The Guest House Case Study: Planning for Accessibility & Aging-in-Place

Updated: Feb 4

An outbuilding renovated into a guest house with plans for an future accessible in-law suite

In this blog post we are going to cover planning for an accessible in-law suite. More and more families are bringing in their parents or a family member to assist in their care as they age. The guest house (floor plan shown above) is one such project. While it will currently house friends and family who will come and visit the design included features that could easily be converted to create an accessible friendly unit. The numbers in the above floor plan will correspond to the detail points we will cover below.


The above open living room space includes features that assist with aging in place, but aren't readily apparent, which is the goal. A living space doesn't have to feel cold or clinical because it has features specific to accessibility.

  • Flooring: With this design the plan was for light colored, easy to take care of, one level flooring. A beautiful chevron pattern wood floor in the living room seamlessly blends with a large format stone looking tile in the rest of the suite. Area rugs work for now and can easily be taken up later to prevent tripping hazards.

  • The space is has plenty of circulation room and all doors are 36 inches wide to accommodate a walker or wheelchair.

  • Skylights in the above vaulted ceiling provide natural light throughout the day and ceiling, wall, and table lamps provide many easily accessible options. The homeowner can also set up all lighting to be controlled by an Amazon Echo or Google Home device.

  • Furnishings: Senior living furnishings provide comfort, accessibility, and durability to anyone and come in a variety of chairs, sofa's, dining chairs, and tables to accommodate any needs, but still maintain a homey feel.

  • Large sliding doors allow for plenty of natural sunlight and views. Studies have shown that accessibility to the outdoors aid's in improving mental health and speeds up healing.


This small kitchenette has several features that allow for easy access.

  • The area underneath the sink and cooktop were kept open and the homeowners chose to use a simple curtain to cover the space. Later this curtain could be removed for easy access by wheelchair. Make sure you wrap any pipes to prevent bumps or burns.

  • An under counter fridge is easy to access and the induction cooktop is great for safety.

  • A base cabinet with drawers was converted by the addition of casters and a butcher block top into a small island. Simply roll it out from underneath the countertop and roll it back when finished.

  • The sink hardware is ADA accessible.

  • Countertop height is 34 inches above finished floor and meets accessibility guidelines.


Doors are all 36 inches wide and lined up from one room to the other to allow for easy access. In addition the floor is all one height so there are no transitions or 'bumps' to go over when going from room to room.


This room is currently used for storage, but a future stackable washer and dryer unit may be added later.


The bedroom has some easy to add features and will require no major construction later to convert into a fully accessible space.

  • Behind each night stand is a plug with USB ports and a light switch connected to the lamps allowing for easy access to charge electronics and adjust lighting.

  • Recessed can lights and wall sconces provide even distribution of light and are on a dimmer switch. All lighting can be hooked up to an Amazon Echo or Google Home allowing control by verbal command.

  • The large format stone tile floor continues into this space with no changes in floor height from any of the adjacent spaces.

  • This large space allows for easy wheelchair access and turning radius.

  • The closet has wide folding doors and custom closet organizers can easily provide access to clothing and shoes.


What is now an office can easily be converted into storage, a walk-in-closet, or laundry unit in the future.


Accessibility is usually the most apparent in bathrooms. However, it doesn't have to look cold or commercial feeling. Coordinating tiles that go with the flooring tile add luxury and are easy to clean. This spacious room has plenty of room for a wheelchair or a home caregiver, but that doesn't mean it can't feel like a high end spa.

  • Can you guess where we've hidden the grab bars? While there are not any grab bars in this space now, during construction wood blocking was added to the shower and toilet walls so that later grab bars could be installed directly into wood.

  • A shower seat was included as well as an adjustable height shower head. A temperature regulating shower controls are located outside the shower. They are automated and can easily be accessed by Alexa or Google Home.

  • The toilet has been positioned for easy access by a home care giver or fold down grab bars can be installed.

  • Towel racks are hung lower for easy access by sitting or standing.


The feature wall in the shower was put behind the sink area to add to the luxury feel and the large format stone floor tile continues up the walls.

  • Lighting is key in this area. Wall sconces on either side of the mirrors and an overhead light provide plenty of illumination and eliminate shadows. Lights are also on a dimmer switch.

  • Multiple GFI plugs are located behind the counter, because you can never have enough plugs.

  • The countertop/sink unit is wall mounted and sits above the floor allowing for easy wheelchair access.

  • Countertop height is at 34 inches for ADA and the faucets are easy to turn on and off.

  • A magnifying mirror on an adjustable arm is great for makeup application and anyone whose eye's aren't what they used to be.

  • The integrated sink and countertop is easy to clean and drawer storage is always a necessity no matter your age.

This renovation shows that by making specific decisions during the planning and construction stage, that aren't that expensive, this couple will not have to make any major changes in the future as the needs of their family changes. This guest house suite can be ageless for all their family and friends, now and in the future.

If you would like more information on planning for an in-law suite, an aging in place consultation for an existing home, or any other design questions please contact us for more information.

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