How to Design an In-Law Suite

in-law suite

Brandon Arant for Kim Gordon

Why not win over your in-laws with a special suite that will totally wow? Designing a welcoming space for parents, in-laws, and other loved ones to stay when visiting your home doesn't have to be an overwhelming process. We spoke with design pros to gather all of the tips you'll want to keep in mind when adding an in-law suite to your home. Keep reading for tips on everything from color palette to layout!

Be Mindful of Color Palette

Your in-law suite may be on the more petite end square footage wise, so take this into account when choosing your color scheme, designer Carrie Livingston says. Now probably isn't the time to go bold with neon hues and patterns everywhere. “If creating an in-law in a smaller space, it can be helpful to keep materials and finishes to a more limited palette," she notes. "This creates a sense of more openness and less visual clutter.” Another benefit of opting for simpler colors is that they're generally universally pleasing. You may love the idea of a peppy pink, but if you don't think it will fly with your mother in law, perhaps it's best to save that hue for your powder bath so as to avoid tense comments over breakfast.

Incorporate a Sofa and Table

While a more subdued color palette isn't a bad idea, an in-law suite shouldn't just feel like a basic bedroom. "When we are designing in-law suites, I tend to approach the design like we are creating a well appointed hotel room," designer Brad Ramsey says. "We always like to make sure there is a sitting area in addition to the regular bed furniture. It is always nice to give your guests a place to get away and have somewhere to relax other than a bed." Whether your in-laws enjoy reading, needlepointing, or movie binging, they'll certainly appreciate this touch. A small table can also be nice, whether your relatives use it to check email on a laptop, play card games, or just enjoy their breakfast or coffee.

in-law suites

Interior Impressions

Try a Catwalk

No, not the fashion show kind—but the overall idea remains the same! Designer Kim Gordon used a walkway to connect an in-law suite on the second floor to the main home, allowing relatives to be close by but also enjoy some privacy. To keep the look of the space consistent with the rest of the home, Gordon incorporated the same steel-framed window, wide-plank floors, and hand-finished plaster walls used throughout the main house. It's the little details!

in-law suite

Brandon Arant for Kim Gordon

Implement a Separate Entrance

Consider designing an in-law suite that is attached to the main home but only via the outside, designer Mark Stewart suggests. "This is especially important if the homeowner keeps a different schedule from the guest or works from home, and doesn’t want them using the main entrance while they are asleep or trying to focus," he elaborates. Think of it this way: No more totally unexpected visits from Grandma and Grandpa mid nap time!

Designer Angela Hall agrees that this type of setup is beneficial and actually encourages independence. "When thinking about the design of an in-law apartment, the ultimate goal is to have whoever is living in it to be independent and able to age in place," she comments. "It should be self-contained and have its own separate kitchen and bathroom."

Design the Bathroom With Elders in Mind

And speaking of the bathroom, your in-laws or parents may experience limited mobility during their time visiting or living with your family, and you will want to ensure that the bathroom in particular is accessible as possible for aging adults. "First and foremost, you want to think about access if your parent ends up needing to use a wheelchair," Hall notes. "Sinks in the bathroom and kitchen should have an opening for a wheelchair to tuck under. Doorways and paths should be at least 32 inches wide, if not wider." Hall also suggests opting for drawer pulls rather than knobs, as these are easier to grasp onto and open. Your loved ones will appreciate that you kept these considerations top of mind before they settle into the space.