In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House into Two Homes


In response to tight times, a remarkably upbeat and widespread change is taking place in households across America. Homeowners are creating second dwelling units—often called in-law suites, mother-in-law apartments, or granny flats. Second units make a lot of sense. They’re perfect for families who want several generations living close by, they enable Baby Boomers to care for elderly parents while respecting their independence, provide private quarters for adult children still at home or, rented out, second units...

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In response to tight times, a remarkably upbeat and widespread change is taking place in households across America. Homeowners are creating second dwelling units—often called in-law suites, mother-in-law apartments, or granny flats. Second units make a lot of sense. They’re perfect for families who want several generations living close by, they enable Baby Boomers to care for elderly parents while respecting their independence, provide private quarters for adult children still at home or, rented out, second units can generate income to pay the mortgage or provide for retirement.
In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats is the first book to explore the many designs, uses and benefits of this time-honored and emotionally satisfying living arrangement. In-law units take many forms and they’re all shown here: attic, basement and garage conversions, bump-out additions, carve-out suites, and backyard cottages. Creating an in-law unit—turning one house into two homes—is arguably greenest, most cost-efficient way to create a small home or cottage because you’re building small, building on an existing lot, and conserving building materials. This book covers every aspect of turning one house into two homes. Its first four chapters deal with the specifics of assessing your needs, selecting an appropriate design, choosing space- and energy-saving appliances, and getting your plans approved. The book’s second half is a warm and engaging portfolio of in-law units and the families who created them: what needs prompted their decisions, which layouts worked best, and how they met life challenges with common sense, creativity and compassion. With more than 200 color photographs, 50 floor plans and architectural details, and a lively, personable voice, In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats is perfect for homeowners who want richer lives and a more secure future.


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Over the past 39 years, Michael Litchfield…has written nine books on the design, construction and renovation of houses, including one on remodeling that runs more than 600 pages, and he writes the Cozy Digz blog for Fine Homebuilding magazine, of which he was a founding editor. Clearly, Litchfield is an expert. But as he demonstrates in his latest book, “In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House into Two Homes” (Taunton, $25), he still remembers the befuddled perspective of a beginner. He has tailored his message accordingly, with lots of information [and] no jargon….At the heart of the book are 30 examples of in-law units, technically known as accessory dwelling units or ADUs. Litchfield divides these into six approaches: going up (converting the attic); going down (converting or excavating to create a basement); carving up (reconfiguring the space within the existing building envelope); bumping out (adding an addition); converting the garage; and building a separate unit on your property…The units described in the book range in size from about 250 to 750 square feet—from tiny to merely small. Nonetheless, the designers have managed not only to include the necessities—kitchen, bathroom, and living and sleeping areas—but to do so with an inventiveness that can make the spaces look and feel twice as big. —Katherine Salant, The Washington Post

A new book, "In-Laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats," by Michael Litchfield, explains in detail how to turn one house into two homes. The author uses dozens of floor plans and hundreds of striking photos to illustrate the process. For all parties concerned, such transformations, can result in "more lifestyle options, greater economic security and deeper personal satisfaction," Mr. Litchfield writes. A terrific resource.—The Wall Street Journal

This book is chock full of very practical tips, great advice, and plenty of real world examples. Because in-laws, converted garages and guest cottages, are by definition small and compact, you’ll need the kind of efficient design tips offered here. I can’t think of a similar or better source of help that would be useful from the moment you start fantasizing about adding a second unit, till you apply for permits (or not), and finish the last coat of paint.
—Kevin Kelly, "Cool Tools"


Litchfield presents a comprehensive guide for everyone contemplating adding a secondary dwelling on their property. Showcasing 26 case studies illustrated with floor plans and color photographs, he thoroughly discusses factors to consider when creating this type of abode. (LJ 6/1/11)

This book might be one of the timeliest real estate how-to's that has hit the market in recent times...."In-laws" is for today's homeowners who have decided to stay put instead of trying to lock in their real estate losses, but need to get some extra mileage out of their homes; it's for today's parents of young adults, who'd like them to move out — but just a little bit; and it's for today's baby boomers trying to retire on shrunken home equity and financial portfolios...Not only is "In-laws" timely and useful, it is beautiful and complete. Conceptually, yes — but also textually and visually. —Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Inman News

Mike Litchfield has just written a very important book on building, not just for its subject matter, but for its timeliness in this era of tightening incomes...The section on obtaining plans and permits alone is worth the price of admission. I'm often asked, "How can I get a permit to build a small home?" This book shows you how. The fact is, that up until now, most in-laws in the US have been illegal. But with the growing need of an aging population, and the growing desire of (some) townships and municipalities to provide low-cost housing, there's a move towards legalizing second units. This is the most coherent and helpful description of getting through the planning department and the building inspector I've seen anywhere...This book is going to be around and helpful forever. Lloyd Kahn, editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications

