Putting my ADU money where my ADU mouth is

I’ve been talking about designing and building a Saint Paul ADU (accessory dwelling unit) for a couple of years now. My wife and I recently sold our contemporary home and bought a turn of the century colonial shingle style home in the Summit University neighborhood of Saint Paul.

Built in 1901 by an architect, the home was a little a head of its time. But also has some quirky features (like a decorative leaded glass window in the back of the closet…?) It also has a garage that was meant to hold either a horse or a Model T.

View of garage entrance off of alley
Existing garage from alley

The alley abuts the homes and expansive carriage houses of Summit Avenue. This makes it an ideal location for a new garage with living space. However, our new home is also located within the boundaries of the HPC district.

What is the HPC?

The Heritage Preservation Commission reviews plans for remodels and new home builds within the Historic Hill Heritage Preservation District. They also review porches, siding, window replacement and new fences.

Commission members are tasked with the oversight of the community’s design integrity. When it comes to making changes to properties in the Historic Hill area this group holds sway and is very influential with Saint Paul’s decision-making staff.

What the HPC does and why it’s needed

I believe the HPC holds the community’s best interest at heart. Good design benefits the neighborhood and city. Too many times we’ve seen “remuddles,” poorly constructed additions,  the teardown of an historically signifiant building or home and new structures that do not fit in with the scale and proportion of the existing homes. The commission does not have a say as to what we do with the interior of our homes, only the outside of the structure.

I followed the guidelines set forth by the commission and submitted my exterior ADU sketches. After a couple of minor changes, George Gause, Heritage Preservation Supervisor,  approved my plan as shown above.

My St. Paul ADU Plans

I’ve been drawing different plans for the space. I finally came up with a design that would have wide enough garage doors that my wife won’t knock the rear view mirrors off of the car anymore.  It will have a main level entrance for the one-bedroom, 800-square foot apartment with full kitchen and plenty of storage. (It won’t have the rooftop terrace that my wife wants but I gave that to her on our last house.)

How to save money on ADU kitchens and bathrooms

Most people think that new or remodeled bathrooms and kitchens have to cost boatloads of money. They certainly can. But they don’t have to because there are viable design and materials options that won’t break the bank. IKEA makes good quality cabinets for both kitchen and bath. And if you’re handy designing and installing them then these products can save you thousands.

Bathrooms and kitchens can also be done cost effectively by installing your own tile. Just remember to use quality fixtures  such as Grohe or Kohler. Delta is a standard American product that, while not cutting edge design-wise, provides a good quality product at an affordable price.

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