A 3D model home atop of a floorplan

Whether building a granny flat outback or converting your garage to a carriage house, you want your ADU plans to be perfect. 

Many different resources are available to help you design your ADU to perfection. Image sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Image Search can provide a wide range of style ideas. 

Manufacturers’ websites, floor plans sites, and general contractor and home builder websites can help you understand how the space will flow. 

By using municipal resources and mark-up tools, you can hone in on the reality of the space. 

These tools enable you to create sublime quarters, leaving others asking who your designer was. So let’s delve deeper into the resources out there to help inspire your design.

Pinterest

Whenever I am looking to design something, whether it be a room, a wreath, or a cake, my first stop is always Pinterest. Intended to work as a virtual pinboard, Pinterest provides an online space to save images that inspire you. But it does more than just that.

Drawn social media icons that spell out the illustrator loves Pinterest

It is also searchable. So you can search what other users have saved or “pinned,” as they call it. You can search by any keywords you like.

Maybe you need some help deciding if the ADU should be modern or cottage chic. Search both keywords and get some ideas. Pin the pictures you like to a board to keep them organized.

Before you know it, you will have boards for all the different aspects of your house design, from plumbing fixtures to floor plans and everything in between. Pinterest is an essential tool to help you keep your design ideas organized and easy to find. 

Instagram

Another excellent app for design inspiration is Instagram. While you may think of it as an app to share photos with family, you can use it for so much more. Many designers and businesses use Instagram to share pictures of their work.

Start to follow hashtags of design styles you like. Soon, you will begin to see inspirational photos, be it from businesses and professional designers or everyday people.

A user scrolls Instagram on ther phone to find inspiration for their ADU

You would be surprised how much inspiration you will find on Instagram. For example, something specific like #ADU has 429,070 posts, while something broader like #moderndesign has over 4 million posts.

If you see something that jumps out at you, make sure you save the photo to your Pinterest board. 

Google Image Search

Another great way to search for inspiration is Google’s Image Search function.

To get there, open a Google search window. In the upper right corner of your screen, you will see that it says “image.” When you click on that word, it will take you to a new Google search window. 

The Google image window works just like a standard Google search. You enter your search terms like normal. But instead of bringing up a list of websites, the search results are all images.

If you click on an image, it will lead you back to the originating website. So, for example, if you search kitchen faucets and see a faucet you like the look of, you can easily find where you can purchase that product.

Like on Instagram, you can save the images you find on Pinterest to review them later. 

Floor Plan Sites

When we think of design, we often only think about the final design stages, like countertops and tile, light fixtures, and plumbing fixtures. But much of what happens in design lies beneath this outer layer. 

A set of keys sits atop an ADU floorplan

If you want your ADU design to be perfect, it is essential to consider the layout of the space. Don’t be fooled into thinking because the area is small, it will be easier to design. Working in a small space can actually be more difficult. 

Luckily, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are tons of floorplans out there that have already been designed. Check out floor plan websites like Houseplans, which has 100 ADU floor plans for you to view. 

Not only can sites like this give you inspiration for your design, but if you find a floor plan you like, you can buy it directly from them.

Manufacturers’ Websites

Another great place to get inspiration for your ADU plans is from ADU manufacturers. Modular and prefab homes are on the rise, and ADUs fall into this category. So there are many manufacturer websites for you to search.

They usually feature at least a few different floorplans for you to get a feel. But beyond that, they often have photos of actual projects they have completed so that you can see real examples as opposed to 3D renderings.

You’ll do best if you check out people who work in your area, as they will be building to the same requirements that your municipality requires. 

If you are in place with many ADUs, like Portland, or California, you’ll find a wealth of resources. On the other hand, you might find it more challenging if you’re where ADUs are less common.

Check out our guides to find the best modular home builders in your state.

General Contractor and Home Builder Sites

Building modular isn’t the only way to build an ADU.

Many people still choose to build a traditional stick-frame structure or convert an existing structure like a garage using ADU plans. General contractor and home builder sites can be excellent sources of inspiration for traditional builds or remodels.

Again, it is a great idea to check out builders in your area to see what they are doing. Like modular manufacturers, these sites often feature floor plans, walkthroughs, and other design resources. Many also feature blogs dealing with different aspects of the design process.

A great example of this is SnapADU, contractors specializing in ADU builds in the San Diego area. Their website is packed full of ADU plan inspiration. Peruse its galleries and get inspired. Again, remember to save all your favorite ideas to your Pinterest page. 

Mark-up Tools

As you progress in your design process, you may find yourself collaborating with many people, like your architect, interior designer, and your spouse. Using mark-up tools is an easy way to share ideas between you.

A prospective homeowner sorts through color swatches using a tablet

If you are unfamiliar with mark-up tools, these are applications that let you annotate documents. Mark-up tools come in a wide range depending on what kind of document you view. You will want to discuss with your team which tool will be best for all.

These tools go beyond just the ability to leave notes. They also allow you to draw or write freehand. 

So you can circle what you like, scribble out what you don’t like, just like you would on a paper design. But now, everyone working on the design can see your notes in real-time.

Municipal Resources

Given the housing shortage, many municipalities encourage ADU builds to bridge the gap. To help make building your ADU easier, places like Santa Cruz, CA, have put together websites containing resources to help with all build aspects. 

It’s always a good idea to see what resources are available from your municipality before you get too deep into the design process. Every town has different guidelines on what is required to qualify as an ADU, so it is always a good idea to check these guidelines first. 

For example, some places have precise requirements regarding square footage. There’s nothing worse than thinking you are in the final design stage only to find out you need to add five more square feet to your bathroom to get it approved. 

By checking your municipal resources early in the process, you can avoid design complications down the way.

Final Thoughts

Even if you are a novice designer, you can still design your perfect ADU. You simply need to take advantage of the wealth of resources that are out there to help you. Dive into images searches, find your style, and start to save the ideas you like.

And remember, you don’t have to work from scratch. Sample floor plans can give you a great starting point. But before you get too committed to your floor plan, make sure you check with your municipality to know the requirement where you live. It can vary from town to town. 

Modular home builders and general contractors’ websites can also be a great source of inspiration. Many have galleries and blogs to help you learn more about the design process. It is always a bonus if they are local, as then they will be building to the same guidelines you need to meet.

Mark-up tools can help you communicate your thoughts and ideas with your design team in real-time, making it even easier to ensure your final design is just what you want—perfect. 

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