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Home Tour: How This Designer Built A Beautiful Modern Traditional Guest Home For His Dad To Age In Place

Today is your lucky day ladies and gentlemen. Rarely do we post two reveals in a row, but we are feeling generous and, well, VERY inspired by both designers we are featuring today. So get excited for another beautiful home tour because we’re about to dive right in.

Long Beach based Interior Designer, Shaun Crha, did what many of us hope to do for our parents one day. He built a guest house for his dad to move into when he is ready, so he can age at home and be close to him and his twin brother.

Shaun and his husband originally built the guest house (that they adoringly refer to as The Casita) because his Dad retired and moved from California to Arizona and they wanted to have a place for him to stay when he travels back and forth to see his grandson (Shaun’s twin brother’s son). But although it is a temporary place for him for now, Shaun was thinking ahead when he built and designed this guest home. When his Dad gets older and is going to need a place to live, the Casita will be move-in ready. He’s in perfect health now, but they wanted him to have a place that allows him keep as much of his independence and dignity as possible as he ages. So, Shaun designed the guest house to be an easy to maintain studio apartment for his dad. Are you ugly crying yet?? Me too.

But the story behind the design is not the only wonderful thing about it. The Casita is 340 square feet inside and 378 square feet if you include the covered front porch which he says gets a lot of use in the evenings (scroll down to see why – it’s BEAUTIFUL). So, not only is the space specifically designed with his dad in mind, it is also packed with small space hacks and solutions.

Small space and studio apartment dwellers, you are going to want to bookmark this one. Let’s start with the modern traditional kitchen that really displays his combined strategy of function and style.

The Stylish And Functional Kitchen

Refrigerator | Stove | Cabinets | Faucet | Sconce | Cheese Board | Tea Kettle | Utensil Holder

First things first, we must talk about the obvious show stoppers (those cabinets). We absolutely love the neutral color palette and how the black cabinets with the brass hardware make the whole space pop. We are all about dark moody cabinets in kitchens (hello Portland kitchen) and Sara recently discussed in her kitchen reno design plan that she is considering going to dark, too. But as I said, style was not the only consideration for the design. He also thought ahead and installed levers on the faucets and door handles that are easier for someone with arthritis to open and use and opted for lower cabinets to make everything more accessible.

Shelving Unit | Tumblers

Shaun also explained that he didn’t want to use upper cabinets since it could close in the space and make it smaller. Instead, he kept everything low to the ground except for the shelving unit that is custom made by RadWeld Customs. It keeps the space open but offers additional storage and opportunities for open shelving styling.

Kitchen Island | Pendant

Are you ready for more hacks?? Great. Let me introduce you to the kitchen island that serves double duty which ultimately saves on space. It is a cooking work surface but just add a couple of bar stools and it quickly becomes a dining table. We love this hack for a small space or studio that doesn’t quite have a dining area (because eating on the sofa should be reserved for special occasions, right?).

Now let’s move on to the next multi-purpose yet SUPER stylish area.

The Combination Bedroom/Living Area

Blanket | Rug | Bed | Sconce | Iron Doors | Cabinets | Loveseat

This combined bedroom/living area is peak small space innovation. In lieu of a bench at the end of the bed, he went with this loveseat which visually lets you know that this is mean to be two different areas. Doing this is hard to pull off, but we think what really makes it work is the large vintage area rug from Blue Parakeet Rugs. Shaun explained it was the biggest investment but so worth it because it was big enough to use under the bed and into the living area space too. It’s a beautiful piece of art that introduced character, color, and texture into the neutral space plus allows the areas to flow naturally into one another.

Instead of bringing in a bunch of small furniture and cluttering the space, Shaun installed these Ikea cabinets to frame the bed. This is a great way to utilize height and wall space to keep a small space open. It’s basically extra storage, but make it ~stylish~.

Side Table | Coffee Table | Ceramic Tray

The Bright And Airy Bathroom

Towel Ring | Sconce | Faucet | Vanity Cabinet | Medicine Cabinet | Floor Tile | Rug

You all know I am a huge advocate for the towel hook, and I love that he installed a vintage bar with three hooks to give more storage and provide some visual interest. Again, he maintains the neutral color palette with a dark and moody vanity cabinet which makes the space feel bigger. Lastly, the floor tile and vintage rug bring in some personality and color.

