How Lessons Learned from Accessory Dwelling Unit Design can Help Design Your Perfect Custom Home

At Propel Studio we’ve designed many Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) over the past 5 years. We also design larger custom homes, and recently we started thinking about how the two project types (ADU’s and custom homes) are similar. How do we apply the lessons we learn and processes we use to design Accessory Dwelling Units when we’re designing larger custom homes?

It all starts with our ultimate goal to work with our clients to create a project that is uniquely, creatively, affordably and functionally ‘theirs.’

Much of our ADU design process revolves around reducing and maximizing. That may sound like an oxymoron, but there’s sound reasoning behind it. Because they’re small (under 800 square feet), designing Accessory Dwelling Units forces us to help our clients focus intently on the way they live; the things that are necessary to their comfort and lifestyle. We reduce rooms, spaces and relationships down to functional necessities.

At the same time, we look for creative ways to maximize space. We look for ways to ‘expand’ space physically and visually. The way we define ‘rooms’ has a big impact on the comfort and functionality of an ADU. The way we extend and combine interior and exterior spaces changes how our clients feel in their tiny houses.

Not surprisingly, the same is true in a larger, custom home. The beauty of the experience and process we take from ADU design and apply to custom home design, is what makes your home uniquely and creatively ‘yours.’

As we listen to what’s important to you and learn about how your home needs to respond to your lifestyle, we apply many of those ADU lessons.

The way you live in your house, the way your guests experience your home, the way kids function versus the way adults function in your home all affect how we combine, define and separate spaces and rooms. The way you entertain helps define how your house is placed on your land and how indoor and outdoor spaces work together.

We like to think of it as choreography; movement and experience, light and darkness, sound and silence interact together to form your perfect living space. That’s what we’re after.


Whether you need an Accessory Dwelling Unit or a larger, custom home, we want to help you create your perfect living space.

If you’ve been yearning for your perfect living space, give us a call. Big or small, we’d love to help you create that space.