Nest: Decorating an ADU

A local couple shows how to live large in a tiny ADU.
kitchen in adu
Designer Leah Connolly designed everything in this tiny house around a show-stopping retrostyle refrigerator manufactured by Unique Appliances. Photo by Nicole Dianne.

When Leah Connolly of Studio Connolly was hired to design the interiors for a 320-square foot accessory dwelling unit behind a midtown Victorian, her instinct was to go bold in the compact space. Lucky for her, owners Hilary Haycock and Rob Robertson were of the same mind, having already purchased a cheerful aqua refrigerator for the kitchen before Connolly came on board.

ADU Kitchen
The fact that the ADU isn’t used as a fulltime living space gave the designer and homeowners permission to go bold with color and pattern. “That gave us a lot of freedom,” says Connolly. Photo by Nicole Dianne.

The challenge before Connolly was how to use the fridge as a springboard for the rest of the project. She went all in with color, choosing base cabinetry in navy and geometric tiles in mustard yellow. “When you have blue everywhere, you need a warm counterbalance, and the backsplash provides that,” explains Connolly.

kitchen details
The kitchen’s base cabinets are painted in Dunn Edwards’s Blue Tapestry. The backsplash is Fireclay Tile’s Star & Cross pattern. Photo by Nicole Dianne.

In the bathroom, Connolly selected a botanical-themed wallpaper in keeping with the feminine, free-spirited aesthetic found at Anthropologie, a retailer favored by Haycock. “The mix of geometric and organic works in this small space because of the integrated color palette and the scale of the patterns,” explains the designer.

ADU Bathroom
The bathroom wallpaper is Juniper Forest by Rifle Paper Co. for York Wallcoverings. The timeless octagon and dot tile pattern on the floor is the same one used in the main dwelling, providing a sense of continuity between the two spaces. Photo by Nicole Dianne.

Another tip when designing for tight quarters: Pick your moments. “You can’t make everything high impact,” explains Connolly. “For this space, I decided that the focal points would be the backsplash, fridge and wallpaper.” Simple gold-tone cabinet hardware, understated light fixtures and classic flooring materials help pull the look together without competing for the spotlight.


The homeowners were pleased with the eye-catching result. “I like to tell my clients that these are spaces where you should feel happy when you walk in,” says Connolly. “You need to go with what you know is going to bring you joy.”

Interior Design: Studio Connolly
Contractor: Old School Construction
Wallpaper: PhD Wallpapering