THIS MIGHTY LITTLE DADU has saved the day, in so many ways.

Before it existed — before its existence even was conceived — Will and Yuki French, along with their two children (son Alex, now 13, and 11-year-old daughter Erika) and two critters (dog Jax and Tesla the cat), were contending with seriously confined quarters in their century-old Craftsman bungalow in Ravenna. The kids were sharing a room (“Two-thirds of it was pink,” says Yuki), and Yuki’s business — she sells midcentury-modern furniture on Etsy — was booming right out of its basement storage area. “I started to occupy the living room. When you opened the front door, it was like a warehouse,” she says.

Stuck in a space SOS situation, they figured there was nowhere to go but up. They considered turning the attic into a bedroom or two. They considered raising the roof and adding another floor.

Every option seemed too complicated, too disruptive, too not quite right.

“We would have had to move out,” says Will. “It looked kind of dire.”

To the rescue came Living Shelter Architects, along with Mighty House Construction and Entero Design, with a welcome burst of extra-spirited creativity and one especially inspired out-of-the-bungalow idea.


“We had a roundtable,” says Living Shelter project designer Roy Stark McGarrah. “There was whiskey involved. We started talking: ‘Is there any other option?’ We started thinking DADU — and how it wouldn’t disrupt Will and Yuki’s life in the main house, and it would get them a lot more space.”

It made sense: The Frenches’ lot was just big enough to accommodate a detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU). The backyard already had great views. A DADU could be used for storage, and for sleepovers, and for visitors, and someday even bonus rental income.

It also could make history: While the official one-year-of-occupancy results won’t come out until 2020, the Frenches’ sleek and much-needed new backyard cottage is designed to be one of the first carbon-neutral DADUs in the country, says Living Shelter founder and principal architect Terry Phelan. “From the foundation, insulation and waterproofing to the floors, paints and roof, nearly everything in this DADU was chosen because of its low environmental impact and high performance.”

“We made sustainable choices as we went,” says McGarrah. “We used sheep’s wool for insulation, with additional insulation on the outside of walls. LEDs. Low- or zero-VOC paint. A low-flush toilet. Infrared heating panels powered by electricity; they’re efficient, improve indoor air quality and save square footage.”

The 620-square-foot DADU — connected to the Frenches’ main home by a new deck (with a new hot tub!) — is a mini-marvel of energy- and space-saving ingenuity, including its creative siting. “By going partially below grade, the square footage on this level wasn’t counted,” Phelan says of the exposed lower level, with a guest bedroom/workshop and bathroom. “It’s considered a daylight basement. That expands the visual space.”

On the main level, a bright, open living area with a kitchenette opens to the south and to the west. “Having daylight on multiple sides makes it feel so much bigger,” says Phelan. “The center window opens, for really good cross-ventilation.”


And behind the kitchenette, right over the stairs leading down to the daylight basement, is an even brighter surprise: a custom foldaway staircase to the upper-level light-shelf/loft space — and a luxuriously lofty rooftop deck with gigantic views of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington.

“When I was looking at getting extra space, with the shape of this roof, I thought: ‘How do I get up here?’ ” says McGarrah. “I know you could get up to an attic with pull-down stairs that fold. How can we improve that? I started folding cardboard and building models. We saved square footage by overlapping the stairs.”

That awesome roof shape, by the way, maybe didn’t save the entire day, or kilowatt after kilowatt of energy, like the DADU itself. But it sure did save Will’s noggin.

“We had designed this to be a traditional gable with a peak,” says McGarrah. “Once it was framed, Will came up here, and his head was boxed in. The contractor said, ‘What if we pull the roof back and frame it wide?’ ”

Says a grateful Will, who is 6 feet 4: “My head has not been shaped into a cone.”