here, we used full-height built-ins to maximize storage for toys and games, allowing for a spacious play area. The stainless steel wainscoting enhances the aesthetic of a modern industrial loft, while doubling as a wall protector when the family wants to play indoor soccer!

When people of different ages and abilities are living together, it is very important to have adaptable design features that can enhance the safety and comfort of everyone in the house.

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Design by Anne De Wolf.

This bathroom shows that you do not have to compromise style in order to have a functional, adaptable space. A European-style curbless shower is a great solution for an elderly family member or any person who has balance or mobility challenges. The teak fold-down seat and adjustable hand-held shower head are elegant and stylish, while allowing for maximum end-user control.

Grab bars are also a great safety feature for shower and wet areas.


Design by Kristyn Bester.

When more people are living in a space, finishes often need to be cleaned and maintained more frequently, due to heavy use. There are many wonderful finish options that are as beautiful as they are durable.

Tired of scrubbing and sealing the tile and grout in your bathroom? Corian (seen in the shower surround above) is a durable solid surface material that provides a contemporary, easy-to-clean finish for your shower surround or countertop.

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Design by Anne De Wolf.

When it comes to quality of life, it’s the little things that count. When you are starting to think about a remodel, be sure to consider all of the various activities that you and your family engage in. How can your home support your unique hobbies and pastimes?

In this basement conversion, we created a large, versatile room in which the client could enjoy a sewing and crafting area without dominating the space. The built-in bench doubles as storage for crafting supplies to be neatly stowed away when not in use.

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Design by Anne De Wolf.

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Design by Anne De Wolf.

Your basement can also be a great opportunity for a private guest suite or “mother-in-law” suite. In this hip, loft-style basement conversion, we utilized the existing structural posts and beams to create perceived spatial allocations for sleeping, cooking, dining and lounging/entertainment. Multiple lighting layers allow the spaces to feel light and bright or soft and cozy. With this type of autonomous living space, your guest or adult family member can enjoy the privacy of apartment-style living, or you could even rent it out as an ADU or Airbnb unit!

Ready to start planning your phased multi-generational living remodel? Schedule a design consultation to begin planning your next project here.

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Creating an AirBnB Worthy Basement Renovation

Arciform designer Kristyn Bester contributed the following article to the January 2014 edition of NW Renovation magazine. It is reprinted here for your convenience.

Of all the possible home remodel projects, adding a guest suite or creating an ADU in the basement can seem the most daunting.  From deciphering code compliance challenges to choosing an aesthetic that is most appropriate for your home, there are many questions that should be asked upon embarking on a basement renovation.

What are my long-term goals for the space?  Should I rent an ADU or list on Airbnb?

In addition to expanding living space for day-to-day tasks such laundry, homework or television viewing, using basements to create rental income is becoming increasing popular.  Rather than limiting their options to only hotels or bed and breakfasts, travelers are using sites such as Airbnb ( to search for unique accommodations.  Since Airbnb listings range from farmhouses to treehouses and houseboats to high rises, it can take just a few clever design solutions to transform an unfinished basement into an adequate addition to the Airbnb club.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU, is a space that is converted to legal living space that will be used specifically as a secondary living space to a primary structure.  This approach will require more thoughtful consideration of the long term impact of your design choices.

Whether you choose the flexibility of Airbnb or the long term ADU approach, each option will create space that will provide lasting value to your home.

4 Things to Consider Before Creating a Basement Guest Suite

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1. Is my basement dry enough?

No one wants to send a welcomed guest downstairs to a moist and musty quarters.  And most renters will be able to quickly spot a basement with water issues.  Before pursuing a basement conversion, it is vital to determine if your existing rain water management systems are doing their job to keep your basement dry.

Keep an eye out for stains on the walls or floor and cracks in the foundation.  Walk the exterior perimeter of your house to make sure gutters are clean and free of debris and that downspouts are directed away from the house.  Make sure that large shrubs and trees are pulled away from the perimeter of your house and that the exterior grade is sloping away and down from the house.

