D a n i e l   R u a r k ,   A r c h i t e c t

Custom Residential Architecture

Garage with Cottage over

Walnut Creek, California

Client purchased a 3/4 acre lot at the end of a cul-de-sac which bordered open space.  The lot contained a small single-story residence only.  This residence was standing on a larger parcel at an earlier point in time, yet had been subdivided into smaller lots for development.  Curiously, its original garage now stood on the adjoining neighbors property (which had been developed more recently with a new 2-story residence).

The client desired to develop a 2-car garage at the rear yard behind his existing house.  It would be cut into a sloping area of the site and accessed by a new driveway paralleling the property line.  Three sides of the garage would form a retaining wall, essentially burying the garage into the hillside.  Resting upon the garage, the client desired to build a 610 sqft. cottage.  The cottage would have access to grade on the uphill side.  On the opposite elevation, a balcony projected out above the garage entry.

The cottage was to have a “great room” character—an open volume of space filled with natural daylighting from gable windows on each of the four sides of the structure.  The roof was a series of folding planes with wood timber structure and decking exposed to the cottage interior below.  A small wet bar/kitchenette area was placed in one corner of the cottage, screened from the surrounding space by a raised shelf from the countertop.  In the opposite corner was a full private bath.  A sleeping loft was suspended from the roof rafters along the west side of the cottage, accessed by a steep “ships” ladder.

Wood board and batten siding covered the cottage exterior.  It was stained a subtle olive earthtone color.  A slim (4-inch height) integrally colored concrete block (tan or brick red) served as the garage structure.  Although the County officials concluded that the cottage/garage would be an attractive accessory structure, blending carefully into the surroundings and not standing out, the adjacent neighbor felt more strongly otherwise.  They were able to galvanize support that the cottage would look over into the property and the windows of their private spaces.  As well, when illuminated at night, the adjacent neighbor complained that the cottage would cast light into their bedrooms.  No matter studies and proposed landscaping to the contrary, the neighbors were able to scuttle the project.