New lower level in-law suite works for owners as primary living space

lower level in-law suite

How can you tell when an in-law suite is outperforming the usual requirements?

Well, for starters, when the owners themselves decide to occupy the new accommodation as their primary living space.

Such was the recent choice of the Saads, two seniors who started investigating options for retrofitting their three-level home when Mrs Saad transitioned from a walker to a wheelchair.

The idea was to improve everyday mobility and even incorporate equipment needed for physical therapy treatments while largely preserving the home’s upper two levels should the couple later decide to sell the house and move to a retirement facility.

After weighing several scenarios, the couple summoned Aging-in-Place specialist Russ Glickman, president of Glickman Design Build, to explore feasibilities.

“We began by looking at ways to add an elevator, Glickman recalls. “But soon learned that modifications required would negatively impact the existing second floor plan without really accommodating a lot the necessary the accessibility solutions.”

The home’s mostly unfinished 2,000 square foot lower level, however, provided a footprint to conjure with, and soon the Glickman team proposed a plan for a largely self-sufficient suite complete with accessible bath, kitchenette and other amenities.

Open Plan Custom-Designed

Configured as an “open” floorplan that incorporates a sizeable master suite, the new layout is nicely differentiated into “use” zones that provide privacy within a pleasing visual continuum.

Key components include:

  •  A 11′ x 13′ kitchenette and dining zone finished with cherry Shaker-style cabinet facings, granite counter
  • surfaces and ceramic tile flooring. NOTE: As per local code requirements, the kitchen is equipped with a microwave rather than a full stove.
  •  A den/family room contiguous to the dining area that offers direct access to the rear yard. The space has been fitted with a large-scale plasma TV and a “Sensurround” sound system. This is the family’s primary entertainment zone.
  •  A private master suite with spacious bedroom conjoined to a luxury bath that includes a 5′ x 8′ curbless “roll-in” shower with a pull-down seat. The bathroom connects to a fully-equipped laundry room. There is also a large walk-in closet.

To increase natural light availability, Glickman added a pair of windows to the master bedroom. The room also accommodates an easy-to-access hospital bed.

Beyond the floorplan, the builder exercised every option to make the new suite both aesthetically-cohesive and directly responsive to the couple’s needs.

To assure a suitable locale for physical therapy treatments, Glickman custom-designed a wall cabinet in the dining area that contains a pull-down table. The casing has been reinforced with a steel frame that keeps the table firmly in place once its in the upright position.

To accommodate a necessary incline wheelchair platform lift, the steps leading to the suite from the first floor were widened from 30” to 46”. The builder also enlarged the stairwell and rebuilt the staircase from scratch.

In the master bath, plans called for a curbless “roll-in” shower with a pull-down shower seat and grab bars. There is also pair of vanity sinks– one 30” from the ground for wheel-chair access.

To make it easier for the Saads to identify visitors, the home’s front door has been equipped with a security camera linked to a laptop. Glickman also introduced technologies that enable the couple to lock and unlock the front door from the lower level suite.

Aesthetically, the suite’s carefully developed interior design details confer both warmth and spatial cohesion in all directions..

Mosaic tile flooring differentiates the kitchen/dining zone from the adjacent den and entertainment area. Typhoon green granite surfaces and lightly stained cabinet facings lend colors and textures to the kitchen area that easily integrate into a great room dominated by a large-double slider.

The master bathroom features porcelain flooring and walls accented with a decorative course of multi-colored mosaic tiles.

In short, it’s a pretty, comfortable home…that’s also healing and supportive.

“Our goal was to satisfy immediate needs while implementing a makeover that will add re-sale value, “Glickman says. “In this sense, the house has simply been re-defined as a traditional single family home that includes a full-size in-law suite. It’s a very marketable improvement, yet meets all the present requirements.”

Glickman periodically offers workshops on accessibility solutions for seniors. For information: see www.GlickmanDesignBuild.com, or call 301/444-4663

Written by John Byrd –email: byrdmatx@comcast.net