Gran's Living in the Backyard: The resurgence of in-law apartments | DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen Blog
Gran's Living in the Backyard: The resurgence of in-law apartments

While universal design remodeling—or, making your home more accessible—is an option for older people in their own homes, it’s not always financially viable. However, having relatives move into your home isn’t always an ideal situation for everyone’s privacy (and sanity), either. Faced with one of several difficult choices, more and more families are landing on an alternate solution: put up a separate, tiny house in the backyard. (5)

Gran's Living in the Backyard: The resurgence of in-law apartments

The Statistics

The trend toward multi-generational households in the U.S. has been gaining popularity for decades. According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of Americans living in such households has almost doubled to 20% since 1980, accelerating after each financial crisis. Over 60 million Americans are currently living in a multigenerational household. (2)

The impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes, however, where an estimated 40% of deaths have occurred in 2020, is hastening the multigenerational movement. (1) 

The Granny Flat/In-Law/Tiny Home Trend

Garage-turned-apartment, casitas, alley flats, carriage houses… whatever you want to call them, they are definitely a trend in 2020. These living spaces range anywhere from 500 to 1,000 square feet, and include full baths and kitchens. Freddie Mac noted as of July 2020 that there were already 1.4 million of them in the US. (3) With housing shortages and housing affordability being the norm in some cities, tiny homes or in-law apartments are starting to be a viable alternative.

Depending on the budget and the area of the country, sometimes building a new structure is more cost-efficient. In some regions, remodeling outbuildings or garages are less expensive. In higher-cost areas, some homeowners report that living in the tiny home, while renting out a larger building on the property, helped pay for the new construction.

Gran's Living in the Backyard: The resurgence of in-law apartments

The Benefits & Features of Tiny Home Living

Green living is one major benefit of building new or remodeling living spaces; many homeowners take the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint while building new spaces. Solar panels, rain collection and water-recycling systems, and geothermal/in-floor heating can be expensive options on large stand-alone homes, but more affordable when scaled down.

Other details like skylights, large windows, and panoramic doors give the illusion of a larger space in these tiny dwellings, by letting in light and fresh air. Lighter color palettes also help to make small spaces feel larger.

There’s plenty of room for your stuff, too. Many of the space-saving options of RVs and boats are now being used in these homes. Pocket doors, furniture pieces that double as storage, wall-mounted folding tables, wall niches, tankless water heaters, and built-in cabinetry can all make the most of the space. (4)


1) LinkedIn: Return of the In-Law Apartment
2) Rosie on the House: Top 2020 trends in universal design and multigenerational housing
3) Coronavirus sparks renewed interest in granny flats
4) Maxable Space: ADU-space saving ideas
5) Bloomberg News: To Escape COVID, Grandma’s Living in the Backyard

Gran's Living in the Backyard: The resurgence of in-law apartments

More and more families are now choosing to have their elderly loved ones live with them for health, financial, and other considerations. If you have an interior space that needs a new layout to accommodate more family members, call DreamMaker to talk to a designer about your options. Email us at or call 734-669-4000 today.

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