The Incognito Cottage Court

The Incognito Cottage Court

Building a cottage court might be easier than you think, with the right house plans and a clever siting strategy.

I was looking through our catalog yesterday, and two designs caught my eye. They seem meant for each other, though they were designed by different firms — Artifex Cottages and Historic Shed.
Front elevation drawings of Loganberry Court and Stuart Duplex, side by side.
Curiosity got the better of me, so I started sketching to see how these designs would look in a single project, with one of the designs as the primary house and the other as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). I chose an imaginary lot that's 50' wide, 130' deep and alley loaded. Then I assumed some common setback dimensions for traditional neighborhoods and got to work.
Sketch of imaginary site plan with Loganberry Cottage in front and Stuart Duplex in back.
The Stuart Duplex is 48' wide but only 28' deep, so I turned it ninety degrees to leave room for side setbacks of ten feet. On a hunch, I then "acquired" an adjacent lot and mirrored the placement of the buildings. (Don't you love how easy this is in imaginary space?)
My hunch paid off. Each of these parcels holds just three homes and can be permitted as three units — or even two, in some scenarios. And yet when you place them together in mirrored fashion, you get a cottage court — a congenial living arrangement that can be hard to find in modern life.
This siting strategy needs interior circulation that will respect the side setbacks, but there are options for addressing that. With that caveat, the strategy offers some advantages that are hard to ignore:
  • Zoning - Three units can be built as of right in some situations where cottage courts cannot.
  • Financing and Construction Cost - Three-unit projects come with accessible financing options and simpler construction requirements than six-unit projects. (More on that later in this post.)
  • Productivity - You can achieve land productivity of twenty units per acre with a cottage offering that looks like a pair of single-family homes dancing in rhythm with the other homes on the block.
  • Camouflage - It may be a cottage court, but you'd never know it by merely looking down the street.

Drawing of two side by side Loganberry Court facades in craftsman style surrounded by trees.

Sounds promising, right? To test the idea, I sent a sketch to R. John Anderson, a member of the Artifex team that designed the Loganberry Series. He replied with a sketch of his own — a street-loaded version that resolves the question of internal circulation.

Drawing by R John Anderson of the Loganberry Court and Stuart Duplex arranged in a site plan with street access.John wrote, "With no alley, this can still work if the lot is 150' deep using a shared driveway and cross easements. The individual parcels each have three units, so they can be financed with a standard 30-year agency mortgage for one to four dwelling units. The buildings are all IRC buildings, so no fire sprinklers [in most places]."

He also noted that this siting strategy could be even more attractive on a corner lot, since the parking could be accessed from the side street, freeing the site from the necessity of a driveway. All that would be needed would be some minor modifications to the house plans to make them a little more formal on the sides that face the side street.

My takeaways from this exercise?

  1. The Loganberry Court and the Stuart Duplex would, indeed, make a great pair in real life.
  2. You don't need to be a major developer with lots of land to build a charming cottage court. You can do it with a pair of 50'-wide lots and the right house plans.

You can license house plans for the Loganberry Court and the Stuart Duplex from Liberty House Plans. We'll be glad to help make your cottage court real.

Warm regards,

Jennifer Krouse, Founder and CEO

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