- Product # 071302
- Type Paperback
- ISBN 978-1-60085-251-0
- Published Date 2011
- Dimensions 8 1/2 x 10 7/8
- Pages 224
- Photos 225
- Drawings 51
“Litchfield’s wonderfully illustrated book, complete with floor plans, pointers of how to check legality issues and tips on new products, also contains the personal background stories of people who have chosen to go this route. Without these human stories, the book would be useful and beautiful. With the stories, it is also warm and down to earth.” –www.healthcentral.com
In response to tight times, a remarkably upbeat and widespread change is taking place in households across America. Homeowners are creating second dwelling units—often called in-law suites, mother-in-law apartments, or granny flats. Second units make a lot of sense. They’re perfect for families who want several generations living close by, they enable Baby Boomers to care for elderly parents while respecting their independence, provide private quarters for adult children still at home or, rented out, second units can generate income to pay the mortgage or provide for retirement.
In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats is the first book to explore the many designs, uses and benefits of this time-honored and emotionally satisfying living arrangement. In-law units take many forms and they’re all shown here: attic, basement and garage conversions, bump-out additions, carve-out suites, and backyard cottages. This book covers every aspect of turning one house into two homes. Its first four chapters deal with the specifics of assessing your needs, selecting an appropriate design, choosing space- and energy-saving appliances, and getting your plans approved. The book’s second half is a warm and engaging portfolio of in-law units and the families who created them: what needs prompted their decisions, which layouts worked best, and how they met life challenges with common sense, creativity and compassion. With more than 200 color photographs, 50 floor plans and architectural details, and a lively, personable voice, In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats is perfect for homeowners who want richer lives and a more secure future.
About the Author
Michael Litchfield has been renovating houses or writing about them for more than 30 years. A founding editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, Litchfield is perhaps best known as the author of the classic, Renovation: A Complete Guide. He is also a Certified Green Building Professional.
Author, Michael Litchfield, has also started a blog, called CozyDigz, on FineHomebuilding.com about the adventures in small and shared housing. Visit the CozyDigz blog today.
- Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Is an In-law Unit
Right for You?
Case Study 1: The In-law on the Range
Chapter 2 - Designing In-laws
Case Study 2: From Gloom to Glory
Chapter 3 - Choosing Appliances,
Fixtures, and Materials
Case Study 3: Grandma’s Home
Chapter 4 - Plans and Permits
Case Study 4: You Can Go Home Again
Chapter 5 - Basement In-law units
Case Study 5: Colors of a Distant Land
Case Study 6: One House, Two Yards
Case Study 7: Finding Treasure in the Basement
Case Study 8: A Basement Aerie
Chapter 6 - Garage Conversions
Case Study 9: Turning a Box into a Beauty
Case Study 10: Billy’s Place
Case Study 11: The 15-Second Commute
Case Study 12: A Winter’s Tale
Chapter 7 - Stand-Alone In-laws
Case Study 13: Rethinking What You Really Need
Case Study 14: A Place for Singing
Case Study 15: Lisa’s Baby
Case Study 16: A Floating In-law
Case Study 17: Rooting for a Green World
Case Study 18: Nancy’s Windfall
Case Study 19: A New Life for an Elderly In-law
Case Study 20: Elegance under the Oaks
Chapter 8 - Bump-outs, Carve-outs, and Attics
Case Study 21: A Jewel in the City
Case Study 22: Sailors' Delight
Case Study 23: Putting It All Out There
Case Study 24: Carving Out Options
Case Study 25: Peaceful Coexistence
Case Study 26: A Safe Place to Land
In the thirty-some years I’ve been renovating houses or writing about them I’ve owned six—in rural Vermont, suburban Connecticut, and northern California—fixing each one up and then moving on. Now I live on a sweet piece of land that was once a small dairy farm above Tomales Bay, which empties into the Pacific. The farmer built his house on this gentle hillside because his cows found it peaceful here. So do I.
