In-law suites keep families close, provide independence

Book offers tips based on author's experience

February 10, 2002|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

For some people, the ideal living situation is neither self-sufficiency nor dependence, but something in between.

Those are the people Carol J. Klima is out to help with her book Build Your Own In-Law Suite.

Klima wrote the book after designing the in-law suite in North Ridgeville, Ohio, where she and her husband live. She couldn't find any publications or floor plans to help her when she was planning the suite, so she did her own research and designed her own layout.

Later, she gathered that information, added insights from her experience, designed 39 more floor plans and compiled it all into a book that is in its third edition.

Klima said an in-law suite turned out to be ideal for her and her husband, Dale, a retired sheet metal worker who was disabled by a back injury. She said they initially considered buying a duplex with their son's family so that they could all live close together, but all the duplexes they found were too expensive. Houses with in-law suites were rare, and the few they found were out of their price range, too.

Instead, they bought a house together, and Klima and her husband used the proceeds from the sale of their previous home to build the in-law suite off the garage. "It's great. We help each other," she said.

In-law suites put older parents in proximity with their children and grandchildren but allow them to live independently, she said. The parents get a sense of security and emotional support without the worry of becoming a burden, while their adult children are freed from maintaining two properties or traveling to visit their parents.

In-law suites also allow older people to keep furniture, pets and other possessions that are important to them, Klima said.

Klima urges her readers to build a suite with laundry facilities and kitchen, even if it's just a kitchenette, to enhance the feeling of independence.

Her 792 square-foot suite has two bedrooms, one of which is used as a den; a full kitchen; and a 10-by-10-foot bathroom with enough room for a washer and dryer.

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