Second Home

You may not have heard the phrase Accessory Dwelling Unit. While it sounds like a strange term for a closet, it is the official term for what most of us refer to as a mother-in-law apartment, casita or garage apartment — basically a separate living unit on the same property as an existing house.

W hen Brian Linder, a local realtor and licensed architect, originally purchased his 1940’s bungalow in the South Congress area, he thought that he’d tear it down and replace it with a larger project. Then, he reimagined living in the bungalow while constructing a modern ADU that he’d then live in while rehabbing the historic main house. Although he is a licensed architect, he decided to enlist Austin architect Jay Hargrave to bring his idea to life. “A lot of architects wouldn’t love having another architect for a client,” says Brian. “But I really liked Jay and his work, and he was comfortable with the ideas that I brought to the table.” 

“Brian really wanted a clean, international style with white stucco,” says Jay. “It was a tight site with a lot of constraints, but it’s a really efficient design — almost like a boat, with lots packed into a small area.” Jay knew that he needed to create a space that would respect the set budget, comfortably sleep Brian and his 16-year-old twins, and adhere to Austin’s rigorous building codes.

A couple of existing Live Oak trees were a beautiful part of the site and dictated the placement of the building. On its exterior, the freestanding unit is modern, clean and simple, with low maintenance white stucco walls and aluminum windows. “I really believe in using straightforward, honest materials,” says Brian. He knew that he wanted a two-story structure, and that fitting everything he wanted into the allotted square footage was going to be a challenge. Hargrave devised a clever plan to work with the tight footprint. “City code only allowed 850 square feet for the unit, but you are also allowed to have a garage. By adding air conditioning to that garage, we were able to add more flex space to the plan,” says Jay

Upstairs, the unit includes a kitchen, bedroom and a living area with a wood-burning stove. Natural light fills the room thanks to a ribbon of windows that wraps the entire second floor. “The band of windows were an important precedent for me,” notes Brian. Structural steel cross braces are functional and attractive accents to the opposite corners of the wall to wall windows, otherwise there is no interruption to the scenery. “Being there is like being in a treehouse,” shares Brian. “You can watch the moon make its path across the sky, or watch a storm blow in. It feels almost elemental, and very connected to the natural environment outside.” A stairway of sealed Radiata Pine plywood that was fabricated in Hargrave’s shop leads to the lower level, where two fully operable aluminum full-view garage doors feel like walls of windows. Repurposed long leaf pine from the original demolished garage was kiln-dried and milled in different sizes, then composed by a finish carpenter for a gorgeous paneled wall. The area is flexible, and certainly can be used as a garage, although it currently serves as a spacious master bedroom.

“When the unit was finished, we decided to move in to it while we worked on the main house, and we just really got used to living there,” laughs Brian. With both the main house and the ADU complete, the property has evolved into a single-family compound connected by a deck and fire pit area, with the ADU serving as a “sleeping house” and the bungalow serving as the main living area. “What I love about it is that it is all totally flex space. I could rent out either house, or I could live in one and use another as the office,” says Brian. “It is totally plug and play.”

The successful project was recently featured on the AIA Austin Home Tour 2018. “Using space like this is something that we talk about a lot, but rarely do,” says Jay. “It was a challenge to fit everything in, meet code and not have it be a mess, so I’m really pleased with the way it turned out — it’s hyper efficient without being a tiny house.”


ARCHITECT   Jay Hargrave Architecture

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