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This Little Home Brought a Family Closer in a Big Way

Smart design and thoughtful touches made it work

When Opal Reinbold retired from her career as chief quality officer for a San Diego hospital, the last thing she imagined was living in a “granny flat” on her kid’s property north of the city.

But 10 years in, she started thinking longer range, asking herself, If this is my third act, what am I gonna do with that?

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Reinbold, 75, had some savings from the sale of a three-bedroom house on two acres, but she didn’t want her entire nest egg going toward rent in a glutted real estate market. “It’s inevitable I wasn’t going to win the lottery,” she says. “The very best I could hope for was being near the kids.”

That meant moving closer to her daughter Maggie Reinbold, 46, her husband, Brad Hollingsworth, 58, and their daughters, Phoebe, 8, and Wren, 11, who live in Poway, California.

Maggie wanted her mom nearby, but not just to bring the family closer. As conservation biologists, she and Brad saw benefits for the ecosystem and for the future. “We could show everybody that you can positively contribute to the housing crisis without putting in jeopardy native habitats,” says Maggie.​

The journey to move-in

Opal’s tiny home, located on Maggie and Brad’s property, is 498 square feet, with roof tiles and stucco that match the 2,140-square-foot main house. It cost about $250,000 to build. ​​Working with a local ADU specialist, the family was able to make Opal’s home feel not so tiny by using some design tricks: vaulted ceilings, minimal hallway space, loads of windows, standard-size appliances, and room (inside and out) to entertain. “I’m OK with downsizing and love the idea of aging in place,” Opal says. “But I also wanted enough space to have friends and family over, and for the grandkids to have sleepovers and do the fun stuff we like to do.”

Maggie and Brad’s homeowners association had frowned on ADUs for making lots feel crowded and for their potential impact on parking. But eventually the association recognized that “ADUs are innovative ways to increase housing and not decrease quality of life,” says Maggie. ​

Opal says her new home has left her feeling completely reinvigorated. “I am just so excited about this next chapter in my life,” she says. “I have my old life, but I also gained a new one.”​​​

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