So, you’re building a new home or adding to your existing property, and you want to create an extra space for your parents, in-laws, or other long-term guests staying with you either permanently or once in a while. You have an idea of how you want it to look or how to lay it out, but you’re a little unsure how to proceed. What’s important to include, and will this so-called “in-law suite” be a positive addition to your home or one that detracts from its value?

Well, first of all, it’s essential to know that in-law suites usually add to your home’s value. You may be amazed at the number of buyers looking for such a feature. More and more often, more than one or two generations of a family are living together (especially as healthy boomers age), and these suites – which provide a separate and private living space – can be a great alternative to living in a senior community or an assisted living facility.

You can also use such a space for a live-in nanny, a temporary rental (think Airbnb), or simply as a guest area for out-of-town visitors. As such, there are several options for creating such a suite. You’ll want to think about these before you move ahead.

In-law suite attached to your home:

The most common type of in-law accommodation is a suite that’s part of the footprint of your house. There may be a separate entrance, and, often, it will have accessible options for aging parents or other relatives. This can include a ramp, a walk-in shower, non-slip flooring, and other features that make it easy to age in place.

A guest house:

If you have extra property and zoning laws, you can build a separate space for the same purposes. Guest houses – or casitas (little houses) if you live in the southwestern US – are ideal for relatives or friends that visit often but don’t want to interfere with your family’s everyday routine. You can also use them for a college-aged child that’s not always home or any other type of temporary housing, including a short-term rental.

What’s inside an in-law suite?

Here’s a list of items and features to consider as you ponder the particulars of your in-law suite.

Separate entrance

– This is very important for many families, both those in the main house and those residing in the suite. A separate entrance means others aren’t traipsing through your home and can come and go as they please. This is also essential if you will use this as an Airbnb.

A cozy living area

– This part of the suite doesn’t have to be large but should accommodate a sofa and chair, perhaps a coffee table, and a wall for a TV.


– Most in-law suites offer a small kitchen area, including a small refrigerator, a microwave, and perhaps a tiny stove and oven. This allows for a place to cook meals and prepare snacks and increases independence for the person(s) living there. A small table is excellent as well.


– Obviously, you’ll need to include a bathroom. What it features may depend on who will be living there. If it’s an older individual, a walk-in shower will likely be preferable to a bathtub.


– If you can include it, a laundry area is ideal for someone who will be permanently living in the in-law suite. That option won’t be as important if you’re using it as an Airbnb.


– Include some closet space in the bedroom and perhaps in a hallway. Every one needs extra storage space!

Air conditioning/heating

– Consider how this unit or area will be cooled and heated. You can give the place its own system or install a mini-split system, which gives the resident more control over the climate in their area than one central system. Mini-split systems are ductless, making them super quiet and efficient.

Accessibility features

– If you are housing an older individual in your in-law suite, consider accessible cabinetry (cabinets that are not too high or too low), non-slip flooring, wide doorways, and more.

A flex space

– If you have the square footage, give your in-law suite an extra space aside from the living area and bedroom. You can use this as an office, a craft room, or any other purpose besides sleeping or watching TV.

Indeed, the possibilities for the design of an in-law suite are numerous. Talk to our design experts at Bowline Construction about putting together an in-law suite or guest house that will fit your needs and those of your loved ones who may be living with you. We can guide you through the particulars and are familiar with zoning laws and other regulations governing such units. For more information, call us at 778-808-3725 or complete the contact form on this website.