Kathryn Weber

The Flexible Guest House: Adding On by Adding Out

When accommodating guests, returning adult children or aging parents is a pressing need, adding a guest house might be the wisest choice for both your space and privacy needs.

In the southwest they call it a casita. In Hawaii they call it an ohana. In other parts of the country it might be called a guesthouse. It was once a familiar sight in older upscale neighborhoods. Today, guesthouses are popping up in many middle class neighborhoods. And no matter where you live or what you call it, the kind of accommodation is seeing a resurgence, and for good reason.

Social influences

Cultural shifts are occurring at every level in America and are changing the way we live. As the recession has continued, many empty nesters have seen their offspring return home. In addition to the returning twentysomethings, many aging parents need to move in with family. In other cases, retirees are moving to locales that family and friends want to visit. Depending on your situation, instead of adding on to your home, the better choice may be adding out with a guesthouse or casita.

Privacy, please

For retirees Linda and Lawrence Anzaldua, who left Houston for small-town living in Cuero, Texas, a guesthouse seemed like the perfect option for visiting family and friends. "I like how we can have everyone close and still keep our own schedules," Linda explains. "You could say our guest house allows us to enjoy our guests more because they can suit themselves and so can we."

Guesthouses generally come in two categories, those with a bed and bath and those with bed, bath, kitchen and living areas. The Anzalduas opted to build a full guesthouse complete with kitchen, living and private entrance and parking. "It's really about comfort level," Linda adds. "Guests can have more freedom to walk around in their pajamas and so can I, and if they want snacks, they have their own kitchen to prepare them."

Greater flexibility

While the Anzaldua's casita gives them privacy in their own home, the guests never feel rejected. Linda explains that most guests see the casita as a serious upgrade to a guest room that's often a decorating afterthought. "Our guests feel very pampered at our casita. They get so excited when we tell them they'll have their own guest house, and they often say they feel like they're at a five-star hotel," she says.

Arrangement is key

If you're considering putting up a returning adult child or an aging parent, of if you want a home office or to make hosting guests more comfortable and private, a guesthouse provides a flexible option. Try taking a cue from the Anzaldua's casita and place the house at the side of the main house to access driveways for parking. This also creates more privacy than a guesthouse placed directly behind the main house, allowing all to walk past windows privately and losing that fish-bowl effect. Thoughtful arrangement maximizes both privacy and convenience.

The Flexible Guest House: Adding On by Adding Out

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