This little Backyard Box holds a lot of flexibility — and big-time design

A West Seattle family’s custom detached accessory dwelling unit has plenty of room for fun and function.

YOU’VE GOT YOUR mailbox. Your Xbox. Your toolbox. Sandbox, jewelry box, moving box. You might have boxes inside of boxes on top of boxes, but you do not have a Backyard Box.

We know that because John and Nichelle Keatley have the only one ever, anywhere — and it is so much more than a box.

The Keatleys — John’s a photographer; Nichelle does business accounting — live in West Seattle with their two young kids and two dogs. Their charming home is not gigantic, and they needed more room (they ruled out remodeling because of the cost, Nichelle says, and then noticed that nice big backyard sitting there all empty) … but first they needed a little pep talk.

“There was a series of self-justifications,” John says: “The business was growing; we had another child, and were getting squeezed out of the house; my sister needed a place to live. What if we built a place?”

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They weren’t sure exactly what they wanted, but “a sense of design” was crucial. Then they found Jim Burton’s website, and the Backyard Box.

“We thought, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ ” John says. “It felt like something we could grow into, and it was another level of design. We got really excited about the design. It’s a place to work, and also live, like for big dinner parties.”

Burton designed the Backyard Box concept with his developer friend, Sloan Ritchie of Cascade Built, back in 2010, when he called his firm Blip Design (it’s now Jim Burton Architects). The Backyard Box is actually an entire line of detached accessory dwelling units — various sizes and configurations, all sustainable, modern, turnkey and ADA-adaptable.

The Keatleys’ 374-square-foot Box is truly one of a kind, Burton says, and also kind of famous (it won “best of show” and “most sustainable” in…

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