Two Families Enjoy Common Room and Private Space in Washington, Mo., Home | Home & Garden

By Jim Winnerman Special for post-shipment

Externally, the two-family residence in Washington, Missouri appears as separate terraced houses where the units share a common wall but maintain separate entrances. But this two-family residence also features lockable doors that open to a hallway between and directly into the large rooms of both homes.

“I’ve never heard of this kind of living together with unrelated people,” says Phyllis Steckel, referring to the unusual layout of the home she and her husband have designed, built and occupied since September .

The hallway is the location of an elevator for access to the garages and a large common area shared by the two residents on the lower level. “It’s handy when one of us has a party or a meeting, or anytime we need extra space for a project,” says Phyllis.

Bill and Deanna Vincent are longtime friends of the Steckels who occupy the house across the common hall. Their relationship with the Steckels makes this unusual living arrangement possible and a benefit to both couples. “We share newspapers and magazines by putting them in a basket in the hallway,” says Phyllis. “When one of us travels, the other watches over the house and even has a few groceries and maybe cookies waiting when one of us comes back. If any of us need something like a C stack, we ask them first.

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The Vincents rent their place to the Steckels, and the men have an agreement that makes living together even more convenient. “Bill is not mechanically oriented and he doesn’t like garden work,” says Richard Steckel. “I like fixing things and working outdoors. He is a pastor and I told him that I will do whatever it takes if he does all the preaching.

Much thought went into the design of the attached houses, which the Steckels sketched before Ken Scheer of Horn Architects in Washington completed the plans. “We wanted something energy efficient, so the exterior shape design is rectangular, which is more economical to heat and cool than an irregularly shaped house,” Scheer says. “We also oriented the structure to take advantage of the green spaces at the back, instead of facing the street in front of the house.”

The bedroom wall displays three paintings by famed Washington artist Gary Lucy. The bedspread is one of 15 made and owned by Phyllis. All were made by his mother and grandmother. The spinning wheel was Richard’s mother and was once used by the family in Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Joseph Cook

The Steckels were downsizing and wanted a place where they could age in place. Thus, the main living space (in both residences) is on one level and without thresholds or steps. Each of the two bathrooms in the two-bedroom units have walk-in showers with grab bars. They are also thresholdless and large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

Both houses have kitchens which open onto a large room and living room. A separate home office is also included in the floor plan of both residences.

Both families have an abundance of garage space. The lower level features an oversized two-car garage for the Vincents, with direct elevator access, eliminating the potentially cumbersome steps to get groceries upstairs. A separate two-car garage on the lower level has end-to-end space for the Steckels’ two classic cars, a 2008 Cadillac XLR and a 2004 Chevrolet SSR.

Upstairs, a three-unit garage for the Steckels opens directly to the pantry and laundry room and accommodates their two everyday cars and a 30-foot rear-wheel-drive motorhome. Electrical, water and sewer connections have been built into the garage to accommodate the motorhome, so in an emergency it can function as a separate living space.

Phyllis and Richard were originally from California and met when Richard was Phyllis’ flight instructor. When their respective jobs ended in 1984, they joked about moving to Washington, where Phyllis has deep family roots dating back to the 1830s. live happily ever after, we took a breath and then we stopped laughing and said ‘why not’,” Phyllis recalled.

The residences occupy 2 acres of land and the Steckels may add two more similar townhouses in the future, but are likely to be smaller and not feature the same common hallway. However, they would all have access to the common games room. “Or, the land can just remain green space,” says Phyllis.

“We love this place,” remarks Richard. “We appreciate the four distinct seasons, the municipal opera, and the excellent medical care at Mercy Hospital here in Washington.”

Phyllis and Richard Steckel

Age • He is 68 and she is 70.

occupations • He was a quality engineer at Boeing Co. She was a geologist for 30 years specializing in consulting on seismic hazards and seismic risks. (Yes, they have earthquake insurance.) Both are retired but remain active giving presentations both to civic groups relevant to their respective professions and as guest speakers on cruises.

Family • A married son lives in northwest Arkansas and has one child. A married daughter lives in Portland, Oregon. The Steckels have three cats, Boo, Alani, and Kali, who enjoy access to the deck via cat doors in the bedroom and great room.

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