How to Maintain Privacy in an In-Law Suite

As our boomers age, multi-generational living is a growing trend. We want to keep our loved ones close, but we also don’t want to lose the privacy both generations have enjoyed while living separately. So how do you create a space for mom and dad, while protecting your own personal space for you and your family?

Follow these 5 tips to do this successfully:

1. Promote Independence with Separate Entrances

Don’t underestimate the freedom of coming and going with no explanations or details needed to be shared. If your parents are able to be independent, then the ability to go where they want, when they want, is a treasured freedom. A separate entrance grants this bit of independence. You may not intend to be intrusive, but if someone is heading out the door, the natural inclination is to ask where they are going. The unintended result is a loss of autonomy.

2. Avoid Attaching Your In-Law Suite to a Common Area

There are many different places in a home for an in-law suite, so it’s helpful if you can avoid connecting the suite to your high traffic areas. This is easier with some layouts than others, but it’s a good guideline when possible. If your kids are pushing the limits of your sound system while watching the latest Avengers movie, it’s nice if there’s a larger distance between them and Grandma. Everyone is happier with fewer disruptions from their daily routines.

3. Create Privacy Screening

Have you ever tried to read a book when others are more interested in chatting? Privacy screening allows you to be out of sight, so it’s not tempting for others to engage in unwanted conversations. Immerse yourself in that novel and avoid the eye contact that prompts discussions. You love your relative, which is why you are living together, but a healthy separation with some structural and landscape screening will be valued by all.

4. Build Your Suite on a Different Level

For mobile loved ones, consider putting their suite on a different level of your home. A basement provides lots of separated space that is conducive to independent living. A suite above a garage or sunroom with its own entrance is isolated from the busyness of the rest of the home’s activity. For more ideas for where to build your in-law, read Making Room: Five Ideal Spots for In-Law Suites.

5. Include a Separate Kitchen and Bathroom in Your Suite

There’s nothing like having full control in your own space. Our aging parents typically love routine. Having their own cupboards and a refrigerator with their staples is a comfort. If Junior gobbles down Grandma’s yogurt and strawberries that she eats promptly at 10am every day, there will be frustration. You may wonder if a kitchen is necessary for mom and dad because “they barely cook any more.” It’s not so much about the utility; it’s about the space for them to prepare their meals when they want, in a space that they keep organized. Grandpa likes his frying pan right where it is supposed to be when he’s ready to cook his morning eggs. For ideas on creating a space that accommodates everyone’s needs – Grandpa and grandson alike – read our Universal Home Design article (think of features like stepless entrances, open plans, curbless showers, etc.).

Before adding an in-law to your home, check out our most visited article Home Additions for Aging Parents for tried and true timeless tips. 

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