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It’s becoming increasingly common for families to consider building first-floor, in-law suite additions to their Northern Virginia homes to accommodate aging parents and other family members. This trend is driven by factors such as health issues, accessibility needs, and the desire for aging in place. Commonwealth Home Design’s recent project in Vienna, Virginia, perfectly illustrates this growing demand.

Our client’s mother, who had suffered a stroke and lived in an assisted living facility for several years, faced visitation restrictions during the COVID pandemic. Wanting to bring her mother home, our client needed a solution that provided both accessibility and comfort but didn’t have such a space in her home. Additionally, our clients wanted to plan for their own future, ensuring their homes could accommodate any potential aging-in-place issues.

With expertise in designing and building large-scale additions, zoning and building codes, as well as structural modifications, the Commonwealth Home Design team created a beautiful and functional first-floor addition that met our client’s immediate and long-term needs. 

In this post, we’ll take you through the design process, challenges, and final outcome of this transformative project.

Need for an In-Law Suite Addition

A stroke left our client’s mother with movement impairment, making climbing stairs challenging. As with virtually all houses in Northern Virginia, our client’s home had all bedrooms on the second floor. Fortunately for them, their lot was quite wide, and there was space to build a sizable addition on the right side of their home. 

In-Law Suite Addition Sketch

Our client was also planning ahead and considering their own future. If they were to experience loss of mobility down the road, they wanted the option to remain living in their home. First-floor in-law suites and master suites provide older adults with the flexibility of aging in place. 

In-Law Suite Addition Design

The house is an attractive Georgian Style Center Hall colonial with a garage on the left side of the home. Our clients wanted to balance the existing left-side garage with a new in-law suite on the right, coordinating proportions and matching details on the exterior.  

The in-law suite perimeter dimensions match the garage, but the ceiling is higher for a more spacious feeling inside. Fenestration – an architectural term describing window size, proportion, and detailing – was matched on the front façade to the garage. In this case, our clients chose no windows on the right side of the in-law suite addition for privacy. The rear of the addition boasts a large picture window to allow natural light and views of the woods behind the house.

In-Law Suite Addition

The existing trim on the main house is painted wood. Our team recommended and installed long-lasting composite trim on the new structure and painted it to match the existing house. Composite trims are now available in profiles virtually identical to wood but they hold up against changes in humidity and temperature, don’t absorb water, don’t rot, and hold paint well. This contributes to a lower-maintenance exterior facade over the longer term. We found virtually an exact match, which isn’t always possible, to match the brick color of our client’s home. 

The client requested a separate entrance for her mother so that she did not always have to come through the family’s foyer and living space. After much discussion, it was decided to place the new door at the front left of the in-law suite addition, as it afforded the most direct route to the driveway.   

An entry foyer helps the new addition feel private from the family’s living space. After discussing exterior ramps vs steps, the final decision was to construct concrete steps, ready for flagstone, but to leave the flagstone off, so the client could install a temporary ramp on the addition’s exterior. Later, the ramp can be removed, and with minimal effort, flagstone can be added for an appealing entry. 

Because the in-law suite addition was to eventually serve as a master suite, a large walk-in closet was required, as was a spacious bathroom with double vanities.

The final in-law suite addition design accommodates both her mother’s immediate handicap needs and our client’s own future potential needs while growing older.

In-Law Suite Addition DesignHome Remodeling Team with Experience Building Large-Scale Additions

A home addition project of this complexity and size requires a sophisticated architectural design approach, multiple home addition ideas, zoning and building codes knowledge, and structural expertise.  

Placing new foundations next to an existing basement brings its own set of structural complications, and new wind-loading calculations can throw curveballs into design and planning.  

Commonwealth Home Design has decades of experience handling large, complicated home remodeling and addition projects and was able to handle this client challenge with ease.

Let’s talk about your home addition needs today so we can help turn your dreams into reality!

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