Mork-Ulnes Architects built the Crest guesthouse from a repurposed foundation of a 1950s garage. The new accessory dwelling unit (ADU), nestled on a steep hillside property in Marin Country, California, is compact and small measuring 400 square feet. But feels light and airy thanks to its clever architectural arrangement.

It has a sharply angled roofline that mirrors the slope of the site to allow light to penetrate the high clerestory window placed above the cabinetry wall. Then a clever flip in the roof opening gives way to a punched window in the loft, offering picturesque views of the surrounding forest. Meanwhile, large expansive sliding doors also invite natural light throughout the house.

Given the wooded location of the Crest guesthouse, wildfires is definitely a big concern. To deal with this issue, the exterior cladding and roofing has been finished in a fire-resistant cement board and metal had to be used for the doors and windows. Likewise, due to the dangerous steep hillside, a front deck was added to also serve as usable exterior space. 

As to the layout, the home has a flexible arrangement wherein every square meter was maximized. This means giving each space its function sans sacrificing other structural concerns like space and light. Mork-Ulnes called this approach as a “Swiss-army knife functionality”. 

The approach calls for the use of a rolling kitchen, a murphy bed, and a ladder that tucks into a wall gives access to the loft area. Meanwhile, the Crest guesthouse has a bathroom split into two smaller rooms (a toilet/sink and a green tiled shower room with a glass door overlooking the wooded hillside).

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Images courtesy of Bruce Damonte/ Mork-Ulnes Architects