Converting the basement of a single-family home to an apartment has benefits on multiple levels. As a short-term rental it can provide income to a homeowner who doesn’t always need the additional space, but may want it occasionally for visiting family or friends. As a long term rental it can offset housing costs and make a home more affordable to the owners, as well as offering an affordable dwelling to others, in typically high-value neighborhoods. (Seattle’s new ADU zoning allows either two ADUs within the house in addition to the main dwelling, or an ADU within the house and a backyard cottage outside.) An accessory dwelling can be a place for a parent or an adult child to live, while maintaining some independence.

This renovated daylight basement is located on the first floor of an eccentric custom ’70’s house, overlooking a natural and secluded wild yard of old growth cedars, big leaf maples, firs and ferns. Designed and furnished in collaboration with the owner, we partitioned off a portion of the already finished daylight basement to retain a home office, and dedicated the rest to the new accessory dwelling unit.

We added a new Ikea kitchen with an induction range bought from a friend of mine. The owner found the backsplash tiles at Second Use Building Materials. Dishwasher and refrigerator were re-used from the kitchen upstairs. In the bath we resurfaced the vanity top with long-saved and fun Abet Laminati laminate to match the upstairs bath, along with a wild red salvaged sink from Second Use. We made a nook for a compact all-in-one clothes washer and heat pump dryer, perfect for short-term stays.  In the bedroom, we added a custom platform bed that also provides code-required emergency egress. (Clever!) Two steps lead down to a sunken living room, otherwise the apartment is all on one level. With Russ Michael’s expert help we restored the house’s original integrated whole-house stereo system for the main house, with the amp and control system behind a hidden panel in the fireplace surround. I procured and set up a period-correct 70’s stereo system, complete with my own period-correct vinyl, for the AirBnB. Electrical and lighting were upgraded and brought up to current code throughout. I helped temporarily furnish the space with furniture and art. Some may recognize the bookshelf, dining table and antique chairs, and light fixture above the dining table, from my office in the Vance Building.

The original house was designed by local passive solar and green building pioneer George Reynoldson and built by his company Space Time Homes in 1978. (A local house of his built in 1974 for Nancy Wilson of Heart was recently published in Dwell Magazine, and you can see it here on Curbed.) We respectfully followed George’s lead in the transformation of the space into a welcoming place for guests. A lovely moment. after some sleuthing, was surprising the owner with a visit from George Reynoldson himself! I also found a copy of George’s out-of-print book of passive solar designs for her, autographed of course. Turns out George and I had met in the early days of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, almost 30 years ago! He hadn’t visited the house in 40 years, and was pleased to see how the owner had taken care of it. He appreciated our approach to the renovation. The project was a true labor of love.
General Contractor: Marty Josund, Bright Street Construction
Electrical: Exact Electric
Plumbing: EZWay Plumbing
House Sound System: Russ Michaels, 3dk.
New Appliances: Albert Lee
Light Fixture Restoration: Harold’s Lighting
Chair photo above the couch: Cass Redstone
Bookshelf: Mason Huffine and Michael Lentz
Dining Room Pendant Light Fixture: Salvaged by Stephan Shier.
Photos: Rob Harrison