With the rising cost of real estate, particularly in some of the more sought-after Washington, DC neighborhoods, it is no surprise that the city is seeing a rise in the development of Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs). This guest house, constructed along an alley in the Palisades neighborhood was designed as a space of quiet retreat for the client’s mother. Zoning regulations and an awkwardly shaped site provided both a challenge and an opportunity for this small yet extremely efficient structure.

The small home replaces an existing single car garage at the rear of a single-family home located just above the Potomac River. The house contains a bedroom with full bathroom and closet as well as an open living area with a wood burning fireplace, a space for dining and a large kitchenette.

The house is wrapped in vertical cedar siding which helps to reinforce the appearance of a geometric volume floating above the ground plane. The volume is broken by the vertical fireplace and further carved away to make room for a small deck and large windows opening to the living space. The exterior siding is pulled into the interior through the windows making the living room feel even larger and more expansive than it actually is. The connection between inside and outside is punctuated further with the addition of three large skylights.

The geometric reading of the structure provides the home with a sense of autonomy yet allows it to blend seamlessly into the context of the existing home and adjacent buildings in the alley. The wrapping exterior intentionally shields the home from the alley for privacy but opens the living area toward the existing house, creating a courtyard condition between the two structures.