As architects in a historic corner of Philadelphia, we have the opportunity to work on many different building types, from modern new construction to grand old estate renovations.

More and more, our residential clients are asking for designs to accommodate aging in place or multiple generations in the same household. This is the story of one such project that—despite its modest size—takes up a big place in our hearts at Krieger + Associates.

It started when our client, Chris, became concerned about his 84-year-old dad, Pat. Pat, a retired army colonel, had always been capable and independent. He’d sensibly settled into a single-story low-maintenance condo in another city upon retirement. But he was now having a little more trouble getting around and found himself alone more often than he liked. He admitted to feeling a bit down.

While Chris vowed to find a way to visit his dad more often, it was his wife Marlene who came up with a different solution. One morning she said to Chris, “Come here, I want to show you something.” She pointed at the view from the large picture window at the rear of their house and asked Chris to take a look.

Puzzled, Chris saw squirrels, lawn and trees. “This is where we build your dad’s suite,” Marlene explained. After some initial hesitation, Pat got on board with the idea pretty quickly. “Let’s do this,” he said.

The family enlisted our help to create their “dad pad” addition. They knew they wanted a complete single-story suite for Pat, connected to the house through an existing small addition but with its own entrance as well.

They wanted to retain the home office in the existing addition and wanted to site the new addition without having to dig up the brand-new bluestone patio at the rear of the house. Between the patio and the side yard setback we had about 23 feet, so that determined the possible width of the new addition that we could get without a zoning variance.

We experimented with designs and, in the end, settled on a plan that was fairly simple and budget friendly. It would be easy to maintain and not complicated to build. Pat did not want or need a strictly accessible home, but we designed it to be adaptable to future needs.

The opening in the existing home office addition that had been Marlene’s large picture window became the doorway into the new addition, plus a bookcase for the office. The existing office lost its door to the outside (we borrowed that corner of the office as a coat closet for the Dad Pad), but the family was okay with that small compromise.

The new addition is both wider and taller than the existing office addition. We gave the Dad Pad some height to house mechanicals in the attic space, but not so much that it obstructed view and light from existing rear-facing second floor windows. The additions’ roof pitches are the same, but the ridges don’t line up; the Dad Pad is offset a little to the north. This allowed for placement of exhaust vents where they would not be in view of those upstairs windows.

Although Pat doesn’t need a wheelchair, we still wanted to give the addition wide doorways and minimal steps or thresholds to trip on. There is a small step up from the patio to the exterior entrance, but this allowed us to keep the entire Dad Pad on the same level as the main house. A ramp for the entrance was discussed, but it would mean altering part of that new patio, and that was off the table.

We also wanted to keep the tiled floor areas flush with the hardwood floor areas of the addition. We designed the kitchen and bath in a block occupying the front half of the addition and built the floor joists on single sill plates, with the bedroom half having double sill plates.

This allowed for a tile floor with mud setting bed in the kitchen and bathroom to be flush with the hardwood floor of the bedroom. In the end, the family chose to only tile the bathroom and have hardwood floors in the rest of the suite.

Another reason for placing the kitchen and bath side-by-side was to locate the HVAC mechanicals in an attic space above them and allow a cathedral ceiling in the bedroom/sitting room area. The addition has its own ducted split system HVAC unit separate from the main house.

With spray foam insulation on the underside of the roof deck, the ductwork is all contained within the conditioned envelope. The bedroom’s cathedral ceiling gives a greater feeling of space in what is essentially a small apartment.

Part of making sure Pat was on board was to engage with him as head decision-maker regarding interior finishes, colors and details. He asked for grab bars in a few places, knowing more could be added later. He didn’t want a full kitchen, or a wheelchair-accessible kitchen, but was happy with a two-burner induction cooktop and microwave.

Stock cabinetry in the kitchen and bath helped keep the project costs reasonable. Pat did opt for a full-sized fridge and a stacked washer/dryer efficiency unit located in the kitchen. For future cost savings we chose low-maintenance and durable exterior elements—pre-finished fiber cement siding with composite trim and Marvin fiberglass windows.

The end-result is a flexible, easy-to-maintain addition that could serve many purposes in the future. It works now as intended—an ideal way to care for an aging parent at home, with options for both family togetherness and independence. QR

Jeff Krieger

Krieger + Associates Architects is an award-winning Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, firm providing both architectural and planning services to residential, commercial, educational and cultural clients for more than 25 years.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More