The Piedmont Cottage, a tiny backyard cottage in Portland
The Piedmont Cottage sits in an older neighborhood of North Portland, Oregon. It is a small backyard cottage currently being used as a vacation rental unit. This cottage likely started out life as a single-car garage. Besides the overall size and proportions of the building, the large glazed opening in the narrow end is a giveaway, taking advantage of the original garage door opening.
The cottage has a footprint of 300 ft2 (27.9 m2). The interior layout is a pretty typical studio floor plan with a sleeping loft over the kitchen and bathroom at one end of the open living area. However the design has been nicely executed with details like exposed wood beams, a custom metal loft railing and ladder, and the striped bamboo floors. The kitchen is equipped with a mini fridge, cooktop and microwave oven.
In addition to the obvious benefit of recycling an old building, starting with an existing shed or garage has other potential advantages. For one thing, the location might be “grandfathered” in — Often an older garage is located closer to the property line than a new structure would be allowed. Getting permission to build may also be easier. The building authority is more likely to approve a project that does not lead to any increase in shadowing or view obstruction for the neighboring properties. And if the garage is original to a heritage house, as this one probably is, they might look favorably on a project that restores the exterior appearance.
When considering the feasibility of a garage conversion, a significant factor is whether the foundation and structure meet current building code requirements for a habitable building. The roof rafters in particular are often undersized, and wall framing close to ground level may be rotted. Then there is the issue of how to insulate the floor, which is typically a concrete slab. The easiest way would be to frame a wood floor on top of the slab, but that reduces the available interior height, eating into the headroom of any potential loft. It’s possible to break up and remove the old concrete, replacing it with a new insulated slab, but that is a much more costly option.
The Piedmont Cottage is available for vacation rentals through Airbnb.
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Photographs courtesy of Airbnb.
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