Inspiring Backyard Cottage Plans — and How You Can Add One to Your Property

Backyard cottage plans: Modern Cottage

If the term “backyard cottage plans” drums up images of a white thatched roof, picket fence, and an elderly couple living in a cute little property that’s a pebbled path away from a larger dwelling, then we’re here to tell you backyard cottage plans are way more versatile than that.

While traditionally backyard cottages were just small homes built in the back of your property, they’ve evolved.

Backyard cottage floor plans are for anyone who has the space — parents looking to teach their teenagers responsibility by moving them to a secondary dwelling on their property, people wanting to keep their elderly parents close, those looking for income by turning their backyard cottage into a rental guest house, and homeowners who want to create a studio, work space, gym, garage, or even a handy tool shed.

Heck, backyard cottage plans can even be used to create independent tiny homes nestled in nature.

What Exactly Is a Backyard Cottage?

Backyard cottage plans: wooden frame of a house

Is a backyard cottage a type of accessory dwelling unit? What laws govern backyard cottages? Can you use a backyard cottage as just a work studio? Trying to figure out the nomenclature before you build can be confusing, so let’s dive into the differences. 


Accessory dwelling units are additional structures designed for housing that sit on your property — a backyard cottage that can be lived in is considered an ADU. They may stand separate (sometimes called a detached accessory dwelling unit or DADU) or share a wall with the main structure.

The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning website stipulates that to qualify as an ADU, it must have permanent living provisions for sleeping, cooking, and eating, and include shower/toilet facilities, among other details. Requirements can differ slightly in each state.

Size depends on your needs and pre-existing home size — they can go from 200 sq. ft all the way up to 800 sq. ft. for an attached ADU, or 1,200 sq. ft for detached. Some states refer to an ADU smaller than 500 sq. ft. as a junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU). DEN Outdoors’ 196-square-foot Cottage Tiny House is an easy-to-permit example.

Backyard Cottage

This is an additional building with a small footprint (as tiny as 100 sq. ft.) in your backyard, converted into a guest house, gym, office, or even playhouse for lucky kiddos. An ADU could be a backyard cottage, but a backyard cottage structure may not qualify as an ADU.

Naturally, backyard cottage plans need to meet the building code, size, and government specifications in your state. For instance, in Seattle, through loopholes people are able to sell backyard cottages as independent condos, whereas in northern California, a backyard cottage can’t be sold without a primary home present.

Cottage Home

A cottage home is a general style of home that tends to be small and cozy. This could apply to the primary structure on a property, an ADU, or a backyard cottage. Design-wise, a tiny home is one that fits neatly within 400 sq. ft. or so (usually much less), but a small house is typically less than 1,000 sq. ft

Once you figure out what version of a backyard cottage plan works for you, turn to brands like DEN Outdoors — well-known for our plans and designs for energy-efficient, independent structures.

Now that we have the red-tape info out of the way, let’s get to the fun part and discuss the perks of backyard cottages, design and construction guidance, and inspirational designs for your mood board.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Exploring Backyard Cottage Plans

Backyard cottage plans: The Garage

If you’ve decided you want to build a dream second home, office, gym, or workshop on that idle patch of land in your backyard, here’s who to connect with, and why any type of backyard structure is a great idea for homeowners!

Who Can Help Bring Your Backyard Cottage Plans to Life?

The simplest way for you to bring your backyard cottage plans to life is to connect with companies like DEN. We can help you figure out if your land is viable for an additional structure, zoning and building laws, permits, and give you budget guidance. Plus we can help you liaison with professionals to help you build your backyard cottage.

We lend a hand from the planning and ideation stage, and offer pocket-friendly packages (which include design blueprints, budget spreadsheets, material details, and more) to help bring your vision to life, DIY style. We can also make changes to our plans to help you create a more custom design.

Benefits of Backyard Cottage Plans

Sure they look cool, but is building a backyard cottage worth it? Here are the pros of having an additional structure on your property:

  1. Extra storage and living space: The most obvious pro of a backyard cottage is that it gives you additional living space, without having to remodel your primary structure/family home.
  2. Multipurpose use: Backyard cottages are super versatile and can be used as home offices (so you get a little space from your spouse as you both WFH together), guesthouses or a guest cottage (perfect for putting up your noisy sister-in-law), a workout studio, pool house, and more! Or even something like The Garage, a cool design from DEN that combines parking space and a handy workspace.
  3. Money, money, money: You can also rent out a backyard cottage and earn extra income! The Modern Cottage from DEN has everything renters could need, all wrapped up in a tidy 600 sq. ft.
  4. Helps bring up the value of your property: According to realtors, this can increase the present and resale value of the property considerably.
  5. Sustainable: They use fewer materials and less energy to heat and cool, especially the energy-efficient, compact-size designs from DEN!

Inspirational Backyard Cottage Plans: Across Budgets and Sizes

From a dedicated office space to a tiny home with a living room or a standalone home with kitchen space and a separate bedroom, DEN’s versatile designs will bring your dream backyard cottage plans to life.

The Office

The Office

One of DEN’s backyard cottage designs that can serve as an incredible work space is The Office. Sitting at 130 sq. ft., this small-footprint building can be easily added to your backyard. With a workspace, library storage, lounge area, and stove, it’s the home office of your dreams.

The Studio

The Studio

This 100-square-foot workspace can be used as a calming meditation studio by yoga enthusiasts, an artist studio for budding Picassos, or a hideaway for harrowed working parents. The Studio has a workspace, covered porch, and stove, making it a handy and sleek addition to your backyard.

The Outpost

The Outpost

With a loft bedroom and Murphy bed, The Outpost can accommodate up to four people. The bathroom with shower and mini kitchen makes it the perfect guest home for all your visitors — all in just 325 sq. ft.

A-Frame Weekender

A-Frame Weekender

Sitting at 415 sq. ft. with a kitchen, one bedroom, and one bathroom, the A-Frame Weekender is an airy, small house with an entire wall of glass for plenty of natural light. Move in elderly parents, errant teens, or even rent it out to a party of two.

Get Started on Your Backyard Cottage Plans

Backyard cottage plans: Shed Tiny House

Whether you’re looking to build a functional work space like the compact 140-square-foot Pod Plus from DEN or a fully outfitted, independent backyard cottage like the Shed Tiny House — a 170-square-foot home for two — you have plenty of inspiration above.

From who to work with to bring your backyard cottage plans to life, to what you can transform them, we’ve covered it all. Feel ready to start building? Check out DEN's design packages to kickstart your journey.