Interview with Alex Czarnecki, Cottage Founder and CEO

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have emerged as a significant piece of the affordable housing puzzle across the state of California as well as a few other states across the United States. The California Department of Housing and Community Development calls ADUs an “innovative, affordable, and effective option for adding much-needed housing in California.”

Also known as granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages, secondary units, carriage homes, and tiny homes, ADUs are separate livable units that are on the same property as a primary residence, whether a single-family home or a multi-family home.

Formed in 2019, Cottage has quickly become the go-to custom ADU option for California homeowners, working in over 40 cities and counties in the state in a short period of time. They advertise themselves as the “one-stop-shop” for a custom ADU, handling the feasibility, design, permitting and construction, so homeowners don’t have to.

Let’s hear from Cottage Founder and CEO, Alex Czarnecki, about Cottage’s approach to the booming Accessory Dwelling Unit industry. Alex’s background is in building technology businesses, including several years at Uber, where he launched new markets and managed operations on both ridesharing and Uber Eats. Much earlier on, Alex grew up wanting to be an architect and was featured in Lego Mania Magazine at the age of 7.


What is Cottage?

“Cottage is focused on helping you make the most of your home by streamlining the entire ADU process. We built a team of technology, architecture, and real estate professionals and teamed up with the best local general contractors to give homeowners a modern construction experience with time-tested techniques.”


Why did you Start Cottage?

“I started Cottage a year ago to help focus on housing affordability as the ADU market was heating up with the pandemic becoming an accelerant for the demand for more space for existing homes. But it’s more than that for me—it’s a deeply personal story. I grew up in a home with an Accessory Dwelling Unit, was living in a 300 sq. ft. studio ADU when I started the company, and was helping my parents through the process of building an ADU in their current home in Palo Alto.

It was experiencing the pain points first-hand that inspired me to start Cottage. Before Cottage, it felt like your options were a highly complex and opaque do-it-yourself process or a generic manufactured home. We built Cottage to offer the benefits of custom design and site build without the complexity, and at fair prices.”



What does Cottage have to Offer?

“Every part of the building process benefits from working with Cottage. On one hand, homeowners get a transparent process with pricing and timing that stays on track. For local contractors, Cottage is a consistent source of business, with vetted and scoped projects and builder-friendly designs by ADU specialists and experts.”


How is Cottage Different from other Accessory Dwelling Unit Options like Prefab ADUs or Modular ADUs?

“Our ADUs are custom-built without sacrificing affordability, build time or value. Cottage ADUs are fully custom and built around your unique goals—whether that’s for moving relatives or tenants in, constructing a home office or guest house, or any other of the many use cases our homeowners have designed for.

These units are custom built by local professionals with decades of experience instead of in a cookie-cutter factory. At the same time, they cost as much as or less than a prefab unit, but last longer and add more value to your home than factory-built units.”


What are the Common Misconceptions that Consumers typically have about these Types of ADU Units?

“That custom work is more expensive or time-consuming than prefab work. Many homeowners think they can’t afford a custom ADU and that prefab work is as simple and easy as dropping the box into the backyard. The reality is that the costs of site prep, foundation, utility tie-ins and more often costs and takes far more time than advertised.”


What are the Homeowners you Talk with Building ADUs for?

“We see an interesting mix of use cases, and many homeowners we work with has both short-term and long-term plans for the unti, with a few consistent trends. We see young families building ADUs for their aging parents. Having grandparents nearby gives them extra help with young children. We see retired or soon-to-be retired couples building an ADU for themselves or adult children to move into. And of course, we also see rental units or future rental units. Having an extra $2,000+ of cash flow allows homeowners to stay in their neighborhoods when they retire is a huge boon for homeowners everywhere.”


For who would your ADUs Work Best for?

“Anyone who wants to add long-lasting usable space and value to their home that fits their unique needs. In other words, really anyone! Our homeowners love eliminating hassle from the building process, while still getting to enjoy some of the fun parts about designing an ADU. They are a savvy bunch who want work done quickly and affordably, but are also thinking about the long-term value they’re adding to their property.”


How do Homeowners get Started?

“Our website features many educational resources, such as how to choose the right ADU size and floor plan. In addition, we have an assortment of featured projects, like this attached studio ADU unit with sweet before and after photos. For those ready to get the ball rolling, we offer free consultations and estimates to homeowners via our website.