With the popularity of multi-gen living on the rise, many adult children are trying to figure out how to house their parents within their own homes. A viable solution for aging parents who are still able to live somewhat independently is an in-law suite.
An in-law suite (or mother-in-law suite) provides separate living quarters for older parents of an adult child. These suites can range from a private bedroom with a bathroom within the house to a free-standing structure with a bedroom, kitchenette, and bath.
While there are no hard rules for what an in-law suite should or shouldn’t be, there is one overarching objective most people set out to accomplish—create a safe and pleasing environment within the home to help older parents live as independently as possible.
With that in mind, some must-have elements will help you create the ultimate in-law suite. Below you’ll find those that top our list.
Planning for current and future needs now will save headaches and costly modifications later. As our parents age, their ability to do once simple acts — such as stepping over the side of the tub or climbing a single step at the front door — diminishes. This is where valuable Universal Design features, products, and materials come in.
According to the Universal Design Living Laboratory (UDLL), Universal Design provides for all stages of life and all people regardless of age, physical ability, or disability with intentional building elements made for:
- Equitable use
- Flexibility in use
- Simple and intuitive use
- Perceptible information
- Tolerance for error
- Low physical effort
- Size and room for approach and use
Consult your builder or remodeling contractor to understand how you can plan for the needs of your parents or in-laws now — and in the future — through Universal Design.
Aside from universal design elements, there are other ways to incorporate simplicity into the in-law suite. Keeping things clutter-free and easy-to-navigate will bring peace and calm to your senior. From the room layout to the decorations, simplicity makes for a healthy environment in any in-law suite.
Being surrounded by some of their favorite things can give seniors comfort. From a coveted collection of figurines to their go-to lounge chair, familiar items can be easily accommodated in the overall design of the in-law suite. Encouraging your parents to be highly selective in the things they bring will help keep their suite neat and tidy.
Calming Color Palette
Using specific colors in architecture and interior design that are scientifically proven to promote serenity and well-being will keep your parents feeling their best. Using soft hues such as light blue, green, pink, and beige are ideal for walls and flooring in an in-law suite for providing a sense of calm, comfort, and security.
If your parent prefers a more vibrant color, the walls can be painted in a soft, neutral color above and then pops of their favorite hue added with accessory pillows, rugs, and select pieces of furniture.
Fully Equipped Kitchenette
In keeping with the goal of allowing your parents the most independence possible, installing a kitchenette in the in-law suite is a must. A small kitchenette can include an efficiency size range, refrigerator, sink with faucet, and microwave. This will allow the parent access to nourishment without having to venture out to the communal kitchen. They can enjoy meals alone or join the rest of the family whenever they choose.
An apartment-size stackable washer/dryer unit can give seniors the capability to do their laundry, as long as they are physically able to bend and lift light loads of clothing.
When planning your in-law suite, ask your contractor to incorporate as many windows as possible. This will allow natural light to fill the space, promoting mental and physical well-being. Blinds with easy operating mechanisms will enable the occupant to control the light for climate control and aesthetics.
Nothing says independence like having your own private entry with outdoor access. For seniors who insist on being as self-reliant as possible, coming and going at will without fear of disturbing others is a must. The private entry can always be modified for safety in the future if the parent becomes unable to venture out on their own.
Outdoor Living Space
A private garden or covered patio furnished with lounge or dining furniture can provide fresh air and immense joy to aging adults. Consult with your parent to understand their vision of what the perfect outdoor living area looks like to them.
Keeping your in-laws connected to power, internet, cable, and the phone will keep them feeling independent. Provide easy access to electrical plugs in every part of the in-law suite, as well.
Knowledgeable & Experienced Contractor
Put this on top of your list when starting to plan your in-law suite—a knowledgeable, experienced contractor. Whether you will be remodeling to add the in-law suite or including the suite in your new build, a contractor who is well-versed in multi-gen design and construction is a must. There are numerous laws, codes, requirements, permits, and more that must be addressed by a knowledgeable professional working on your behalf.
With the multi-gen expert by your side and the must-have elements listed above included in your plans, you’re sure to create the ultimate in-law suite your loved one(s) will enjoy for years to come.