A Home, Not a Hand-Me-Down – Multi-Generational Living


“Good morning, Grandma! Good morning, Mommy! Good morning, Auntie Joan!” Similar choruses are heard across the country each morning, as the face of residential families shifts from single family homes to multi-generational living. Families have a number of generations living in the same house.   

This is not new or unusual. Whether it’s a couple of empty nesting Baby Boomers who get sandwiched between their boomerang kid and their aging parents, or a young adult couple welcoming their first baby and living with their parents until they find a home of their own, multi-generational living has been going on for a very long time. What is new is how quickly this segment is growing and some of the innovative and efficient ways you can make your house friendly for all generations. It’s a little like Universal Design meets multi-generational families.  

According to a recent study by Pew Research, 64 million Americans live in multi-generational housing. These are homes including two or more adult generations or including grandparents and grandchildren younger than 25. These homes aren’t necessarily mansions, either. Many are less than 3,000 square feet. Innovative designs and efficient building make them work. Home additions, home renovations and custom homes can all be built with an eye to this market. 

First, let’s look at Universal Design. It’s a concept that’s been around since the 1950s, but under different names. Simply put, Universal Design is a home that is accommodating for everyone, no matter their age or physical disabilities. These homes have features like extra-wide doorways and hallways, non-slip floors, removable shower heads, extra lighting and grab bars or bench seats in the shower. Sounds like a nursing home, you say? This will definitely work for grandma and grandpa, but parents and young children will benefit too. Anyone can slip on the floor and get hurt – non-slip flooring is a safety solution. A portable shower head makes it so much easier to rinse a wriggling child in the bath. Extra lighting is a plus for any generation, and a seat in the shower is just too cool.

In multigenerational living, the idea is to give each generation its individuality and privacy, yet create the community feeling. Here are some ways your builder can customize your new home so it is adaptable for multiple generations:

  • First-floor master suite – Having a first-floor master suite not only provides privacy, it also accommodates residents who can’t handle stairs.
  • Dual suites – Designing your custom home to include a master suite on both the main level and second level is a good way to create an inviting interior for the adults living in the home.
  • In-law suite – If you have room to spread out, an in-law suite that is attached to the main home is ideal. It gives all residents their privacy and individual space, but makes socialization convenient.
  • Basement bedroom – Adding a bedroom in the basement is always a good solution, provided there is enough light and a safe egress.
  • Patios, porches – Each family in the home should have its own access to the outdoors, and patios and porches are ideal ways to make the most of the outdoor space.
  • Great Room/Open family room – While the tendency may be to forego the two-story family room in favor of space for an extra bedroom, don’t lose sight of the grandeur of the two-story family room, and the communication opportunities of a great room. A multi-purpose room that has the kitchen and living areas connected to it will work well with multigenerational families, both from a social perspective and a convenience perspective.
  • No two-story foyers – Where it does make sense to close in the space is the foyer. A two-story foyer can easily become a bedroom or an entertainment room, and that empty space won’t be missed.
  • Bonus room – This extra room, usually on the second floor, can be anything from a study to a crafts room. The idea is to get it built in at the beginning.
  • Large kitchen – Make sure you can get more than one cook at a time in the kitchen, as well as seat the whole family in a breakfast nook or dining area of the kitchen. Kitchen islands will work when there is a need for another cooking space.
  • No formal living or dining room – These are two little-used rooms. They can be transformed into a master suite, bedrooms or play rooms — as long as they’re used.

Finally, if you don’t have space for an additional build-out and you find yourself in a multi-generational move-in, try these tricks:

  • Turn a third or fourth bedroom into a study or nursery.
  • Close in a two-story foyer and create an extra room.
  • Close in part of your garage or build a room above it.
  • Don’t be afraid to have a tiny powder room if you need some of that bathroom space for other things.

The key is finding the right combination of space that stimulates each generation to live within their preferences. TCB can help with that…just give us a call!


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