Sometimes these solutions will not solve all rainwater management problems and more extensive options such as exterior French drains or interior drains and sump pumps will need to be considered.

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2. Is my unfinished basement a good candidate?  Does my basement meet code?

Prior to remodeling consider the requirements for code compliance in your jurisdiction.  Design choices can be limited or made more expensive by code obligations, but the rules are intended to lead to greater comfort and safety in the long run.

·         Some stairs will meet “grandfathered-in code” and others may need to be rebuilt to meet current code requirements for stairwell width, riser height and tread depth.

·         Minimum ceiling heights are required in finished living areas.  If your existing basement has an exposed ceiling and concrete floors, it is important to consider the loss in ceiling height when adding a ceiling and floor finish.

·         In order to qualify as finished living space, a basement must meet legal egress requirements for your safe escape or the entry of a rescue person during an emergency.  The placement of an egress window should depend on the best location for maximum light and avoiding encroaching on property setbacks.

·         A finished basement requires furring out concrete walls with framing, insulation and sheetrock.  While this step can be costly, it is vital to the comfort of the space.


3)      How long are my guests planning to stay?

Retrofitting basements for Airbnb is appealing for the short term commitment to renting and the design flexibility it offers.  Since an Airbnb guest suite will be occupied sporadically, your design can be planned to allow for the guest suite to double as additional living space for your family.  Creating a studio, rather than a compartmentalized apartment, will give your basement the most versatility.  Remember that you are creating a comfortable hotel room – so keep it simple.

If a basement is converted to an ADU, all code regulations must be followed.  In order to appeal to a long-term renter you may want to consider additional creature comforts such as enclosing and insulating your ceiling to minimize sound transmittance between floors.  After meeting minimum requirements for egress, additional windows could be incorporated into the design to provide maximum daylight to the space.  An ADU will require a separate entrance from the primary residence, but keeping internal access may be beneficial in the future if the guest suite is reincorporated back into your home.

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4)      What feeling should the space have?

While designing your basement guest suite, it is important to identify how you want to feel in the finished space.

Airbnb will allow for the most creativity in design and décor details.  Since you will want to stand out in the crowd of options, putting a personal stamp on the space and featuring some of the latest trends can actually work in your favor. Some owners opt for a whimsical, theme-oriented direction.  Darker colors, stained wood features, plush carpet and dimmable lighting can help to create a moody, cave-like den, perfect for those seeking a cozy getaway.  If you seek to inspire creativity or create a space for a traveling executive, consider an industrial design approach featuring exposed ceilings, concrete floors and lots of light.  To appeal to the masses, use your city as inspiration and decorate with local memorabilia such as maps, restaurant menus and an artsy display of your city’s tourism highlights.

When planning an ADU in your basement, remember that the building will eventually be sold as a cohesive structure.  Look for existing architectural details that can be carried into the basement to create an integrated and period appropriate addition to your home.  When choosing color schemes, millwork profiles, lighting and plumbing fixtures, take cues from the period your home was built.  Is it a mid-century daylight basement or do you have a classic craftsman or bungalow basement?  Ensure your renovation will meet ADU code requirements and fit the style of your home by engaging a design professional to help you create thoroughly planned design and specification package.

Whether you choose the flexibility of Airbnb quarters or an integrated ADU rental, with careful preparation each approach can result in a guest suite that will provide lasting value to your home.

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Recoup Your Renovation Investment with Airbnb


If you are like most people, you share your home with a spouse and children. Maybe some pets, too. If you’re lucky, you’ve carved out a space for yourself somewhere. For many of my friends that space is the bathroom. In the WC they can lock the door and have a good excuse to keep everyone out, away, far on the other side.

But let’s be honest – the bathroom doesn’t work if the personal space you need is a place to paint or practice the trombone. Maybe you need a quiet space to write, work, or simply to breathe.


And, with the impending holidays, you’re probably also figuring out where to put out of town guests. Have you thought about an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit)? There are many types: the basement suite, the detached unit, the apartment over the garage. Here’s the obligatory Wikipedia link.

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Pretty cool, right? ADUs can work for many people with space issues.