It’s a different living arrangement than any I’ve tried before because the property has two homes on it: a main house (the original farmhouse) and an in-law unit. The in-law evolved from a pair of outbuildings that once housed tractors and other agricultural paraphernalia. I live in the in-law part, which has 12-ft. ceilings and quarry tile floors throughout, and though it’s a bit smaller than my other homes, it’s comfortable, affordable, and more than big enough for my life.
And it’s nice having a neighbor close by. We don’t see each other very often—no more often than you’d see a neighbor across a fence—but every now and then we stop and chat or maybe share a chore.
A Tradition Returns
The longer I live in this shared arrangement, the more I like it, which made me wonder why more people don’t live this way. Well, as it turns out, they do. Although there hasn’t been much written about secondary dwelling units, they have a long pedigree and are remarkably widespread. You’ll find shared housing setups throughout the world, especially where extended families share a roof. Even in North America, several generations under one roof was a widespread living arrangement until a post–World War II building boom made single-family houses with white picket fences the American Dream.
But times change. As houses got larger, family sizes shrank and energy got more expensive. And as Baby Boomers age, our ideas of the good life and the ideal house have changed, too. For example, homeowners who have added in-law units feel that they now have more lifestyle choices, greater economic security, and deeper personal satisfaction, according to several academic studies and a ground-breaking 2000 AARP white paper. So if their experiences are any guide, in-law housing is a great idea whose time has come again.
One House, Two Homes, Many Solutions
One of the most striking things about in-laws is how varied and flexible they are. This book contains the stories of many families with in-law units, yet as different as each one is, even these solutions barely scratch the surface of what’s possible. Having an in-law suite can help you:
- Become more economically secure. Whether you want to save money for retirement or use rental income to defray mortgage payments and property taxes, an in-law unit can help you do it (see Resources on p. 214). An in-law apartment is a tangible asset you can keep an eye on.
- Allow an elderly or infirm parent to live independently on your property, thus enhancing their quality of life—and yours. Giving children a chance to get to know their grandparents is one of the most frequently cited benefits of in-law housing.
- Trade lodging for services. By reducing or trading the rent of your in-law suite, you can get a tenant who’s willing to look after your children, maintain your property, help with housework, or provide care for an aged parent.
- Provide a safe landing place for an adult child who’s changing careers, going through a life change, or who can’t yet afford a place of his or her own. The right in-law configuration will create enough space, support, and privacy for everyone.
- Afford a house. For some first-time homeowners, the projected income from an in-law unit will enable them to buy a house they couldn’t afford otherwise.
- Shorten your commute. Many in-law suites double as home offices, allowing owners to spend more time with their families and less time stuck in traffic. This is particularly appealing to those who want to live in an environmentally responsible manner.
- Bring the world home. Inviting relatives and out-of-town friends for an extended stay is another popular use of in-law suites, particularly if you can’t travel because you have new babies, a busy schedule, or mobility issues. Companionship is a boon for all ages.
- See the world. Several homeowners profiled in this book plan to rent out their main house and travel once their kids leave home. Those adventurers will have money to travel with, a tenant to keep an eye on the house, and a place to stash their stuff.
- Rekindle a romance. One still-young couple with four children bought their new house precisely because it had a large in-law suite downstairs, in the back of the house—far from the four upstairs bedrooms where the kids would sleep.
- Express yourself. Because in-law units are modestly sized, they’re often more fun to design. One retired homeowner relished the task because, she noted, “It’s the first space I’ve ever had all to myself, so I’m going to make it extra nice.”
- Stick around while renovating the big house. Living in a house that’s being renovated is like living in a war zone, and renting another place is expensive. If you can retreat to your in-law, however, you’re home free.
- Build and live green. Thanks to their compact size in-laws are, inherently, among the greenest ways to live, especially when built with green materials and energy-conserving appliances.
Well, that's a start. In this book, we’ll visit with some folks who have created in-law units—to learn what life issues prompted their interest, what practical considerations guided their choices, and how things turned out for them. Creating an in-law is eminently about making smart decisions and finding clever solutions, but it’s also about compassion, community, and a love of beauty—as you’ll see in every one of the in-laws in this book. Who knows? You may be inspired to create an in-law unit of your own. Should that be the case, the first four chapters—which go from assessing your needs to applying for permits—should get you off to a good start.