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Design Considerations For Garden Suites

During the design phase of your suite project, there are some important considerations that you should take into account in order to maximize your square footage. This article provides some tips and ideas for small space design for garden suites.

Typically, garden suites range in size from 400 to 900 square feet. That being said, under Edmonton’s newest regulations, you are now permitted to have a tiny home garden suite (as long as it is on a permanent foundation and meets building code requirements), and you can have a suite up to 1,399 square feet (as long as you meet coverage requirements). You may also choose to have a basement in your garden suite, which doesn’t count towards your square footage. So, there’s a lot of variability in suite size!

Regardless of the size of your suite, here are some important considerations that should be addressed early in your suite journey:

1. What is your purpose?

Think long and hard about why you are building a garden suite. Are you building purely for rental purposes? Are you planning on downsizing and ageing in the suite? What about upsizing from your 850 square foot bungalow to fit your growing family? Maybe you’re building for a family member who has mobility challenges? The “why” behind your garden suite will dictate a number of important design considerations. For example, if you’re building for ageing parents, you may choose to build a fully accessible, single storey suite, whereas if you’re building a rental suite, you may want multiple bedrooms spread over two stories.

2. Lot constraints/opportunities?

You’ll want to consider lot constraints/opportunities at two scales:

  1. Constraints/opportunities presented on your lot

  2. Constraints/opportunities presented around your lot

Constraints on your lot may include mature trees, power lines, or challenges like a steep grade. You’ll also want to consider view lines – are there views you want to protect with the suite? Maybe there are views you want to avoid? Finally, the size and width of your lot can act as a constraint or opportunity, depending on what you want to achieve with your suite. For example, if you have a large pie-shaped lot, you may have enough room to retain your existing garage and build a suite beside it.

Looking at the broader context, you’ll need to think about your proximity to transit and amenities. If you’re steps away from an LRT stop and in a parking reduction zone, you may not need to provide additional parking for the suite, which could mean more living space.

3. Orientation?

Thinking about where to situate your suite is critical. How do you want it to interact with the sun? How will the suite affect shadowing? Maybe you’re planning on eventually subdividing your property into two narrow lots, so you want to push the suite as far as possible to one side of the lot?

4. Interior vs exterior stairs?