Litchfield’s wonderfully illustrated book, complete with floor plans, pointers of how to check legality issues and tips on new products, also contains the personal background stories of people who have chosen to go this route. Without these human stories, the book would be useful and beautiful. With the stories, it is also warm and down to earth...If you’re looking for a way to incorporate parents or other loved ones into your home life while still giving each generation the desired amount of privacy, I’d strongly suggest a small investment in “In-laws, Outlaws and Grannyflats.” It’s a beauty of a book full of inspiration and practical ideas applicable to many lives. —

A real "go-to" book for anything to do with in-law suites, garage conversions, and other "accessory dwelling units" you build or create on your property. Recommended. —

Over the past decade, financial uncertainty, high housing costs, an increasing elderly population, and a rising number of multi-generational households have led more and more homeowners to add secondary living spaces to their homes. Referred to as ADUs (additional dwelling units), these units can serve as housing for aging parents, adult children, guests, or renters, and are changing the definition and purpose of “roommate” in polite middleclass society.  A new book by Michael Litchfield, In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House Into Two Homes, (The Taunton Press) documents this trend, highlighting some particularly inventive ADUs and looking at the challenges in planning and constructing these secondary units. Litchfield is well-qualified to comment: He's a journalist and home builder who's worked over thirty years in the residential construction industry, and a founding editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine. Though he’s not an architect, Litchfield’s position has given him a fresh (and sometimes unexpected) perspective on the role architects can play on home remodeling projects, from design, to shepherding projects through the public approvals process, to communicating the design intent to skeptical community members.  AIArchitect

Auxiliary units, promoted for years by new urbanists and by planning consultants such as Patrick Hare, seem to be catching on — whether in old cities, established suburbs, or brand-new developments. In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats is an excellent guide to the changes that are afoot...The bulk of the book tells how to go about planning and building an accessory unit — over a garage, in an attic, in a basement, in other parts of a house, or as a bump-out, or in some other form. Litchfield presents a generous assortment of color photos, plans, drawings, and other images. He offers detailed advice on many of the challenges an owner is likely to face...This is an eminently practical as well as handsome book. It comes at a time when the demand for this kind of knowledge is destined to grow. –Philip Langdon, New Urban Network

It is a treasure trove of practical information and advice on turning a single-family home into two independent living units...At the back of the book, there is an excellent primer on universal design elements to consider – wide doors for wheelchairs, adjusted countertop heights, shower seats, etc. And there is a section of resources for green and special needs building and a long list of websites of manufacturers of products for small spaces.I doubt much of what this lovely book offers is inexpensive, but you don't need to be doing a total renovation or building an addition for an aging parent or adult child in need to find it worthwhile. Time Goes By

Michael Litchfield’s In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House into Two Homes explores the many ways and means of adding a complete, independent living area to your existing home. From providing an affordable and dignified place for a parent, to a safe and independent landing pad for an adult child, Lichfield presents the options in terms of basements, garage conversions, stand-alone suites and bump-outs, carve-outs and attics. The author came on the mini-home-within-the-home concept after personal crises caused him to downsize. Perhaps because of this, Lichfield adds a rare human element for a design book by including 26 case studies of not only how and what, but why individuals chose to make a second dwelling unit, and how it all worked out.  —Fernando Pages Ruiz, Handyman Club of America

Library Journal
Litchfield (Renovation) has designed a comprehensive guide for constructing on one's property a secondary living space as a rental unit, a guest house, or for a family member. He thoroughly discusses the factors to consider when creating this type of dwelling—such as working with architects, navigating municipal building departments, and selecting space-saving furnishings. Homes throughout the United States and Canada show various options from basement, attic, and garage conversions to stand-alone cottages. These 26 case studies are illustrated with floor plans and color photographs. Recommended for those looking for alternatives to housing aging parents or interested in the extra income of a rental unit.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781600852510
  • Publisher: Taunton Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 658,219
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Litchfield has been renovating houses or writing about them for more than 30 years. A founding editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, Litchfield is perhaps best known as the author of the classic, Renovation: A Complete Guide, now in its 3rd Edition. He is also a Certified Green Building Professional.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Is an In-law Unit Right for You…
Chapter 2: Designing In-laws
Chapter 3: Choosing Appliances and Materials
Chapter 4: Planning and Building
Chapter 5: Basement In-laws
Chapter 6: Garage Conversions
Chapter 7: Stand-alone In-laws
Chapter 8: Bump-outs, Carve-outs, and Attics


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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 18, 2011

    great book

    We are planning to build a house in the next few years and expect that at least one of our elderly parents will live with us. We intend to design the house so that WE can stay thereas we get older as well. I heard about this book when the author was inteviewed on NPR, and it has been well worth buying.

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