Deluxe hotels may deliver the finest amenities, but these residential accommodations could easily rival any four-star facility. With the right planning and expertise, visitors feel right at home.
Lauren Tolles, founder of Maison Birmingham and co-owner of KSI, turned an unfinished attic into the ultimate nanny quarters in her Birmingham abode.
“The third floor really feels like the rest of the home — maybe a little bit younger and hipper,” she says. “It has nice finishes, like marble, with more contemporary furniture to spice it up a bit.” Surplus materials, such as tile from a previous home project, add to the cohesiveness.
Thoughtful touches include empty picture frames that the family’s nanny — who cares for Tolles’ son Matheson, 7, and daughter Piper, 2 — can fill with her own photos. “I wanted her to feel at home; it’s her space,” Tolles says. “For every relationship, a little separation is a good balance.”
The third floor includes a living area, bedroom, bathroom, and a kitchen that’s equipped with a dishwasher, cooktop, oven, and small fridge. Because she has her own kitchen, the nanny can choose to eat with the family or in her suite, and having her own kitchen makes it easy for her to have a friend over for a snack or a meal. “I like that she likes hanging out there; it makes me happy,” Tolles says. “It’s light and bright and comfortable and durable.”
Some of the furnishings came from sample sales, while others are from the family’s former home. “It was a good way to go through my personal and showroom inventory,” Tolles says. She explains that before the third floor was occupied, visiting family members stayed there and gave their feedback. At some point, she says, one of her kids may be lucky enough to claim the entire suite.
For a Birmingham property with a deep lot, Renee Cetnar, lead interior designer and project manager for House of M Design in Birmingham, created a guest house that was limited to 650 square feet above ground, due to zoning restrictions. A high ceiling, expansive windows, and a doorwall visually expand the space. “Architectural details became very important, to make it feel as open as possible,” Cetnar says.
Materials like stone and brick have a connection to the main house. “It was very helpful having the main home be the inspiration for the guest house — but at the same time, it was a blank canvas, which gave us the freedom to make it what the clients wanted in a new-build,” Cetnar says.
Distinctive chairs in the living area, which doubled as a schoolhouse for the kids during the pandemic, look great from any angle, while built-ins provide storage. “It’s very light and airy, but also warm with the stone and the gold, tan, and gray tones,” she adds.
The white shiplap ceiling complements warm gray walls. A well-equipped kitchen has a NanaWall window with a counter for outdoor dining. Accessed by a staircase behind the stunning stone fireplace, the lower level features a living space, bedroom, and kitchenette. Each level has a full bathroom and laundry area. An outdoor seating area adds bonus space.
When guests spend the night, an egress window in the basement bedroom makes the space feel light and cozy. “You could literally live in the entirety of the lower level and not come upstairs if the homeowners are entertaining by the pool,” Cetnar says. “The entire basement is fully functional.”
This caregiver apartment by Ann-Marie Anton for It’s Personal Design in Grosse Pointe Woods was a project for her parents’ Grosse Pointe Farms residence. A part of the main house, the self-contained space also has its own entrance which leads to a living area, bedroom, bathroom, and laundry room.
Designed with the future in mind, the apartment underwent a trial run with Anton’s nieces from out of town. “We call it ‘the apartment’ because (my parents) have two other guest suites, and the kids stay in the space by themselves,” she says. “They love having their own fridge.”
Anton, who was given free rein aesthetically, designed a casual space with an urban vibe. “It’s pretty monochromatic, with earth tones and black accents,” she says. “I wanted to make it very livable for somebody, as well as homey and clean, so they’d have all the creature comforts anyone would have living in any home.”
A multipurpose island maximizes the modest footprint with a quartz counter that can stand up to crafts, laptops, and games. The goal was for someone to be able to live there and have company. “It’s casual, comfortable, and welcoming for one person, or for entertaining four to six people. Because it’s small, I wanted to keep it clean and uncluttered,” Anton says.
“It’s really about being diligent in your space planning and making it as functional as you can,” she adds. “You have to picture yourself living there. My mom and dad lived in the space before their house was done, and they ended up loving it.”