In-law suites, secondary suites, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are practical, affordable co-living solutions that increase the area of multigenerational homes while still ensuring privacy. If you’re considering adding an in-law suite to your home, it’s important to design an effective floor plan with privacy and safety in mind. Check out these 18 features to include in an in-law suite!

Separate Entrance

Outdoor view of modern In-law Suite

Photo via @aduconstruction

An in-law suite is still considered a part of your home’s overall square footage, but it’s important to treat it as its own individual dwelling. Creating a private entrance allows those who live in the secondary suite to enter and exit as they please, without having to worry about disrupting other residents of the home. Making sure your ADU has an accessible entrance with features like a ramp can increase their sense of independence.

Living Space

Indoor view of modern living room with couch, rug, and wall art.

Photo via @newhomesflorida

While your main living area may seem like enough room for one household, in-law suites need to have a separate living area. This space should be private and secluded so the residents of your mother-in-law suite have a place to be alone. Furnish this space with a couch or chairs, television set, or built-in bookshelves to encourage relaxation and entertainment.

Kitchen or Kitchenette

Interior view of modern kitchen with sink, cabinets, table, and chairs.

Photo via @kinsmangroup

Including a small kitchen or kitchenette in your in-law suite floor plan increases independence and encourages privacy in a multigenerational household. Incorporate important kitchen appliances like a refrigerator, microwave, and stovetop so your in-law suite occupants have space to cook meals and store food. Be sure to research your area’s zoning laws if you’re planning to build a full kitchen in your attached or detached accessory dwelling unit since this could possibly turn your home into a multi-family unit, which isn’t allowed in single-family zoning areas.

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Washer & Dryer

Interior view of washroom with washer, dryer, and storage.

Photo via @makinghomematter

A side-by-side or stackable washer and dryer set is the perfect addition to your accessory dwelling unit! If there’s enough space, separate the washer and dryer from the main living area into a launderette or laundry room where your in-law suite residents can wash, dry, fold, and hang their personal belongings. If you’re more limited on space, you can still give occupants laundry convenience by incorporating a washer and dryer set or an all-in-one washer/dryer into your kitchen, bathroom, closet, or main living space.

Private Bathroom

Interior view of modern bathroom with glass shower doors, a sink, and toilet.

Photo via @waynehymerinc

A private bathroom is a necessity for any in-law suite, whether it be near the main living space or accessible directly from the bedroom. This space should be a full bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower area. While not crucial, consider incorporating a bathtub to offer the occupants more options. Bathtubs may also help maintain the resale value of your home or the rent value of the secondary suite, as well!

Outdoor Living Space

Creating a separate outdoor living space for your in-law suite is a great way to give the occupants additional privacy and comfort. Including a home garden and furnishing a porch, patio, or balcony with outdoor seating gives your secondary suite residents an outside area to relax or entertain. A small outdoor living space has the benefits of increasing the useable space in your mother-in-law suite’s floor plan while also adding additional value to your home!

Flex Space

Interior view of modern sitting area with mid-century modern bookcase, chair, and lamp.

Photo via @leclairdecor

An in-law suite may be small, but that doesn’t mean your secondary suite occupants need to sacrifice flex space! While you may not be able to dedicate an entire room as a multi-use area, devoting a nook, extra closet, or corner of the living space is perfect for creating flexibility in your accessory dwelling unit. Set aside an area in your suite that can transition into a home office, home gym, or even a breakfast nook and give your residents the opportunity to make it into what’s best for their needs.

Closet Space

Interior view of organized closet space.

Photo via @mamaandhertribe

An in-law suite acts as a private residence, so it’s important to include closet space with storage for coats, clothes, and other items. Think about adding a walk-in closet in the bedroom that can hold clothing and even appliances like a washer and dryer, and put a reach-in closet near the entrance for coats, jackets, shoes, and other outdoor or indoor supplies like snow shovels or brooms!

Mini-Split System

Interior view of modern bedroom with a comfy bed and orange decor.

