In-law suites have their upsides, yet the often-carved-out spaces can be cramped and gloomy.
Not Gerri Boyd's.
When Boyd, 76, moved into her apartment in West Chester 10 years ago, she was instantly attracted to its bright and spacious design.
For more than a decade, Boyd and her four adult children lived in Colorado Springs, Colo., a place she had grown to love. But when her son-in-law was transferred to Pennsylvania, he and her daughter found a house with an attached apartment,
Boyd didn't need tons of coaxing to be lured to the East Coast. The one-story apartment, reconfigured from a walkout basement, seemed like a sure bet.
Besides being roomy - it has three bedrooms and more than 1,000 square feet - the place is secure and steps away from family, which includes a grandson and granddaughter.
Plus, Boyd has a bit of wanderlust. Throughout her life, she has had 23 different addresses in six different states. She's also spent months abroad in France and New Zealand.
Originally from Michigan, she enlisted in the Navy at age 18. She later worked for the state of Michigan, retiring 24 years ago.
"This apartment is the longest I've ever lived in one place," Boyd says.
Her self-contained living space is at the end of a wooden walkway, beneath the rear of the house, blending seamlessly to the main house.
She considers her design scheme eclectic with a traditional streak. Largely dictated by global travels and garage-sale finds, the decor is lively with pops of color, texture, and ethnic touches.
Her front door is bounded on each side by tall glass panels that allow a view of the nearby woods and a flow of natural light into the living room.
A classic white leather sofa and loveseat, plus a wicker rocker, ground the room. Evoking memories of Paris, Boyd's favorite city, are a plate embossed with vintage black-and-white buildings, a framed picture of the Eiffel Tower, a wooden sign that reads Burgundy, and a bust of a woman.
A favorite find, an oil of a ramshackle barn by artist Eugene Bell that hangs nearby, was purchased at a consignment store in Sarasota, Fla., last summer. On a table, she placed a gold Buddha on a green sushi tray found at a yard sale.
"I always liked the story of how Buddha's father wanted to protect him from the misery of the world, but he chose to help others anyway," she says.
A nook in the kitchen accommodates an oak trestle table with drop leaves and zebra-printed chairs. Brisk black granite countertops and oak cabinetry add to the varied palette.
In a hall, two tall shelves hold Boyd's book collection. A corner hutch purchased in 1954 that belonged to her parents displays the figures of a chef and a lavender gatherer, both found at a Parisian flower market. A stairway lined with family photos, including a portrait of a 16-year-old Boyd, leads to the main residence.
Because a previous owner had designed the apartment for his daughter and her baby, the master bedroom is linked by a short hallway to what was once a nursery but is now Boyd's office/art room. There, a desk holds a computer, and a worktable has tools for painting projects and making collages.
For eight years, she volunteered with Art Goes to School of Delaware Valley. "I'm a frustrated artist," Boyd says.
To her master bedroom she added whimsy. The brass bed, found in a corner of a Michigan church, cost $70. Boyd dressed up a painting of a woman by gluing on an earring and a brooch.
Her sister gave her the upward-reaching hand that Boyd uses to hold rings and necklaces. But it looked too plain, so she decoupaged it, adding bursts of color and personality.
The guest room's bed frame was bought for $8 at a garage sale. An Early American bureau was acquired by her daughter years ago, when she was discharged from the Army.
Other notable furnishings acquired at garage sales and consignment stores include an Eiffel Tower table lamp, a gold mirror, a log rocking chair, and a stone-and-plaster lion pedestal table.
The suite's bathroom is large, with seashore accessories, a jetted tub (a Mother's Day gift), and a black armoire that stores blankets, rugs and towels.
Her apartment's convenience to shopping and the train station for day excursions to Center City or Manhattan are an added bonus. Still, Boyd confesses this may not be her last home. She may have one more move left in her.