One of the major reasons the idea of building an ADU resurfaced for us recently was to create a place where RF’s dad could potentially stay with us. Aging in place – the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level – has become a more prominent initiative as our nation’s boom generation heads into retirement. Aging with us is not exactly “in place” for RF Sr, but closer so than many other options. Plus, it could give us the option to truly age in place down the line. From that perspective, this ADU from the 2016 Build Small, Live Large tour was of great interest to us.
Like us, the owners of this home moved their parents from across the country because they need daily living assistance. An ADU provides a separate living space for the parents close to the primary residence that gives them a sense of independence but also easy access to family support. This is the main house, an historic storefront residence.
Around the side, a gate leads to the ADU, built in the same style as the main house.
This was the only ADU we toured this year that posted architectural drawings…
…and models!! Be still my heart. The plans were actually helpful in determining whether or not we might be able to expand the footprint of our garage to accommodate a main floor bedroom. If we follow one of our lessons learned – construct rather than convert – we think so!
This ADU has an accessible entry ramp that leads to an entry portico. Upside: Perfect for aging residents, obviously. It’s also nice to have a dedicated entryway, with room to drop coats and shoes, in rainy weather cities. Downside: It adds to the footprint of the structure, but not the living space.
The open living space is compact but has room for favorite chairs, a fully functional kitchen, and a table for a family of four. The homeowners regularly cook and dine here with their parents.
Built-ins make room for collections and media without creating impediments and hazards.
The bedroom, though, is where it gets really interesting. A full size bedroom on the main floor of an ADU is a rarity. We saw a couple, but they are generally not common. This one has plenty of room for a full size bed, and again makes use of built-ins and recessed furniture to keep pathways clear.
The bedroom leads to a full size, accessible bath outfitted with features to make senior life a little easier.
Doorways and pathways capable of accommodating walkers and wheelchairs create a bathroom that’s downright luxurious by typical ADU standards.
A washer/dryer combo are tucked into the bathroom closet.
Most ADU’s take advantage of skylights to illuminate the interior, and this ADU is no exception. Skylights above the living space and stairwells bring in lots of light, even on rainy days like the one we had while touring. Most ADU’s also have a little surprise somewhere in the home – in this one, it’s a little 2nd floor deck.
Since this home was planned for aging parents, the homeowners wanted to make sure that there would be room for a live-in care provider. The lofted bedroom was designed for this, but will also make a nice guest room or auxiliary space – like a crafting room, for instance – should the homeowners eventually downsize into the ADU.
It’s not a large room, but there’s enough space for a queen bed to one side and a sitting area to the other.
And, it has a half bath upstairs. I guess the homeowners felt this would be sufficient for their purposes. Though, they probably could’ve worked in a shower had they forgone the outdoor space.
Lofted bedrooms and lofted ceilings give the impression of more spacious rooms. You give up privacy, so it just depends on your priorities. I think it’s a nice feature of this ADU…but, the live-in assistant might not agree.
I’m not yet sure that “aging in place” is the ultimate goal with our future ADU. So, I’m not entirely ready to spring on this plan. Ultimately, I think a slightly smaller footprint used as a rental probably makes more sense for our lot. We’ll just have to see where life lands us. This is a terrific example, should we need an accessible space.
So, overall impressions…
PROS: Accessibility. Ramps, large doorways, and clear pathways truly suit this home to senior life. A main floor bedroom is also a plus. The lofted bedroom also creates enough space for this ADU to function well in a variety of capacities.
CONS: The balance of space tips towards the bed/bath over the main living room. The footprint is larger than we would ideally like on our lot.
BEST HOMEOWNER LESSON: This project is a prime example of research paying off – not just researching materials and design features, but also how the space will be used now and over time. It’s probably the most thoughtful ADU we toured.