Small Wonder

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Bunch Design creates a tiny house that feels tremendous. Photographs by Yoshihiro Makino.

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to dream of transforming their underused garages into home offices or guest rooms, adding a bathroom and a kitchen. These “granny flats,” formally known as Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), have come into sharp focus as one possible solution to the housing crisis. New policies, put into place in the last few years, are designed to make the process of creating these small residences simpler, adding rental units to areas in which there is resistance to building large apartment buildings.

Bunch Design is one firm that’s intrigued by these small spaces. “The new ordinance is a great opportunity for us,” says Hisako Ichiki. “We have a history of designing small homes since we started our practice,” says her partner Bo Sundius. “We typically start from the inside out, focusing on the spatial volume and then designing a space that feels expansive,” adds Ichiki, “Light, form, ceilings, a sense of flexibility, adaptation and art infuses all of our projects.” The duo have even created a short graphic manifesto calling for a New California Case Study Program centered around the potential of ADUs and small space living.

To test out their ideas, they created this property in their rear of their own home. Because the 850 square foot space sits near the property line, the settled on clerestory windows to provide privacy and maximize light. A high vaulted and stepped ceiling run the length of the house, making the house feel grand.

Putting the living room and kitchen towards the rear of the space allowed Ichiki and Sundius create an urban courtyard, which also magnifies the spacious feeling as does the decision to stop the drywall a few feet below the ceiling, leaving the studs exposed. “The effect is one of both privacy and visual openness,” says Sundius, “another space expanding technique.” A bathroom with a skylight over the tub maximizes the slender space; a circle window over the toilet room, painted a vibrant shade of red diffuses the light from another skylight, cycling through a spectrum of shades of pink as the sun moves across the sky. “That’s another strategy to create interest in a small space,” add Sundius. Another tactic: a fifteen foot yellow door that leads to one of the two bedrooms. “It transforms the house,” says Ichiki, “The excitement of seeing the stepped top of the door marry with the stepped ceiling when the door closes is awesome!”

“The reaction to the space has been terrific,” Ichiki beams, “With no drywall separating the top part of the rooms, the tenants need to really like one another, but this has not been a problem! Instead the response has been a feeling of freedom in a pretty small space and a delight in the changing nature of the spaces.”

“It has also been interesting that the tenants who seek out these spaces are creative professionals who work from home and spend more time than most in these tiny wonderful spaces. And there are a lot of creative professionals in LA looking to live in spaces that reflect their values,” says Ichiki. While this dwelling would be compelling as a stand-alone space here, as with fashion, accessories only add to the main home’s appeal.

Los Angelenos may see this home in person during the Los Angeles Design Festival‘sADU Home Tour which also includes another Bunch Design ADU. For more information, click here.