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Over here at Crhacienda we’re in the planning stages of building our own guest house. Our backyard is huge by local standards. We have about 3100 square feet in our backyard that is a complete blank slate. The plan is that the finished backyard (one day) will have a pool, guesthouse, outdoor living area, and a courtyard. That might sound like a lot, but we want to create a compound-like atmosphere reminiscent of old Spanish homes. This will create a series of intimate spaces for entertaining and relaxing. Many of you are asking, “Why aren’t you building to pool first?” and I’ll tell you why.

Pools are expensive. I have some design client work, but it’s nothing close to what I was earning during my banking career. This is not a complaint since I knew going into business wouldn’t be a profitable venture in the beginning. I’m mostly a starving student which is why it felt irresponsible for Sean and I to build a pool that would eat a huge chunk of our savings and still cost us money each month. So, we looked back into the guest house idea and talked to the city.

Though you may not know it, Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, have become a hot issue among planners in densely populated communities nationwide. You may know them by a variety of other names like: granny flats, guest houses, pool houses, or in-law suites. In Greater Los Angeles County,  many cities have taken to writing less restrictive zoning and permitting ordinances to allow their residents to build ADUs as a way to deal with the housing crisis we’re experiencing. Essentially, there’s not enough housing which is pushing up the prices for permanent residences and rental units. This shortage of housing isn’t new for LA. It’s one of the reasons so many homes have unpermitted garage apartments. The ADU is also perfect for families who have aging parents and grandparents that they’d like to keep close for safety and to help them save money. A place of their own with some privacy adds dignity to the aging process.

Since we occupy the main house on our property, we are allowed to build a separate dwelling that can be rented (but not used for short-term, Airbnb-style rental). We’ve done our preliminary budgets, and if we watch ourselves on the finishes of the guest house, we can build it without breaking the bank. The best part is, due to the demand for quality rental housing we stand to cover the expenses of building the unit, and make a conservative profit, once we rent it out. That’s music to my fiscally conservative ears. While I build my new career we can have a tenant paying for the investment into our property. As our incomes increase we can stop renting the dwelling out and return it to a guest suite or potentially use it as an office for my design business. And so, The Casita is born!

Will it be weird to have a tenant in our backyard? A bit, but not really. Remember, we just left condo-life last year and we aren’t bothered by having a responsible tenant nearby. Truthfully, because there is nothing in the backyard it’s not a place we spend any time in. The dogs get the most use from it by leaving me “presents” on my half-dead lawn.When the pool is ready to become a reality then the tenant goes. In the meantime, the dogs will have less lawn and yard, we’ll start using the space for a purpose, and it will help us build value into our home. It’s also nice to know that there is a potential income generating space right in our backyard if we need it.


Photo by Amy Neunsinger

The Casita is going to be a refreshing space to blend modern and traditional Spanish style. We are going to continue the exterior architecture style of Crhacienda on the Casita, but the interior will be an efficient studio apartment with a full bath, kitchenette, sleeping, and living area. In total we’re looking at around 375 square feet of living space and a covered porch of about 50 square feet. Obviously we have a lot of garden to plant once the Casita is built to give it the lush and relaxed atmosphere of the images in this post. In the coming weeks I’ll be showing you more of our plans for the Casita including the floor plan and the design concepts. Do you think we’re crazy? Would you want to rent a guest house? Or have you been wanting to build one for your family members? Let me know what you’re thoughts are in the comments.