Home & Design Goes Beyond the Walls

Forgotten backyard structures become beautiful, accessory dwelling units turn intergenerational, advice on house-flipping, and how to smarten up your home.


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Several years ago, we got our house looking just like we had always wanted: fresh paint indoors and out, a simply landscaped and sodded backyard with raised beds, a thorough jettisoning of things cluttering our shelves and bookcases. It all came together so we could put it on the market, and now a lovely family with two young children has brought new life, energy, and purpose to the beloved Craftsman bungalow we left behind. They’ve even given us plums from our favorite backyard tree.

In hindsight, I wish we hadn’t put off all that spiffing up, because the results enhanced our at-home enjoyment, even if it was abbreviated. I hold fond memories of dusk settling as we relaxed in the Adirondack chairs flanking the tiny but mighty cast iron chiminea we haven’t fired up since. So don’t delay. Do what you can now to make your living space more livable.

Something that intrigues me about the East Bay is that there seems to be an abundance of creative takes on backyard structures and comfy at-home retreats, offices, or studios just beyond yhe backdoors. This issue’s Home & Design coverage looks at some of those spaces. So see what some of your neighbors are doing with their buildings in their backyards starting on page 24.

Because of the Bay Area’s enormous lack of affordable housing, restrictions on building accessory dwelling units, aka granny flats, have been universally relaxed, and some East Bay property owners are building these anew. Some such units may be for straight-up rentals for strangers, but more homeowners seem to be constructing them to accommodate their aging parents or grown children who otherwise can’t afford to live here. It represents a new wave of intergenerational living that a long time ago was the norm.

 Home & Design also looks at devices that can smarten up your home and explores house-flipping, tracing the evolution of a rundown home to something gorgeous — though the practice, the experts agree, isn’t one for amateurs.

 For those who’d rather chill not at home but out in public, check out “The Art of Hanging Out” on page 38. It’s our guide to East Bay parklets and highlights public gathering places in Albany, Berkeley, and Oakland.

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