Photo via @brandonheatingac

Installing a mini-split system in your in-law suite will increase independence and comfort for your residents! Mini-splits allow for more control over heating and cooling systems. Granting your secondary suite its own system can save your household from arguments about the temperature while also lowering heating and cooling costs if the space is not in use. As an added perk, mini-split systems are ductless, making them quieter and more energy efficient!

Storage Space

Interior view of small kitchen with ample storage space.

Photo via @kenneshepherd

Convenient and accessible storage areas make it easier to downsize or relocate to an accessory dwelling unit! While the residents of your in-law suite may have decluttered some of their belongings, including extra storage space will create a welcoming, organized atmosphere. Bookshelves, large cabinets, and pantries will help guests feel at home in their ADU. Consider adding hidden features like a pull-out cutting board in the kitchen, as well as storage benches, toe-kick drawers, and pull-out cabinets for the living room, bedroom, and bathroom.

Parking Area

When designing your in-law suite, you may want to set aside garage space or create a parking area for residents of this secondary living space. Having a designated parking space can allow household members to come and go as they please without needing to unblock vehicles or circle the block for street parking.

Single-Level Suite

Interior view of modern family room with couch, bar, and bar stools.

Photo via @smallworksstudios

Consider designing your accessory dwelling unit as a single-level for additional accessibility and peace of mind. A one-story in-law suite floor plan reduces the risk of falling and provides easy access for those in a wheelchair or who have difficulty maneuvering stairs. Additionally, a single-level unit can regain almost 100 square feet of space that’s usually reserved for a staircase, giving your area more useable living space!

Non-Slip Flooring

Interior view of bathroom with rustic and modern amenities.

Photo via @fireclaytile

Safety precautions are an important factor to keep in mind when designing an accessory dwelling unit, and installing non-slip flooring increases safety throughout the space. Non-slip vinyl flooring is ideal for living areas like the bedroom, living room, and kitchen, while non-slip tile should be installed in the bathroom. Anti-slip flooring is also available for outdoor spaces like patios and decks, so residents can feel safer both indoors and out! And if your in-law suite is located in a pool house, you can increase their safety by installing anti-slip tile, too.

Accessible Cabinetry

While it’s not necessary to replace every kitchen cabinet with accessible cabinetry, installing some adjustable cabinets or lowering their height on the wall can make your in-law suite usable for a larger variety of residents, whether it be your in-laws or tenants you’re leasing to. Lazy Susan turntables and pull-down kitchen cabinets can also help create a more accessible kitchen, simplifying restocking and cooking from both a standing or sitting position.

Accessible Shower

Installing a user-friendly and accessible shower in the private bathroom of your in-law suite will increase the space’s usability. Make sure to place all shower controls and shelving in positions that are accessible from both a seated or standing position. If your guest has severe mobility issues, you can eliminate the tub or shower lip and expand the space to create a wheelchair-accessible shower.

Cable & Internet

Interior view of modern living room with couch, chairs, and tv stand.

Photo via @home.sneakpeeks

Giving the residents of your in-law suite the option to sign up for cable TV or access streaming services gives them more entertainment options and independence. Plus, outfitting your home and its accompanying units with fiber-optic internet can boost home value! It’s also possible to install multiple wiring options at a single residence, so the occupants of your ADU can pick and choose their own cable and internet providers or whether they want the service at all.

Natural Light

Interior view of hybrid kitchen and living room space.

Photo via @truformtiny

Incorporating large windows in the home design of your accessory dwelling unit will open up your space and allow natural light to fill the area, creating a more welcoming environment. Additionally, natural light can help make a small living space feel larger by eliminating shadows.

Calming Color Palette

Interior view of modern living room with couch, wooden table, and decor.

Photo via @ourhallgreenhome

When choosing paint colors for your in-law suite, consider a cool and calm color palette that includes shades of blue, green, or beige. These colors help create a comfortable and inviting space. Consider using a feng shui color guide to help you paint your in-law suite with relaxation in mind.


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