PerfectVue Pleated-Cellular Shades for Backyard Cottages
Backyard cottages or accessory dwelling units (ADU’s) are preserving the face of the American residential landscape. Initially thought of as income properties in our own backyards, these cottages, also referred to as granny cottages or mother-in-law cottages, seem to be sprouting all over the Pacific Northwest. Portland, Miami, Berkeley, Denver and Burlington, VT, join Seattle, considered a pioneer of the movement, in the backyard cottage club. Cities across the nation have started updating zoning rules to allow for dwellings where the old swing set used to stand.
Karen Chapple, a city planning professor at the University of California, Berkeley, joined the bandwagon, utterly fascinated by the burgeoning trend, in building her own backyard cottage as a class project, to check the feasibility of backyard cottages as affordable housing options in the Bay Area. Her 420-sq. ft. cottage had an instant positive effect on her rental income. And on her neighbors. “If you see one go up in your neighbor’s yard, people want one,” Chapple says. “It spurred about a dozen of these already. The more of these that actually get built, the more people will get inspired,” although, at the cost of about $100 per square foot, financing may be the largest hurdle. Chapple’s cottage cost $100,000.
In addition to the surprising number of benefits to communities, homeowners, and renters, Backyard Cottages address other social issues, particularly those relating to housing options for the growing elderly population, though much of the attention it garners revolves around their potential for increasing affordable housing opportunities. Backyard cottages could add one-third more homes to San Francisco. Adding tiny, freestanding structures behind single-family homes across the city would increase density while preserving neighborhood character, proponents say. This would go a long way toward satisfying the city’s official policy of “infill development,” putting more housing on existing underutilized land. But first, the city would have to tweak existing building regulations tailored to mid-20th-century lifestyles. With a few small tweaks to zoning and building codes, the city could boost its housing stock by as much as one-third and offer additional homes and create more affordable options.
The trend is catching on, with small apartments popping up in urban backyards across North America. Like attached “granny flats” within existing buildings, backyard cottages are smaller dwellings, tucked away off the street — typically 200 to 800 square feet — with little aesthetic impact.
All this excitement caught my attention through the family crisis we faced recently. Our teenaged daughter got pregnant not too long ago, and of course, there was no other option than for her to have the baby – we are avid pro-lifers, and there was no question in our minds that she must have this child, that if she was responsible enough to indulge in sexual activity, then she had to be responsible enough to deal with the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy. And some things never change – the boy, the father of the child refused to be responsible for this little event that had long-lasting consequences for our daughter. For now at least, she’s had to give up her dreams of becoming a doctor, as too ashamed to face her peers and deal with the constant questions and curiosity, she carried her little one to term and had her, a beautiful little angel. But life was tough, the constant attention required by a newborn taking its toll on the girl who was completely unprepared for it. The ongoing counselling and hand holding she required was beginning to cause upheaval, especially as our younger child, Brad, seemed to be embarrassed by it all, and it was playing havoc with his social life as well.
A year has gone by, and Brad, now 18 and giving us a hard time, needed to move out. The thing is, rentals aren’t exactly cheap, and even though he could share with someone else, being independent while keeping up with a hectic study and football schedule was not going to be possible. We have an old shed of about 250 sq. ft., and if it were overhauled and refurbished, Brad could move into it and be responsible for himself and have his friends over without having to come to the main house. Besides, we wouldn’t have the thumping music to deal with at all hours, especially annoying as the infant found it disturbing!
And it worked out quite well. The place, wooden, was outfitted with large expanses of glass (awning windows) to make it look airy and larger than it was. Steps led into his tiny living space that had an asymmetrical rug over which he had a few bean bags around a circular center table that looked like the cross section of a tree trunk – from the flea market, if you please. This adjoined the little kitchenette with a tiny breakfast counter with two metal stools. A narrow passage led to the equally small bedroom with an attached bathroom located behind the kitchenette. The microwave, blender and coffee maker, along with a new, compact, energy star rated refrigerator I gave him would take care of his immediate needs as I told him he could continue to do his laundry at the main house, and eat with us. Over and above the basics we provided, he’d have to get himself a part-time job for his social needs – independence was not only about living separately, after all.
We had put in central heating, as it could get frigid here in Philly. And the windows were all operable, and though they served the purpose of livening up the little place, they needed covering. We’d recently outfitted the baby’s room with Perfect-Vue Pleated-Cellular Shades from a brand called Graber, and they’re very versatile as we got them customized to a combination of light filtering pleated shade and blackout cellular shades in one. During the day, the pleated shade could be deployed over the windows to provide a muted view but did an excellent job of keeping the room bright yet protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays. And because it combined with blackout shades, it had side tracks that kept air and light seeping past windows when you don’t want it to.
The cellular panel of the shade ensured that the window was kept insulated with a layer of trapped air, that keeps a room toasty in winter, and cool in summer, reducing energy consumption by a good 30 to 40%. And it blocked the pervasive street lights at night, blocking out jarring noises as well, making your room a friendly cocoon! And the panels are separated with a midrail, allowing the independent deployment of either option depending on the need of the moment – the reason it’s called ‘PerfectVue’!
The little outdoor shed got a beautiful makeover that services the boy’s requirement perfectly, costing us barely anything to upkeep, the PerfectVue shades aiding and abetting energy efficiency. Here’s to independence!