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Chandler ADU St Helena

Once a garage and washroom (originally built in the 1950's), Maddie and Ryan Chandler turned the 450sf structure into their home after an extensive remodel. Technically an Accessory Dwelling Unit, this small space was designed with a home office, kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping loft. 


See below for the full story...


- Structural: Williams Associates Engineering 

- Contractor: Owner builder 

- Landscape Architect: ChandlerWorkshop

- Photos: Adam Rouse

-Cabinetry: Spring Mt. Case Co.

Attention to detail and high craftsmanship was of utmost importance. And of course the couple focused on making this an efficient and functional space! Because 9 months after moving in, they had their first child. Once the duo were expecting their second child, they designed and built their 10’x12’ office structure on the property in order to make more room in their house.


The angled bathroom wall allows for the loft space to feel more open, while providing the perfect angle for a ladder to nest against. The ladder is moveable for easy access to the steel shelves as well as the hidden storage above the kitchen (the whole face of the wall rolls out along concealed rollers inside the steel collar ties).

The angled wall (in plan and section) propagates to all other aspects of the build such as the entry fin, island, landscape terrace, office building and angled steel wall in the front yard (that separates the main dwelling and ADU’s property)


Part of the architectural concept was to be experimental; powder-coated metal countertops, marine grade finish on the shower plywood and stainless steel control joints in the concrete floor.

The architects also wanted to incorporate unique details throughout the home in a variety of scales.

-Each piece of plywood is a unique shape (each templated and cut by Ryan), panel mounting clips allow for concealed fasteners and easy removal

-Retractable blinds built into the window headers, hide above the steel window fins.

-Custom mix of aniline dye gives a pop of color (hoping to be modern but not stark)

-Laser-cut flush electrical plug covers

-Standard Milgard fiberglass windows utilize a unique metal window fin, which adds depth and thickness to the walls.


The rain screen at the gable end walls are reclaimed vineyard stakes sourced from Ryan’s childhood friend's vineyard. These wood stakes are a material that is particularly prevalent in Napa County, and also one that cannot be composted or recycled due to their pressure treatment.


Being a small house, it naturally advocates for more outdoor time while the large pivot entry door reinforces the indoor/outdoor living. Having the office on property encourages work-life balance and spending time with the kids, with great views out to their yard.

While designing and building the landscape, Maddie and Ryan wanted to incorporate fun kid-friendly features, such as the built-in sandbox for kids and a cantilevered trellis that maximizes usable area and provides a hanging place for swings.


Another important aspect of the design-build was focusing on sustainability:

-Both rigid and spray insulation used for maximum efficiency.

-Metal façade is also a rainscreen layer and allows for thermal break between siding and sheathing

-Reclaimed planter boxes turned into a fountain (from Ryan's late grandfather Jack Chandler, who was a renowned landscape architect)

-Reclaimed metal throughout landscape (grate from local gravel yard used as a floating walkway, angled steel picket wall, sculpture made by grandfather was cut and repurposed as a gate) 

-Local Syar Stone topdressing in the planted areas and under the raised walkway

-Granite cobbles reduce lawn area and included polymer jelly crystals to conserve water

-Edible landscape (kiwi, blueberries, herb garden, peach, apple, nectarine and plum trees, pineapple and strawberry guava)

-Where non-edible landscape is used, drought tolerant and local plants were planted. Such as deer grass and local manzanita trees.

-Old water tank cut at angle; half for a firepit and half for the wood storage

-Office: reclaimed corrugated metal siding from Ryan's grandfather, reused casework that was previously in the ADU's home office

-Extension of the internal gutter serves as a sliding gate track to their property as well as water feature spilling into their fish pond

Ryan did the construction and fabrication, not only for cost-saving measures, but also for the level of quality control the project required. Doing all the construction and landscape work themselves, this has certainly been a labor of love.

Throughout the build, they were able to work with many of their friends; Cody Collins of Spring Mountain Case Co (cabinets), Dave and Anthony Rantz of BEI (excavation equipment), Joe Pridmore of Pridmore and Co (survey), and Ryan's father, Josh Chandler of JAC Designs and Josh Chandler Construction (for landscape and construction insight and experience).

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