In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats

NanaI found a book on home remodeling that may help you or your aging parents. It reminded me of mom’s story and the fact that housing needs change as we move through life stages.

Mom & Dad were both chain smokers, but thankfully I never started. After dad died, mom sold their home in McLean and bought a nice little condo in Fairfax. She even replaced the large-scale furniture with units that better fit the smaller space. ‘Good move. That worked fine for a few years, but without dad she grew more lonely and needed more care. Her emphysema progressed to the point that she was put on oxygen and forced to quit smoking, and she could no longer drive.

As her health deteriorated, one of the best things mom did was to sell the condo and use the money to build an apartment onto my brother’s home. Perry had enough land to expand on, and it gave mom autonomy and a sense of security with family so close by. She still missed dad but was relatively happy there – as happy as she could be given her health problems – until she too finally passed away years later.

I invite you to share your own story as a reply below.

Neither mom nor dad spent time in a nursing home or an assisted living facility. To them, an occasional stay at a hospital was bad enough, and like most baby boomers today, aging at home near family is what they wanted.

Granny FlatsIn-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats

The essential guide for turning one house into two homes

From back cover: Need to make room for an elderly parent or returning child? This book by Michael Litchfield covers everything involved in creating a secondary living space in your home or on your property – from planning and permitting to specifics such as sound-proofing, space-conserving appliances, and dealing with damp basements.

Litchfield puts a wide range of in-law (and outlaw) options out there, including attic, basement, and garage conversions, bump-out additions, and even freestanding structures. But creating an in-law unit is about more than the house… it’s also about the people who live there. Visit with the famileis in this book and you’ll learn that whatever the reason for creating an in-law unit – financial, practical, or emotional – it’s a win-win proposition for everyone.

From Chapter 1: One of the key requirements of any successful home design is that it fit the people who live in it. Thus, any designers or architects worth their salt will start with many questions about how their clients live: what they do for work and how they relax, how much time they spend with friends and family, how they see their lives 10 or 20 years down the road, and so on. Designing an in-law unit is largely the same process, except that it often requires a greater degree of empathy – for the people who will live in it and for the neighbors who will be living next to it.

Sharing your Space: 11 Questions to Consider

This list explores how sociable you are, how much control you need, and how much experience you’ve had living with others.

  1. How many siblings did you grow up with?
  2. How much of last week’s downtime was spent with friends?
  3. Do you schedule regular get-togethers with friends? (These might include seeing a movie, going to church groups, or having beers after a workout at the gym.)
  4. How relaxed are you about your material possessions? Do friends have any of your books, tools, cooking equipment, food containers?
  5. When you go to a restaurant, do you share what you order?
  6. If someone cuts in front of you in traffic or in a theater line, how do you react?
  7. When was the last time you had a fight with a neighbor? What was it about?
  8. Is your work mostly solitary or social? Tightly focused or multitasked?
  9. Where are you on the “Speak My Mind vs. Keep It to Myself” continuum?
  10. Have you ever shared a house with someone who wasn’t family or a loved one?
  11. Do you live with someone or alone? How long have you lived that way?

In general, people who have siblings aren’t super-fussy, can multitask, don’t sweat the small stuff, and have an easier time sharing their property. Communicating freely is the key to defusing conflicts.

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2 Responses to “In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats”

  • No one likes to think about growing older, but we all will sooner or
    later. Over time, many (if not most) of us will lose some of our
    strength and stability. Granny flats should be built to anticipate these
    future needs by including universal design features

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