Interior Design for Living: How to create an in-law suite


Q: My mother-in-law is elderly and spends a fair amount of time with us. It works out best if we give her our room because of its size and private bath. We have children and she spends a lot of her quiet time in the room.

Enclosed are the measurements and furniture for our master bed­room. Would you please suggest the best way to arrange it both for our convenience and hers.

A: You said in your letter that you wanted to put a queen-size bed with two nightstands, a double dresser, a chest of drawers, two chairs and a sewing machine in your master bedroom.

Considering the size of the room, there are a few options open to you. However, I do think this one works well for a few reasons.

If you have two equally work­able arrangements in mind, it is generally preferable to have the bed facing you as you walk into a room. Merely because of its size, it becomes the focal point and pre­sents better if you can view it "head on."

In this case, such an arrange­ment is possible.

I placed the chest of drawers and the dresser so they would both be accessible to the bathroom and the closet. The mirror on the dress­er will also reflect the bed and visu­ally widen the smaller dimension of the room.

The chairs in the corner provide a quiet spot for reading and conver­sation. They also have the advan­tage of both natural light and a round table which holds a good in­candescent reading lamp. The table will, obviously, also serve as a sur­face to place things.

I thought it important to put the sewing machine on the other side of the window to take advantage of the light from the window for close work.

An adjustable standing lamp, possibly with a swing arm, is in the corner next to the sewing machine for light in the evening. This will enable whoever is using the ma­chine to direct the light precisely where it is needed.

Another thought for your room might be to block off the existing linen closet door by sheet rocking the opening. You could then install a door in the bathroom as shown. This would create a usable wall space in your bedroom and also give you accessibility to your linens.

In this plan, I placed the dresser on this new wall. It is not only con­venient for dressing, as in the chest, but the mirror reflects the light from the window across the room. I moved the chest down 12 inch­es to leave adequate space to get into the closet, and added a desk at the far end by the window. I think this would be a nice addition to the room for sitting to write letters or pay bills. As is the sewing machine, it is not only close to the window for light, but also in a quiet spot away from the door.

The bed works better on the same wall as the door into the room. If you put it on the opposite, it would tend to look crowded with the chest moved and the addition of the desk, which is slightly larger than the sewing machine.

The two upholstered chairs are attractive as you walk into the room, but also prevent too many case goods, or wooden pieces, from being too close and right next to each other. An ottoman could easily be added if desired and the chair nearest the window will also re­ceive some natural light.

Another small, but important point, especially for your mother-in-law, is the fact that the chair that will be used for both the desk and the sewing machine can easily be moved back and forth.