Function wise, Shaun decided that a walk-in shower would be easiest for someone to age-in-place, and it ended up being one of the most beautiful parts of the whole project. There’s also extra framing inside the bathroom walls so he can install a bench in the shower, or handrails and grab bars that will support someone’s weight when they need that extra help one day.

Now let’s move on to the outside space that just might be my favorite part (and the sole reason why I have converted to team gravel backyard for life).

The Multifunctional Outdoor Space

Before they built the Casita the backyard was all grass. Shaun explained, he “wanted to create a more relaxed courtyard for the Casita with the gravel, something that felt like a mix of the Mediterranean, South of France, and Morocco”. He definitely hit the nail on the head and an added bonus is it is inexpensive, saves water, and the gravel releases heat faster so the courtyard isn’t as hot in the Summer.

The backyard is also a great example of creating “zones” in order to make the most of the space. They set up chairs and a table for outdoor dining, a place for everyone to gather around the fire pit, and a bench perfect for sipping coffee in the early morning. As intended, looking at the photos transports me to another place that feels so relaxing and calm – like an actual oasis.

And there you have it. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling very inspired to make the most out of every inch of my apartment, with function AND style in mind. Of course, big thanks to Shaun for letting us feature his beautiful project and story.

Now, let’s chat in the comments. I’d love to hear what your favorite part of this space is because I have PLENTY of favorites. See you in the comments section, friends. xx

Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Design by Shaun Crha


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44 thoughts on “Home Tour: How This Designer Built A Beautiful Modern Traditional Guest Home For His Dad To Age In Place

  1. I love the idea of no grass. Simplifies life. I am wondering, is this pea gravel? We have a cabin where I am looking at installing something different as the mulch currently there washes away and has to be added to seasonally. Want something easy on thebare feet. Thank you for your time. Love your blog.

    1. I did stamped concrete that looks like flagstone and ditched the grass. Left a space to garden and a side patch for the dog to use beside the house. I love it and use the space constantly.

      1. How is the stamped concrete holding up? I am thinking about replacing my busted driveway and wanted to see how it held up over time

        1. Hello, we have done a project similar to Sharon’s about three years ago. I personally still like the stamped concrete, and it has held up well. The only thing is that it lost its original coloring, but that can be re-done (and the contractor told us that this is normal, and that it should be re-done every few years). I highly recommend it as opposed to real stone, it’s a lot cheaper, and it looks as nice (unless you have a really high end home with the matching budget, then, of course, there is nothing better than real stone.)

  2. Oh, I love this! How beautiful (in design and intent)! I’m a sucker for that light-drenched, Mediterranean look.

  3. I’d love to know more about the amazing Ikea cabinets framing the bed. Such a beautiful and well executed idea. I noticed on Ikea’s site that these cabinets have white sides rather than the beautiful black he’s got here. On the off chance that you discussed this, did he mention buying additional wood and staining it black to match the fronts or did he get additional pieces from Ikea for the sides? This is one of my favorite recent home tours. Thank you!!

    1. If you use a lacquer base primer you can paint the IKEA melamine sides.
      Zinsser B.I.N. primer

    2. Hi Ella, I purchased extra refrigerator end panels from IKEA and my contractor cut them down to size so I could wrap the white cabinets. It came out great and I’m so happy you noticed. Best, Shaun

      1. Great idea! How did you match the paint so perfectly? Also, what line of Ikea Cabinets are these? Trying to see if they have these in Canada.

  4. Beautiful. I’d live there! Can you tell me what brand / type of windows those are? We need new windows and I would like something like these. Thank you!

  5. Beautiful design and obviously fabulous to plan for the care needs of our old people.
    There are many issues though when you think of a potentially frail older person living in this space. Lose gravel, the small step/lip into the shower and sitting on a stool at a bench would all be problematic. The only one that would be difficult to fix though is the shower.

    1. I’m a care giver and I don’t really see a problem with the small lip on the shower. All of my clients have a shower with a lip at least that big or even a bathtub. If you put a big enough shower bench in he will be able to sit down and then move his legs in. There is no way to know what kind of condition your loved one will be in when they age, I imagine he will have to make some changes when the time comes.

