Architects Convert Garage Into Sunny, Spacious Accessory Dwelling Unit

Color and light are carefully considered in this playful 850-square-foot ADU conversion.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design interior

Yoshiro Makino

In many places around the world, the lack of affordable housing is a complex problem that will require a number of solutions. For those owning a larger parcel of land in the city, one of these solutions might be building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), which is a smaller, secondary dwelling that shares the same lot as the main house, but has its own connections for electricity and water. Also known as granny flats, in-law apartments, laneway houses, and backyard cottages, some ADUs may be converted garages, backyard sheds, prefabs, or even something attached to the main house, but the idea is that such secondary dwellings have their own separate entrance, and can provide more affordable housing for elderly relatives, young families, or even set up as a source of rental income.

In the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, architects Bo Sundius and Hisako Ichiki of Bunch Design converted an existing 850-square-foot detached garage into an ADU. Situated behind their own 1,100-square-foot main house, the Highland Park ADU is now being rented out to a creative couple and includes two bedrooms, one-and-a-half bathrooms, as well as skylights, and exposed wooden beams. Best of all, instead of an oppressive flat ceiling, we have high ceilings here that have an intriguing stepped profile.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design exterior
Yoshiro Makino

As the architects explain, the challenge was to create access to the unit, with enough privacy for the ADU, as well the existing main house, and the neighbor's house, which would be right beside the ADU:

"We had to be careful to arrange the windows so that they missed one another, while organizing the outdoor courtyard spaces so that folks actually have privacy. With this in mind, we flipped the unit — the living room now faces the rear property wall and you enter the house from the back. Now the living room has this great back patio."
Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design back patio
Yoshiro Makino

Stepping in from the back patio, we see an open plan living room, which overlaps the kitchen.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design living room
Yoshiro Makino

The overall bright white of the walls is punctuated with a palette of vibrant colors like yellow, blue, pink, and red, which lend visual interest and a sense of expansiveness to a small space.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design kitchen
Yoshiro Makino

The kitchen features bright, built-in cabinetry, and a custom-designed dining set.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design living room and kitchen
Yoshiro Makino

The middle zone of the home includes a tub-and-sink-equipped bathroom with a skylight overhead. The drywall ends at a height of eight feet, allowing the exposed wood studs to continue up to the ceiling, which creates the feeling of a larger, open space.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design bathroom
Yoshiro Makino

Directly opposite the bathroom, we have a room with the toilet and sink and a large pink-rimmed circular opening.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design washroom
Yoshiro Makino

Beyond that, we have the bedrooms, and an enormous yellow door—a playful detail that the architects say balances out all the primary colors of the project, creating a kind of inhabitable, yet sculptural "abstract artwork."

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design yellow door
Yoshiro Makino

The bedroom behind the yellow door is cozy.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design Yoshiro MakinoHighland Park ADU by Bunch Design bedroom
Yoshiro Makino 

The bedroom on the other side of the wall has its own door to the outside. The stepped form of the ceilings helps to further transform the shape of light as moves around the home's interior, creating different effects throughout the day.

Highland Park ADU by Bunch Design bedroom
Yoshiro Makino

This beautiful ADU is but one of the several that the couple has done over the years; they recently launched BunchADU to offer not only custom-designed ADU solutions but also some 'off-the-shelf' options. As the architects explain on ArchDaily, the ADU is particularly relevant to the housing shortage in Los Angeles, which prompted California to pass a state law in 2017 to facilitate the construction of ADUs on properties with single-family homes:

"Los Angeles is pretty built up; new construction is often only in the hills where a ton of money goes into the foundation. The ADU is a wonderful opportunity to build tiny and amazing little spaces in the mostly flat backyards spread across the city. [..]
It is so much easier to ask the government or a large corporation to buy land in the middle of nowhere and develop 10,000 units. But the ADU is small, precise, and asks a population to rethink their city, person by person, property by property. The ADU is very entrepreneurial. It is so wonderfully grassroots and American. The ADU empowers the homeowner, because it allows you to reinvest into one of your greatest assets, your home. And that does not just mean real estate value or the rental potential a new address can provide. It also means flexibility to allow for multi-generational living, caring for family nearby, a place for someone in need. "

To see more, visit Bunch Design, BunchADU, and their Instagram.