A new backyard unit in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood is on this year’s AIA East Bay Home Tour on Saturday Aug. 12. Photo: AIA East Bay

Eric Haesloop tapped into the zeitgeist in building a rentable cottage in the backyard of his home in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood. Berkeley, like many cities in the Bay Area, is looking favorably on, and even encouraging, the creation of units such as his as a way to help address the area’s critical housing shortage.

But not all accessory dwelling units turn out as beautifully as Haesloop’s. That’s because Haesloop is a partner at architects Turnbull Griffin Haesloop, and he designed the neat, rectangular dwelling himself. And, he says, because he was both the client and the architect, and there was no particular rush in getting the project completed, he had the luxury of taking his time, mulling over the finer points and distilling all his preferences into the design.

The result — a light-filled, 432 square-foot home at the foot of a pretty, landscaped garden — is one of six projects chosen by the American Institute of Architects to showcase on their annual East Bay Home Tour, which this year is on Saturday Aug. 12, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The homes that are open to the public are in Berkeley, Kensington and Oakland and, other than the Elmwood cottage, the focus this year is on remodels rather than new builds.

Another one of the projects— the transformation of a 1956 hillside bungalow near Tilden Park into a modern home with custom cabinetry and bay views — is also an example of the architects building their own home, in this case Cecily Young with Moore Ruble Yudell.

Also on the AIA East Bay 2017 Home Tour: A mid-century bungalow transformed by two Los Angeles architects into their own modern home near Tilden Park in Berkeley. Photo: AIA East Bay

Haesloop said he is delighted the garden unit made the tour. He took down an old garage that was “old and ready to fall down,” and wasn’t being used anyway, to make room for the new building.

“We’d been toying around with the idea of having some rental income down the road,” he said, adding that the cottage also provides a place for guests, and, potentially any of his three grown children who may need it at some point, given Bay Area rents. In fact, one of his sons, a landscape designer, created the yard that surrounds the cottage.

“It has big views for a small space,” Haesloop said. “You’re looking at redwoods on one side and crab apple and elm trees on the other side, and there’s light coming in both ends and a skylight in the middle.”

One end of the unit’s living room features floor-to-ceiling windows, and there’s a glass entry door. The windowless side of the unit, facing the main house, is a living wall with grape vines growing up it. And Haesloop used the opportunity of being his own client to experiment a little, using structural insulated panels and prefab methods for the construction.

Neighbors were on board as was the city, Haesloop said, and those who have stayed in the unit, which was built last year, have enthused about the experience, he said.

A 1954 house on Skyline in Oakland transformed by Jack Backus Architects into a contemporary home that maintains the mid-century aesthetic. Photo: AIA East Bay

Also on view Saturday: a 1939 bungalow in Berkeley’s Gilman District brought to new life in 2004 by architect Chris Parlette with a window-filled second story; a 1954 home on Skyline in Oakland transformed by Jack Backus Architects into a contemporary home that maintains a mid-century aesthetic; another remodel of a distinguished original architect-designed home, this one a 1947 Henry Hill house on Grizzly Peak in Berkeley, redone by Fischer Architecture in 2016; and a 1954 rancher in the Kensington Hills given a modern makeover by ODS Architecture.

The architects who designed the homes on tour will be on site to talk to visitors on Saturday, and architects, design professionals and other industry experts serve as docents so that those on the tour get a “fully educational architectural experience,” according to AIA East Bay.

AIA East Bay Tour: Saturday Aug. 12, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. rain or shine. Wristband tickets are $50 ($60 day-of, if available) and can be bought online at aiaeb.org, at the AIA East Bay office in downtown Oakland, 1405 Clay St., Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...