Behind the Project: Garden Terrace ADU

Tucked into less than 325 square feet, this central Santa Cruz garage conversion strategically houses all the living amenities of a much larger space.

The full kitchen, separate living area, and modern bathroom will be used by the client's family, allowing multiple generations to live together on the same property. Internal soundwalls create a space of quiet respite, and carefully placed windows provide privacy from the street while taking advantage of hillside garden views.

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Project Details

Size: 322 sq ft

ADU Type: Garage Conversion

Features: A functional, multi-faceted space with a well-sized kitchen, full bathroom, and separate zones for sleeping, relaxing, and dining.

Notable systems, materials, and finishes:

Lunos E2 HRV (heat recovery ventilation) system; bamboo plank flooring (a rapidly renewable material); 24” Whirlpool appliances; low-VOC paint; Roxul mineral wool insulation.

Workbench role: Architectural Design and Construction

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Client Needs and Design Considerations

By converting their garage into an ADU, the client (a local Santa Cruz family) wanted to create a space for an extended family member to reside which offered privacy, space to have grandchildren visit, and all the functional amenities of a larger home. Key criteria were a fully functional kitchen and full bath.


Separated from the main house by a storage/laundry area and set with views of mature street trees, the finished space feels private, quiet, and open to nature.

Full functionality

In the words of project designer Siena, “Smaller appliances make sense in smaller spaces”. The decision to use 24” appliances made the space more functional and allowed for plenty of counter workspace and cabinet storage- two things often missing from smaller homes. All standard-sized single basin sink contributes to the kitchen’s functionality.

Noise remediation

With a location on a busy street corner, the noise level inside the unit was a key design consideration. In the finished build, all the walls are soundwalls, and the privacy separation between primary residence and ADU also offers a buffer from the daily household noise of the family. The original garage was partially built into the hillside, so the existing structure had significant retaining walls on two sides, which resulted in thick external sound walls, and the additional design detail of extra-deep windowsills (perfect for growing herbs, storing books, or displaying decorative items).

Favorite features of the final build

Siena (project designer) was impressed and happy with all the natural light in the completed space. As a certified Passive House designer, she was excited to bring her expertise to this project and integrate a Lunos Whole House fan into the ADU (an easy to easy to install system that continuously recirculates air and offers more comfort).

Ali (project manager), found working with the engaged, decisive owner to be the best part of this project. On the construction side, the easy installation of the bamboo flooring and cabinets was of particular note.

Project successes

Working together

According to Siena, after working on this project with Ali, she became more conscious of the material and finish decisions she made during design. Outside of design, working together with Ali to set collaborative systems and communications processes between architect, construction project manager, and owner helped keep the project moving and all parties informed throughout.

Working with the client

For Ali, a big win in this project was what she deemed “the client factor”. As a key member of the team, the client actively engaged in the process, had trust in Ali and Siena, and made decisions quickly as needed.

The teamwork resulted in a build that has all the intended functionality and aesthetic of the approved design, while thoughtfully incorporating on-site changes during the duration of the project.

In the owner’s words

“The best part of Workbench is their customer service.  Great communication.  They were very patient with us while defining an ADU project that fit our needs and our budget.  After working out a contract their billing process made it easy to keep track of the work that was completed and remaining.  There were problems along the way, but Workbench helped to provide choices to solve them.  Their design team is very good with small spaces and details, and we love the end result.  Thank you Workbench.  I am glad you are part of the Santa Cruz community.”

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Workbench is an architecture and general contracting firm based in Santa Cruz, CA and serving Monterey County, Santa Cruz County, Los Gatos, and the greater Bay Area. Follow along with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Houzz.

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