Are you thinking about your house and what type of ADU would work best for you?

Are you imagining a lovely space for your home office? (Finally – your own space!)

Maybe with a pull-down bed or some cool set-up for guests?

Perhaps you then immediately think: Crap. This will cost money.

Well, in the spirit of justification, let me help you out. If you plan this correctly, you might be able to offset some of your cost by renting your ADU on Airbnb or VRBO. Extra money is always nice, and if you’re inclined to pencil out costs and make a budget, here are some things to consider before you start counting income not yet received.

See, I have an ADU (freakishly cool shipping container, thanks to Arciform), and I have recently listed it on Airbnb. My success so far has been limited in terms of numbers, but awesome in terms of fun and easiness. Here are things to consider before you get started:

1. Renting a room on Airbnb or VRBO means you’re in the realm of real estate, so location is key. If you are within walking distance to good restaurants, a bus or train line, or shopping, you are more likely to do well than if you live a mile from the closest bus stop (as I do).
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2. A separate space for guests is ideal. This means their own bathroom (certainly not required), hopefully their own entrance, and maybe even a kitchenette. If a kitchenette is not possible, a coffee pot and toaster will work.
3. People usually travel in pairs, so a space to sleep two is best. If you can sleep more, great.

airplane guest suite
4. The space does not have to be fancy, but if it’s interesting and comfortable it will attract more guests. (I was asked to be in an Airbnb feature about unusual spaces. The more people looking at your pics, the better.)
5. Browse the sites above – prices per night can range from $40 to $1000 per night. This leaves a lot of room for extravagance in the space and location categories.

detached guest house

Now let’s take a look at some pretty pictures! First, here’s a separate space that I adore. Imagine having this in your back yard. If you had something like this, you could go out there to escape the kids and read. Note that this space does not have a bathroom or kitchen, which translates to a more affordable construction bill as it is not plumbed. The location is also fantastic – between Hawthorne and Division in The People’s Republic of Portland. Good restaurants. Great shops.

For more inspiration, here’s another small space without a bathroom. You want one? You can have one.

OK, let’s discuss your unfinished attic or basement space. I really love the idea of finishing the basement / attic and financing it (to the extent possible) with Airbnb. Check out this attic master bedroom with its own bathroom. Here is a remodeled basement. Could you do this? Bet you’d like to.

Let’s go a little bigger now. Check out what these people did in Mt. Tabor! It’s gorgeous. This is a lot more space, and it’s plumbed, with a kitchen – more expensive to build, but worth it for the right people. And you never have to worry about where to put the in-laws again. Ever. And it just might pay for itself.

Nancy container guest house

Want to see my space? Good, ’cause I love to show it off. Here’s the Airbnb link. Arciform did this for me! The fir on the walls was leftover from another job site, the revolving door was on my wish list, and Anne made it happen. Richard and the guys made it cool with car parts sitting around the shop.


We used vintage sprinklers as towel racks and clothes hooks, and the bathroom sink is on a genuine Oregon tree stump with scrap plumbing fixtures. Arciform also figured out the awning and the patio – pretty awesome, right?


Now, from personal experience, these were my budget busters: I had to run water, sewage, and electrical to the container, and there was no close access. Planning can help you locate your ADU where water is close, thus saving on costs. Also, my container had to be craned in to the back yard. Arciform / Richard figured it all out – but placing your ADU in an accessible space will save on costs, of course. (In some ways, I’m not practical. Nobody’s perfect.)

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I have some friends who remodeled their basement (full kitchen, sleeps several, with washing machine, etc.) and renting it out covers the mortgage some months. I believe it rents for $150 / night-ish. (I have not come close to that, but a gal can hope.) Intrigued yet? If an ADU sounds like a possible solution to your space issues, or is just something you’ve always wanted because it’s cool and fun, set up a design meeting. There will be permits to be pulled, perhaps setbacks and other restrictions to be considered, but it’s great to discuss how to best utilize your space and see if an ADU is an option.

Flexibility is the key. If you can have the space for your personal use, plus rent it out, this might just be a no-brainer. My favorite kind of decision.

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