Ten Ideas for Specialty ADUs

ADUs don't have to be limited to rental units! Here are ten ideas for specialty ADUs that range from art studios to wine cellars to help you think bigger.

Last updated 
March 31, 2023
Ten Ideas for Specialty ADUs

Ten Ideas for Specialty ADUs

Photo by John Yu


Regardless of its intended use, an ADU is always a great investment. They increase property and resale value, offer greater flexibility, and are one of the best ways to invest in your property.

In terms of livability, accessory dwelling units are very comfortable to live in and easy to maintain. Many homeowners choose to build an ADU on their property to use as a rental unit. However, ADUs have so many other possibilities!

While ADUs have to meet the standards of residential use, it’s not a requirement that an ADU be anyone’s permanent residence. In the following blog post, we’ll explore some alternate accessory dwelling unit uses and why you might want to consider them.

Alternate uses for ADUs

1. Home office

ADUs make perfect home offices, as they’re self contained. With space from family and a little kitchen and bathroom, you can focus on your work without distractions.

Having a separate space as your home office provides a valuable distinction between home and work, as these lines can sometimes be blurred when you work from home.

Another benefit of clearly delineating home and work space: it’s easy to rent the ADU to your business and know exactly what square footage to deduct from your taxes as a home office expense. With a totally separate space fully dedicated to work, you can claim it on your taxes without fear of being audited.

2. Age-in-place

ADUs are called “granny flats” or “in-law units” for a reason—they make ideal living situations for seniors who wish to age-in-place. A backyard ADU allows you to keep an eye on your beloved aging relatives while maintaining privacy and space for both parties. Otto has extensive experience designing age-in-place units with special considerations for seniors’ health and safety.

Alternatively, ADUs can be a great option for live-in caretakers or au pairs.

To learn more, read our blog post on the benefits of ADUs for aging in place.

3. Hobby hut

Whatever you love to do, you can do it in an ADU! Design your custom accessory unit as a yoga space, recording studio, craft room, art studio—the possibilities are endless.

Why not teach your craft from your ADU, whether it’s painting, pottery, or piano?

If your area of interest lies in collecting rather than creating, you can use your ADU to display your prized collection of mint-condition action figures or vintage Les Pauls (without worrying about pets or curious kids playing with them).

4. Home theater

Lots of cinephiles love the idea of a home theater. Why not take it a step further create a home theater ADU with a big screen, surround sound, a bathroom, and a kitchenette—equipped with a popcorn machine, of course!

5. Teen hangout

Accessory dwelling units can provide teenagers privacy, autonomy, and a space of their own. Some parents like to charge their teenage or young adult children a modest amount each month for “rent,” which can be saved and returned to the child to put towards a downpayment on a house or other expenses.

ADUs make excellent lodging options for adult children as well, whether on a permanent or short-term basis. You can use your casita as a guest house or as a craft/hobby space when your kids aren’t visiting (see idea #3).

6. Poolhouse

Many people think that having a backyard pool makes their property ineligible for an ADU, but that’s not categorically true. Accessory dwelling unit and pools go hand-in-hand, provided there’s enough space to account for setbacks and necessary safety precautions.

A poolside ADU is the perfect place to take a quick shower before or after a dip, change clothes, fix yourself a snack, and house overnight guests. And it serves as an ideal hosting space for backyard pool parties!

Take a virtual tour of one of our lovely poolside ADUs.

7. Guest house

When you turn your accessory dwelling unit into a guest house, visiting friends and relatives always have a comfortable and private place to stay. It’s a particularly compelling option if you have kids, as it allows everyone a little more space and quiet.

8. Meditation space

Imagine a perfectly serene backyard meditation studio, with plenty of natural light and a trickling fountain.

Design your ADU as a dedicated space to do yoga, meditate, pray—whatever you need to retreat from the stresses of everyday life and fill your cup.

9. Art gallery

If you’re an appreciator and collector of art, consider creating an ADU art gallery!

Include custom gallery lighting to show off your collection of paintings, photographs, sculptures, or even installations. You can use your ADU to display art you’ve created or collected, and a kitchen bar is perfect for serving wine and cheese to visiting art admirers.

10. Wine cellar and tasting room

Is this a little extra? Maybe! But if you have the space, the money, and the love of vino, then why not (or should we say, wine not)?

Design your ADU with a temperature-controlled space to store your bottles and a tasting room to share your passion with friends. Include a murphy bed or pull-out sofa in case anyone overindulges.


As you can see, ADUs are incredibly versatile. When it comes to specialty units, designing a space with a specific use allows you to customize the unit for its intended purpose.

We’re happy to work with your needs and budget to create the perfect ADU for you, your needs, and your property. Contact Otto for a free consultation.

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