The Story behind a Newton Accessory Apartment: It All Starts with a Plan!

We recently wrote about Newton’s new accessory apartment zoning ordinance which allows area homeowners to create a separate apartment either within or adjacent to their main home. It’s the perfect way to help ease the housing crunch!

Not long ago we kicked off our first accessory apartment remodel under the new ordinance – we’re excited to see the project get started and will be sharing highlights of the remodel and expansion over the coming weeks.

Detailed plans are the key to a successful project, especially when we’re packing so much into a small space.

Step 1: The Plan

Of course, the first step was to come up with a plan. The homeowners want to build an accessory apartment to accommodate their parents – allowing them to age in place as well as to spend more time together as a family – especially with their grandchildren.

We’re packing a lot into this 440 sq. ft. apartment including a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.  The apartment is totally separate from the house – affording everyone lots of privacy – yet it will be easily accessible from the house. In fact, we’re using one of the existing bays of the two-car garage and converting it into a staircase that will lead up to the new apartment.

We’ve worked in some pretty tight urban spaces, but we’ve never crammed more into a small space than this one. Everything was planned down to the inch.  We’ll use a pocket door to keep the doors from hitting each other in the common entry.  The stairs will curve up under the edge of the bed platform.  The bedroom and bathroom doors will miss each other by less than 2 inches. … You get the picture!

To make the space feel bigger than it is, we incorporated a halfwall along the stairway.  This visually brings the stairs into the space. Plus, we are putting the bed on a platform that partially extends above the stairs.

The kitchen will be fully equipped, but since it’s an accessory unit everything is scaled down: a 24”-wide fridge (by Blomberg), 18” dishwasher, 24” undercounter combination washer-dryer (not stacked; this is a single unit that both washes and dries!), and a 24” electric-induction range.

While not wheelchair accessible (there just wasn’t room for an elevator!), this apartment does take aging in place into account. A few of the accessible features include:

  • The stairway configuration allows for a future stair lift.
  • The doors are 34” wide, to make circulation with a walker easier, if needed.
  • The upstairs shower has a low threshold.
  • The bathroom door swings out, so no one gets trapped if they fall against the door.
  • Tile and hardwood floors will make walking easier

The main house also benefits from the renovation: We’ve widened the hallway from the garage to the kitchen just enough to incorporate a mudroom, which also uses the space under the stairs. The powder room is being expanded to include a shower. And we’ve fit in a petite office/guest room in the remaining garage bay.

Read about the demolition.