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Designing an In-Law Space in Your St. Louis Home

Jul 13, 2020 | Industry News

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Are you looking to renovate your St. Louis home to accommodate your in-laws, grandmother, or other family member? Multi-generational living is on the rise in the US – whether it’s to save money, care for an ailing loved one, or to give your children the benefit of formulating a memorable relationship with their relatives, creating an in-law space that meets the needs of all parties is key to making the living situation successful. Here are a few things to consider when designing your space.


Understand Needs and Limitations

Prior to your remodel or new build, it’s important to be clear on expectations and limitations.  Privacy and independence are important factors to consider when designing for a multi-generational household, so including a private entrance, bathroom, and seating area should make the list of must haves. Depending on the situation, you may also want to consider adding a kitchenette with a cooktop, mini fridge, microwave, and sink. Consider your in-laws mobility when choosing the space – will stairs be a challenge, do cabinets need to be at a specific level for easy access, or will dimly lit areas be hazardous? By understanding their needs, wishes, and limitations, neither party will be disappointed with the finished product.


Determine a Location

Once you know your expectations and limitations you can more easily choose a location for your in-law space. If the budget and property allow, you can build a free standing structure on the property that’s unattached to the main house. This will be a more costly endeavor, but it will also provide more privacy as well as more independence for your relatives.  If you’re looking for an easier and less expensive option, consider converting an underutilized space in the home such as a garage, basement, attic or extra bedroom. Here are a few things to consider when converting your existing spaces.


Typically, a garage will already have the square footage you need, however, it may not be habitable as is. While you may already have a solid foundation, a private entrance, a functional roof, electricity, and finished drywall, you’ll need to add insulation, a heating and cooling unit, water and sewer hookups, additional outlets, and windows. In addition to this, you’ll need to make sure that you’re meeting the habitable building codes for kitchen equipment and a full bathroom.


If your home currently has a finished basement, converting it into an in-law suite is fairly easy and affordable. You may need to frame out a wall to create separate spaces for a sitting area with a kitchen and a bedroom, and adding a kitchen and a bathroom can be done relatively easily as you can tap directly into the existing plumbing. If you have an unfinished basement, you’ll have a lot more work to do. Basements tend to collect a lot of moisture and be a risk for flooding, so it’s imperative that everything is sealed tightly and any existing moisture be alleviated with a dehumidifier or sump pump. Basements also tend to be dimly lit which can be an issue for someone with failing eyesight. You may want to install some windows and additional recessed lighting to create a safer, well-lit environment.


If you decide to use your attic space, be sure that it’s easily accessible, as narrow ladders and stairways can be dangerous. Aside from abiding by the city codes, also take into consideration that heat rises, so attics tend to get quite warm and stuffy. You may want to add additional vents, windows, and skylights to ensure decent airflow. Aside from that, be sure the space is insulated and vented for the existing HVAC system for the house.

Existing Rooms

A typical guest bedroom may not be enough space and privacy for someone who’s living with you full time, so look at the big picture. Take a long look at the blueprint of the home and imagine your unused space reconfigured. You may have a dining room that is never used that’s near a guest bath and bedroom – by changing the layout and moving some existing walls, this can easily be transformed into a mini apartment for your in-laws. You may also want to consider adding an additional exterior door so that they have their own entrance.



Multi-generational living offers so many benefits and can be done easily if everyone has their own space. Enjoy the family and let us know how your conversions went.

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