    2. Yeah I kept thinking “well that doesn’t seem great for someone in a wheelchair” but I guess if he’s a designer he’ll relish the opportunity to make changes later.

    3. I was going to note the shower as well as the gravel along with the kitchen table . And while all seem good short term making proactive decisions help with seamless transactions and not needing to retrofit. In working with people with disabilities I can assure you that ever small thing, such as the step up into the shower, becomes much more of a nuisance and creates an unnecessary reliance on support needs. To consider or write them off as a not a big deal is often the lense from the able bodied. Just my thoughts.aesthitically so beautiful

  6. Shaun, this is a beautiful space! Loved this home tour.
    Something tells me that this may serve as a nice rental or extra space for your family for a while before your father moves in… so that gravel should work until then. 🙂 We recently bought a home and the backyard is all concrete, so your landscape looks soothing and inspiring. Thanks!

  7. Love your blog! I am looking for a piano cover for my modern living room, however I didn’t get any luck. Do you have sources to recommend to maybe diy one? As all the ones out there are extremely traditional looking and I would not want one of those in my living room.

  8. Would you please share the exterior color of the casita? It is exactly what
    I have been looking for.

  9. Lovely in purpose for his dad, and inspiring in design. The loveseat at the end of the bed works amazingly well, and Shaun, you make it look easy, when it surely is not. You know when you sing along with Adele and sound pretty good, then belt out the lyrics independently and realize there’s a big gap in skill ~ that kind of making it look easy. Wishing your dad many independent years of visiting at will in The Casita.

  10. I totally lurve the bedroom/living room areas. So, so clever merging with separation. Gorgeous rug!

    The outside isn’t really my thing coz I love my fardening and loads of living things, byt I can still appreciate the aesthetic.

    Such a lovely sentiment to meticulously plan and create something so special for your dad, Shaun. Beautiful! ❤

  11. This is such a beautiful space! I’m in love with the kitchen island, it works so well with the space and useful for any extras at the bottom. Also those are super cute shoes Shaun!

  12. Beautiful home for his father!

    One thing that might be a problem for someone with mobility issues is the placement of the shower water controls. His dad will have to get into the shower to turn on the water (which will most likely be cold). He will have to get wet to turn on the shower.

  13. Shaun,

    I am curious what your “front home” looks like. Did you keep consistent with the styles. I am getting ready to create a “casita” behind my Mediterranean house and am curious how similar kept them.

  14. Beautiful and thoughtful Casita. Light, bright and lovely. I along with others see a few potential issues as someone gets older, but all can be addressed as needed. Thank you for sharing! Lot’s of ideas for those of us building our own small houses for aging in place.

    1. I also meant to add that in California we can now build these sort of ADUs much easier. This is a great post that the community of people looking to build one would love – especially if it’s tagged correctly for google bots to locate as such.

  15. Quick fact check: “the gravel releases heat faster so the courtyard isn’t as hot in the Summer” – This is not correct. Gravel, while great for saving water, makes the area much hotter. A quick google check will confirm that in 5 seconds.

  16. Y’all made the right choice to hold off on Brian’s post. Thanks for helping us all get through this time and for taking serious things, seriously.

  17. Gorgeous space! But I do not think it would be suitable for an elderly person with any sort of disability, particularly if a walker is required.

  18. Love it! for a moment I grew concerned: how come there are no grab bars in the shower?. Glad to see that there was consideration for their future install (even though there are plenty of aesthetically pleasing bars available). I would have made the shower a roll-in one, but I would assume space was tight. Lovely place and great functionality for such as small space!

  19. Well done Shaun! I would love to see the floor plan, as we have an outbuilding on our property that we’re hoping to convert into a studio. I can’t figure out where to put the bathroom.

  20. The new trends in kitchen design are about versatility using a mix of features in a wide variety of textures, patterns, and colors that consider natural timber, stunning tiles, and calming hues. The idea is to boost your cooking room by making your heart sing with touches.

  21. Lovely! But I’m dying to see the wall opposite the loveseat and the entry. I have a similar casita/guest house situation and the front door opens right into the main room. I’d love to see ideas for creating an entry out of nothing! 😉

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