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This Backyard Design Trend Is Booming During COVID

Design Trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly everything about society, from the way people conduct work, to how they consume goods, and socialize. Coronavirus has also changed home design, helping spur a glut of home renovation projects. One particular home renovation trend that has risen to prominence during the pandemic Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs. An ADU is a small, stand-alone residential unit on the same lot as single-family home, typically in the backyard.

Those fortunate enough to be able to work from home during the pandemic have sought out office space in living rooms, dining rooms, and other home nooks and crannies converting them into makeshift work spaces. With families and small pods of people hunkered down for months on end spending more time than ever within the confines of their four walls some have come to realize they need and desire more living space.

While ADUs, tiny homes and granny flats can be found nationwide, the state of California in 2020 enacted legislation to encourage the building of such tiny structures. This legislation combined with the need for more space as a result of the pandemic is spurring an increase in interest. “During the pandemic we have only seen the need for ADU’s increase. We have worked on all kinds of ADUs,” stated Stephanie Ragle, co-founder of Los Angeles architecture firm office42 Architecture.

Whether ADUs offer homeowners additional work or study space, a backyard respite, room to house vulnerable relatives, or space for college age children who have returned home after campuses shut down, the flexibility of these spaces is key. Still, other homeowners have seen ADUs as a way to bring in desired extra income. Emily McCulloch of ADU company Cheeky Monkey Tiny House stated, “With so many people being negatively affected by the economy and job loss in the past year, many people are making extra money from renting out ADUs.” In fact, architect Ragle explains further, “We have a number of clients who are moving toward retirement and they’re moving into these units and renting out the larger, front houses to simplify, downsize and use rental income to supplement their finances.”

Whatever the reason, ADUs create a host of possibilities and allow owners the ability to play with design. Here are some popular trends design professionals have been seeing throughout the pandemic which can help make your ADU feel like home.



Go Luxe
Principal Designer Lisa Gilmore of Lisa Gilmore Design explains that because ADUs are much smaller than the typical single-family home, homeowners can really bring the wow-factor. “When it comes to design for ADU spaces, you have the luxury to really make it amazing, because it's a smaller footprint and you can invest more per square foot,” says Gilmore.


A Seamless Look With Color
ADUs are small, so how can you avoid actually feeling that squeeze? Both designer Gilmore and architect Ragle point to creative uses of color noting limited contrast and cohesive design can go a long way. The less contrast between walls, backsplashes and cabinets allows the space to feel larger and not overwhelm, notes Ragle. Gilmore further explained,“You can really go bold with color and not worry, even with dark colors! One trick is to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls, which will allow the room to have no break points and feel larger.”



Be Bold, Outside
McCulloch of ADU company Cheeky Monkey has noticed people painting their units or exterior accent walls in vibrant shades that boost happiness or frame the space with an artistic flair. Think hues like Blue Chip (DE5867), Spring Buttercup (DE5310) and Red Ink (DEA151) that can really pop, or create a cheery feel. People tend to think more outside of the box for ADUs, letting their personalities shine through. “One trend that I am loving,” stated designer Gilmore, “is a really bold wall mural or color blocking and use of shapes it’s a fun way to incorporate your color palette.”



Bring Nature Inside
Another trick to add a sense of expansion to these smaller spaces is to paint the ceiling a light blue color like Frosty Day (DE5826) or our 2021 Dunn-Edwards Color of the Year Wild Blue Yonder (DE5855) which mimics the openness of the outdoor sky, notes designer Gilmore. In addition to color, a spaciousness has been achieved through natural light explains architect Ragle. When it come to design, use windows, doors, and skylights to brighten the space and make it feel larger.

For more on colors to use in your extra spaces, check out our primer on colors that support calm and productivity. And when it comes to going with a classic white we’ve also found five light neutral non-white shades we love for your home projects, too.